Monday, July 11, 2005

a picture of jesus

In the midst of the most recent gallery hop night, Jodie and I found John and his art in a room covered with his creatures, and filled with people. The first thing I ever said to him was, "What made you put a penis on Jesus?" He had a lot of works featuring Christ in contexts other than those favored by organized religion (note my carefulness here). In an effort to not misrepresent John, I'll just say that some of the Jesuses had leather jackets, many had penises--there was a lot going on. In answer to my question, John smiled and explained that it was his understanding that Jesus was likely to have had a penis, and that nobody seems to want to talk about this. (It is true: even in a recent film touted as being painfully realistic with regard to violence, the director chose to tastefully conceal the Lord's genitals.) A brief talk ensued, and soon we were off to the next gallery.

A week later I was at John's again, buying one of his Christs (one where he is fully clothed, but in which the Lord's pupils are dialated for some reason.) We got to talking about his childhood, and his involvement with Church. He used to play in an old cinderblock church near his home, and he was sure his irreverence would be punished. As much as some of his paintings may have been offensive, John was disarming--easy to talk to.

And as we talked, I couldn't help but want him to come share his thoughts in our conversation on Sunday mornings. I wanted him to come, more for us than for him. So I actually brought it up. I felt like I did in high school, inviting a stranger to youth group. He kindly explained that sleep is too precious to him, but that our conversation had been meaningful to him. It was at this point that some learning began for me. John said that our talk had been meaningful because our divinities had met. There was a touch of the divine in me, and a touch in him, as there is a touch in every human. When we meet in love and respect, the divine is affirmed. This helps him to respect people he can't stand but has to deal with (I assume I am not in this category for John, but maybe). This was his motivation for right action.

This was so great for me to hear. I tend to err on the side of mistaking humanity as being fatally flawed. People constantly disappoint me; I often resent them/us. I forget these very ones are bearing God's image. I like the idea of carrying divinity around with me. Then I left the gallery with a painting of Jesus. I had the honor of walking home with Jesus. A part of me wanted to show everybody what John had done. I was looking for neighbors, looking for Jodie. At the same time I was afraid of not being worthy of bearing this image around town. I was a little embarrassed to have this Jesus in my hand. By the time I got home I was glad to bring him in and shut the door. I am the work that is in progress.


Anonymous said...

Is God within? George Fox, seventeenth century Quaker, spoke about "that of God in each person." But if God is within persons, then I think this must be God paradoxically urging from within to draw persons out into community.

Your story reminds me of Jesus and the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, another 'meeting of divinities.' Jesus was depicted with, not within the disciples. He travelled with them along the way and then ate with them. Only when Jesus was gone did the two disciples realize that Jesus had been present with them.

Maybe another way of talkng about God within is Jesus alongside. God within or Jesus alongside, the Divine Presence is known, as you relate in your writing, only in its reflection in our actions.

ryan k said...

This is a good point. If God is within, what contains God but us, cracked vessels that we are? How could we effectively contain God--surely God wants to bust out. And surely God does in our actions and especially in our interactions. I agree with you, then, that we are unable to keep God sealed within ourselves.
Ryan K

Anonymous said...

I remembered that St. Augustine's reflected on 'containing God' in his autobiography - The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

The following two paragraphs are from Augustine's Confessions. I hope they're not too long for a comment. When I first read these paragraphs I found the idea of God 'containing' by 'spilling out' particularly intriguing and compelling.

"And how shall I call upon my God, my God and Lord, since, when I
call for Him, I shall be calling Him to myself? and what room is there within me, whither my God can come into me? whither can God come into me, God who made heaven and earth? is there, indeed, O Lord my God, aught in me that can contain Thee? do then heaven and earth, which Thou hast made, and wherein Thou hast made me, contain Thee? or, because nothing which exists could exist without Thee, doth therefore whatever exists contain Thee? Since, then, I too exist, why do I seek that Thou shouldest enter into me, who were not, wert Thou not in me? Why? because I am not gone down in hell, and yet Thou art there also. For if I go down into hell, Thou art there. I
could not be then, O my God, could not be at all, wert Thou not in me;
or, rather, unless I were in Thee, of whom are all things, by whom are
all things, in whom are all things? Even so, Lord, even so. Whither do I call Thee, since I am in Thee? or whence canst Thou enter into me? for whither can I go beyond heaven and earth, that thence my God should come into me, who hath said, I fill the heaven and the earth.

Do the heaven and earth then contain Thee, since Thou fillest
them? or dost Thou fill them and yet overflow, since they do not
contain Thee? And whither, when the heaven and the earth are filled, pourest Thou forth the remainder of Thyself? or hast Thou no need that aught contain Thee, who containest all things, since what Thou fillest Thou fillest by containing it? for the vessels which Thou fillest uphold Thee not, since, though they were broken, Thou wert not poured out. And when Thou art poured out on us, Thou art not cast down, but Thou upliftest us; Thou art not dissipated, but Thou gatherest us. But Thou who fillest all things, fillest Thou them with Thy whole self? or, since all things cannot contain Thee wholly, do they contain part of Thee? and all at once the same part? or each its own part, the greater more, the smaller less? And is, then one part of Thee greater, another less? or, art Thou wholly every
where, while nothing contains Thee wholly?"

The entire eText of The Confessions of St. Augustine can be downloaded free from Project Gutenberg at: