Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Two Paintings (Lent 5b)

John 12 verses 20-33

 

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Some people are always eager to know or learn something, to find out about a place, a situation, a person.

Many Greeks were like that: enquiring, searching, probing, querying, questioning.

Greeks were known for their curiosity— they loved to travel, study people, places, as well as the natural world to find things out. Many of them were born seekers after the truth.

It was no unusual thing to find a Greek who has passed through philosophy after philosophy, and religion after religion, and gone from teacher to teacher in the search for truth. The Greek was the one with the seeking mind.

And now a group of them wanted to see Jesus, so we’re told in today’s Scripture.

It’s interesting how Jesus responds to their request.

Jesus is way more than a mere curiosity for people to study. His answer here in verses 23 to 26 certainly points the Greeks as well as all of us to something above and beyond observers and curiosity seekers.

He points them – as he points all of us to the way of the Cross.

Today, I want to tell two stories – both involving paintings of Jesus.

I can’t state categorically that the first tale is historically accurate – many art experts have tried, and failed, to prove the existence of an artist of this name ……. but the story of the painting, real or not, points us to a great truth.

Here goes:

An artist, named Stenburg, was, so the story goes, once commissioned to paint an altarpiece depicting the crucifixion, even although he had no interest in Christ at all.

One particular day, he was struggling to capture a detail in the painting, so decided to go for a walk to clear his head and gather his thoughts.

Near the edge of the forest at Düsseldorf (his home city) he came across a gypsy girl who was weaving a straw basket.

He was entranced by her innocent beauty, and thought that she would be an ideal subject for a portrait.

She agreed to come to his studio in the city. But she just wouldn’t sit still, constantly looking at the unfinished painting of the Christ. Continually asking questions: “who is that man? What’s he doing there? Who are these evil looking people around him? Why are they hurting him? Was he a bad man?”

And so it went on, until Stenburg put down his brushes in frustration, and told her the Jesus story, even although it had no personal significance for him.

After a few more sittings, and loads more questions, she left. Before she went, however, glancing at the unfinished painting of Christ, she said, “you must love him very much; he has done so much for you”

Embarrassed, the artist said nothing.

Then one evening, he saw a group of people going into an old dilapidated building in Düsseldorf – out of curiosity, he followed them, to discover that they were followers of the Reformer Jan Hus.

The little group began to discuss their faith and talk about Jesus as someone with whom they had a personal relationship.

Stenburg had never heard anything like this before. He saw Christ in a brand new light.

He started painting again with a new zeal. Not just the agony of a crucified man, as he’d depicted before in his recent work, but now the love of God, revealed in and through Jesus Christ.

This new painting was donated to Düsseldorf’s gallery, where the general public could view it. And view it they did, hundreds of them. Touched, amazed, uplifted – they had seen nothing so glorious.

One day, the little gypsy girl came. She said to the artist, “I am only a poor gypsy. For you is the love, but not for someone as lowly as me”

“It is also for you, and for everyone” the artist replied.

And Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’

 

HYMN – When I survey the Wondrous Cross

 

Isaac Watts hymn, which we’ve just sung, has been described as being the most beautiful in the English language.

What wonderful, inspiring and moving words –
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my, life, my Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my, life, my all.

 

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Count Nicholas Zinzendorf was born into one of the most noble families of Europe.

During his Grand Tour (a rite of passage for young aristocrats) Nicolas visited an art museum in Dusseldorf where he saw a particular painting. Now, some commentators would like us to believe that it was the very same picture that we’ve just been thinking about – by the “artist Stenburg”

In fact, the painting that Zinzendorf viewed, was by an artist named Domenico Feti.

Ecce Homo, “Behold the Man.” portrays the crucified Christ – with the legend, in Latin,

“This have I done for you – Now what will you do for me?”

As the story goes, when Zinzendorf’s eyes met the eyes of the thorn-crowned Saviour, he was filled with a sense of shame.

