Ready for a word order meditation?

The words are familiar: “The Lord is my shepherd ….” I have recited this Psalm many times with the dying, with the bereaved, with those struggling to find the strength to move on, or the strength to face a fear-filled future.

I have been with agitated men and women of a certain age, robbed of mental acuity by illness or injury, and watched calm wash over them and through them, watched peace come to them as I recited the words of Psalm 23.

But, change the word order and you will have the heart of our conversation in the Sunday Morning Forum as it gathers at 9:00 am on Sunday, April 29, 2012.

The Lord is my shepherd … . Ah, peace, strength, and …

IS the Lord my shepherd …? Ah. Wait. What? How dare you suggest …

In the readings appointed for Sunday we hear:

The Lord is my Shepherd … (Psalm 23:1)

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us … (1 John 3:16)

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….” (John 10:11)

Look through the ups and downs of your life.

  • In what ways have these words of scripture been true for you?
  • When have these words been part of your prayers?
  • Are you ready to risk sharing a bit of your history with the group.
  • IS the Lord your shepherd?
  • What has this come to mean for you?
  • Have you always been secure in this knowledge?
  • Have you ever been secure in this knowledge?

Telling our stories of encounter with the Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd, is a fulfillment of our Baptismal Covenant to “proclaim by word … the Good News of God in Christ.”

I invite you to leave a comment, even a story, here. Let your words open the mystery and meaning of speaking this way about God and our relationship with God.

Remembering artists

Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures. —Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet.

On August 5th the Episcopal Church remembers Albrecht Dürer. Matthias Grünewald, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Artists.In doing so the Church commemorates all artists and the celebrates and give thanks for the role of art in forming faith and encouraging faith. I tend to be a “visual learner.” Seeing is, for me, the key to learning. As I think about art in the church I am amazed by how much of my faith is informed by what I have seen.

Pictures in story books and illustrated bibles, mass produced plaster and plastic statues, rosaries with beads of all kinds, crucifixes (I grew up Roman Catholic) with poorly formed bodies or bodies gruesome and bloody (but modestly clothed) in their depiction of death, and so on. The art was all around me; I was learning something, (most of which is still being “unlearned”), but mostly this art was simply “background noise,” static. My entry into mystery was unexpected and unforgettable. Having arrived in Rome to continue studies and seminary formation, a group of us were taken from the airport in Rome to the Piazza San Pietro and then into the basilica.

The proportions of the building were certainly awesome but the moment of mystery came as we moved to Michelangelo’s Pietà. In the blink of an eye I was moved from tourist looking at art treasures in a big church to a man in the presence of a profound mystery of life and death, of sorrow and hope, of brutal reality and fragile tenderness. I had forgotten to breathe, I was looking through eyes filled with tears. How did this happen? What just happened? How can stone have such power? How can a “mere mortal” find such power and mystery and beauty in a hunk of quarried marble?

Since that day I have continued to learn. I continue to seek out such beauty and mystery. In my own feeble way I have enjoyed opening my heart to the mysteries seen by the artist and shared with us. I am proud that our church chooses to remember all artists as we commemorate these artists. I hope that you have your own story to tell about the art that has whisked you from this world into realms unexpected, mysterious, and transformative. Please do leave your story here. Leave a comment, start a conversation.

We have selected one work from each of the artists commemorated by the church and will post them here with additional links and more information. Perhaps you would share some of your favorite works by these artists. Perhaps you will share links to your favorites. Keep the conversation going. Thanks.