Take a look at the ninth and tenth commandments. What does coveting mean and how does it bend our perception of worth, reality, and our own lives?
It’s Wednesday and time once more for Art with Rosanna. Today’s picture shows Jesus coming out of the tomb on Easter. But like the real Easter event, there’s so much more story here than meets the eye. I was actually present when Rosanna made this one, and how it came into being is as fascinating as the picture itself.
Once upon a time, when Rosanna was a member of the church I served as pastor, she came to me with a great idea. “I learned this technique that would let the entire congregation participate in artwork. Can we try it all together?” That seemed wonderful to me, so we agreed that each Sunday of Lent, during the offering time in worship, we would create something. Rosanna would direct the project and the rest of us could follow along, doing whatever she needed.
The first Sunday of Lent, Rosanna showed up with a blank canvas on an easel. She explained that we were going to make something beautiful together. Each Sunday would involve a different part. That first Sunday just had strips of different colored paper or something. (I forget the exact order. I’m not an artist!) The paper was in the pews. Everyone could choose one, bring it forward, wet it a little, and stick it to the canvas. People asked, “How should we do this? Where should we stick it?” She responded, “Do it however you want.” We shrugged and did. We had no clue what we were doing, but we trusted and went along. The canvas was pretty afterwards with all that color.
The second Sunday involved some kind of texture thing maybe? The third had us sticking newsprint or old bulletins onto the picture. The canvas was getting covered with more and more material…something was sure going on. We still couldn’t figure out what.
Rosanna never did tell us what to put where or how to align things. We just picked up whichever piece of material we wanted and stuck it on the canvas however seemed best to us. But it was funny. Even though we didn’t know what we were doing and had no idea what our contributions were leading to, we started to take ownership of the piece. We wanted to see how our part was going to fit in, what we were making together. As the weeks rolled by, the project became personal for all of us. Even when our minds were confused and wondering, our hearts were invested.
That’s why it was sad, maybe even a little shocking, when we showed up on Good Friday—the night of the crucifixion—to find Rosanna with strips of black paper in her hand. We each got one as we came in the door. We were instructed to adhere it to the picture. This was hard! Piece by piece, all of our color and texture was disappearing. Our investment was being swamped by darkness.
Some of us thought that maybe the art experiment didn’t work after all. Others of us thought that covering it in blackness on Good Friday was the point, that experiencing this loss was part of the lesson. Either way, I was sorry to see the picture go. I had begun to love that thing and the way we had gathered around it.
We held our Good Friday service and left in silence for the weekend of contemplation before Easter. Our work was completed, the picture was dark, but it was finally done.
But not quite.
As we came in on Easter morning, Rosanna stood in front of the congregation with the black canvas on its familiar easel. Nobody knew what she was doing…even I didn’t know this was going to happen. I guessed she was going to move it aside, making room for the flowered Easter cross in its place.
Instead, at the start of the service, as we all watched, Rosanna began peeling back the black strips we had draped over the canvas. Around the edges some blue and purple started to show. Then the interior started coming off and we saw glimpses of yellow and white! What??? Then she pulled the strips off of the middle and there was Jesus, coming towards us, carrying a little lamb in his arms!!! After the blackness and sense of loss, the picture glowed brighter than anything else in the room. The words surrounding Jesus spoke of joy and resurrection.
To this day, I do not know how Rosanna managed that. I was there personally, watching every black strip go on. I’ve seen the picture up close and, at least to my eyes, the strips of paper and colors underneath look like the ones we all put there. To me, it still seems like a miracle.
However she did it, what an illustrative process this was! For weeks we brought what we could, only to see it end up in darkness. But then, just when we were sure it couldn’t happen, the light showed forth. Nobody controlled it. Most of us had no idea how it was happening, or even THAT it was happening. Beauty and life shone through and among us anyway.
This picture is special to me. When most people see Jesus carrying the lamb, their mind goes to church-y Lamb of God imagery. When I see that lamb in that piece of art, I feel like it’s each of us individually and all of us collectively, nestled in Jesus’ arms, being carried to new life, just like our congregation was carried that morning.
You can find Rosanna at https://www.facebook.com/rosanna.cartwright.3. Come back next Wednesday for more artwork and theological discussion!
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Adultery…it’s not just about sex anymore! See more in our video presentation on the sixth commandment.
“You shall not kill” seems like the easiest commandment to keep. Is it really, though? Let’s think about a thousand ways we kill each other without meaning to.
Ep. 71 - What happens when the claims people use to make scripture important end up invalidating it? Many twist and turns try to trap us in John 14. Justin and Dave try to iron them out.
The Geek and Greek podcast is a show where two reverends talk honestly and clearly about faith, Christianity, scripture, and life.
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Does honoring your parents mean obeying everything they say? Sorry, mom and dad…it turns out not. Honor, tradition, and connection come to the fore in our fourth video on the Ten Commandments.
It’s Wednesday again, which means it’s time for art with Rosanna Cartwright! Rosanna creates drawings, sketches, and paintings based on her faith journey and she’s been kind enough to share them with us each Wednesday. Today’s piece is both beautiful and thought-provoking:
I’m going to share Rosanna’s own perspective on the piece before adding a thought or two. She says:
I made this piece while thinking about what it meant to be baptized and why Lutherans baptize babies.
None of us really know what we are "getting into," when get baptized, when we follow Christ. Much like a caterpillar, we start out on dirt, branches, eating leaves, thinking this is it. This is all there is.
Then we go through a kind of metamorphosis.
And we still don't know what to expect, and we don't know why it happens, but our eyes are opened to a new life and a different view of the world. Instead of eating everything in sight in order to fill myself, I now have a different perspective. I see the world and people from a different angle. I can see outside my own needs and wants.
I am still unable to see and know everything, (thus the hood) but I have a new and different viewpoint on the world than I had as a caterpillar.
Let’s stick with Rosanna’s connection with baptism. It’s a good one!
The shroud through which the central caterpillar emerges is dark on the outside, almost like a widow’s death veil, but vibrant and life-filled on the inside. Baptism connects us to death and resurrection, both in the moment of the sacrament and daily thereafter. We die to our old selves and rise again to new life in Christ. We’re always dying and rising in Christ!
From the outside, the death looks scary. “Will I still be me? Will I lose things I love?” Then you realize that the only “you” that matters is full of life. The fearful, selfish self that is only interested in preserving its own life at the expense of everyone and everything else needs to pass, that it might make way for the new self: full, joyous, life-giving, flying unencumbered. In Jesus and in baptism, we break through death in order that we might know life. The darkness of the veil becomes the brightness of the new day.
Rosanna’s thoughts also call into question what it means to know God. We think knowing happens in our heads, as we first understand, then make use of, the object we “know”. Is God simply something else to consume and understand, like the branches and leaves the caterpillar eats?
I’d suggest differently. We know God like the butterfly knows the air. The butterfly cannot comprehend the air or see it. It might not even know what to call it. The butterfly experiences the air as it flies. It swims through the air, being held up by it. The air is all around. Without it, the butterfly wouldn’t exist.
The butterfly never understands the air in its head. It knows the air through its whole being, in the motion and rhythm of life, being held up moment after moment while flying free. This is how we “know” God as well.
Thanks to Rosanna for sharing this wonderful baptismal reflection! You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosanna.cartwright.3.
When people argue about keeping the Sabbath, they focus on particular days and actions. The day of rest doesn’t center around times and rules. Find out more here!