He could not answer that question in a manner which would satisfy his own conscience. He stayed there for hours, looking at the painting of the Christ on the cross until the light failed.

And when the time arrived for the gallery to be closed, he was still staring at the face of Christ, trying in vain to find an answer to the question of what he had done for Christ.

He left the gallery at dusk, but a new day was dawning for him.

From that day on, he devoted his heart and soul, his life and his wealth—all he had—to Christ, declaring, “I have but one passion; it is Jesus, Jesus only.”
Did those Greeks move beyond their curiosity and observation of Jesus to be drawn closer to him by following his way of the cross?

What about us? May Christ who is lifted up on the cross draw us ever more closer to him so that like Nicholas Zinzendorf and countless others; our passion is Jesus, Jesus only!

Even though many would mock and outright reject the way of the cross, nonetheless it is God’s way of drawing people to himself.

The cross is a clear demonstration that Jesus does not want us to be indifferent or distant bystanders or observers.

Rather, he called those Greeks long ago and everyone else to come close up and actively engage in life by following the way of the cross

May we, like the hymn writer be able to say – now and always –

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my, life, my all .

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Lordy!

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Jesus banned from M&S flowers

Nicholas Hellen, Social Affairs Editor Published: 1 March 2015

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M&S’s automatic phrase-checker seemed to object to the word ‘Christ’ in messagesM&S’s automatic phrase-checker seemed to object to the word ‘Christ’ in messages ( Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg )

THE words “Christ” and “Jesus Christ” have been placed on a list of banned abusive and offensive terms by Marks & Spencer.

Customers who try to include them in greetings with online purchases of flowers are prevented from completing their orders.

The policy emerged this weekend when a pastor’s wife was blocked from ordering a £35 bouquet of spring flowers as a gift. She was confronted with an on-screen warning: “Sorry there’s something in your message we can’t write.”

The blocked message ran: “Thank you for your care and practical help for Margaret in her last days . . . With love from her church family, Christ Church Teddington.”

Gerardine Stockford, 53, rang M&S’s call centre on Friday and was told a word must have been blocked. It turned out to be “Christ”. She said: “He had to write my message for me because I couldn’t do it over the internet.”

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The Expert (address – Upper Clyde Parish Church, Abington – 15: February: 2015)

Mark 1 verses 40-45

Sermon-Jesus-heals-ten-men-with-Leprosy

One evening, the eight-year-old daughter of a single mum was very ill in bed with the flu. She was running a fever, and her mother was naturally very worried.

Her mother, realising that she was out of paracetamol, decided that she would take a chance on leaving the little girl for five minutes, to drive to the chemist before it closed.

She didn’t like leaving her youngster, but there seemed to be no alternative.

She managed to get to the chemist minutes before it shut, and bought the medication.

When she got outside the shop, she realised, to her horror, that she’d locked herself out of her car. And – worse – not only were the car keys inside, so were her house keys!

Panic! What could she do?

She could not get into the car. If she walked, she could not get into the house.

Time was getting on. Her daughter was in bed, and would soon wake and miss her mum.

Standing on the pavement, she prayed fervently to God to help her.

With that, round the corner ambled the most disreputable, shifty looking youth. She stopped him. “Can you help me, please?” she implored him. “Could you open that car door for me?”

“Nae bother, missus” she said, and within twenty seconds had magically released the lock and opened the door.

“Open sesame!” and with a flourish, gestured her toward the now open door.

“You’re an angel of mercy!” she said to him.

“No really, missus” he replied, I was just released from the jail this morning after six months for breaking into motor cars”

With that, the woman closed her eyes in prayer and said “Lord, thank you for sending me an expert!”
Jesus was the expert sent by God to release folk from all that shut them off from the whole and full life God wants for his children.

Jesus is the expert liberator who sets us free.
Many years ago, in the 1930s, there was a man who lived in London, who built up a thriving engineerimg business.

But his main interest was a Christian mission to the deprived areas of the East End. He was heavily involved in this outreach, and quickly developed into an expert preacher.

One day, his engineering job took him to one of the large railway works at Swindon where the
great locomotives were built.

After the manager had shown him around, and business had been concluded, he was escorted to the factory exit. There they shook hands.

Immediately, abruptedly, the visiting engineer pulled his hand away; the manager’s hand was unpleasantly cold and a bit slimy.

Quickly, he realised what a dreadful faux pas he had committed, and became embarrassed and flustered.

The manager looked at him and said, “Don’t worry. It happens often. You see, when I was an apprentice, I had an accident: a nail was driven through my right hand and I’ve never been able to close it since then.”

The visiting engineer stretched out his hand and gently laid it on the other man’s shoulder, and said……

……”many, many centuries ago, there was a young carpenter in a far off place called Nazareth. HE had a nail driven through HIS hand – and he too has never been able to close it since.”

Christ’s calloused hands, the hands of carpenter, were stretched out on the wood of the Cross, stretched out – almost in blessing……

And these rough, chapped hands of the expert – paradoxically gently and tenderly – have blessed, have comforted, have healed.

These broken hands have brought wholeness and freedom to so many.

Today’s Gospel story is about his healing a leper – a man with a dreaded skin disease, as our translation puts it. He freed that man from a life of misery. He liberated that man from being shut in on himself, and shut off from the rest of society.

Jesus is the expert who sets us free. Who unlocks the door to a better life.

And as has been said by many commentators on this passage, leprosy as compared to sin.

Sin is a kind of moral leprosy.

Sin, like leprosy, separates – it shuts us off from each other.

Like Leprosy, it is divisive – it breaks up families, friendships, community living.

Sin fragments.

Sin, like leprosy, breaks up satisfying living conditions, it catches on, it spreads.

But, think again of that story of the leper that we listened to. Jesus made him alive again, whole again. Jesus returned him to normality.

Healing or wholeness came through contact with Jesus Christ. If disease is contagious, so is Christ’s redeeming power. This is the Gospel!

Jesus is the expert healer, redeemer, and liberator. By grace, He frees us from our sins.
His are the hands of the Master

There is an old poem about the touch of the Master’s hand

It was battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
Hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three”,
But, No,
From the room far back a grey haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet,
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”
“The Master’s Hand” was written by Myra Brooks Welch, a lady who was a gifted musician – until severe arthritis affected her

There she was confined to her wheelchair, battered and scarred from her illness, which had taken away her ability to make music. Instead, her musical soul spoke through her poetry.
She took one pencil in each of her badly deformed hands. Using the rubber tip, she would slowly type the words, the joy of them outweighing the pain of her efforts.

Her words, a joyous expression of the wonders of life, as seen by a singing soul that was touched by the Master’s Hand

We may not be experts, but if we allow the hands of Christ to metaphorically touch us, we as a result can be HIS hands – comforting, encouraging, guiding, soothing, becalming…… not necessarily bringing about actual healing…… but perhaps restoring something of the brokenness of others, and bringing about wholeness and peace.

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Con-Dem’d

charlie

Charlie Chaplain’s Tales

 

Yes, Father?” said the nurse.
“I would really like to see Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg before I die,” whispered the priest.
“I’ll see what I can do, Father”, replied the nurse.
The nurse sent the request to 10 Downing Street, and waited for a response.
Soon the word arrived; David Cameron and Nick Clegg would be delighted to visit the priest.


As they went to the hospital, Clegg commented to Cameron, “I don’t know why the old priest wants to see us, but it will certainly help our images.” Cameron agreed that it was a good thing.


When they arrived at the priest’s room, the priest took Cameron hand in his right hand and Cleggs hand in his left hand. There was silence and a look of serenity on the old priest’s face..


Finally David Cameron spoke. “Father, of all the people you could have chosen, why did you choose us to be with you as you near the end?”


The old priest slowly replied, “I have always tried to pattern my life after our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”


“Amen”, said Cameron. “Amen”, said Clegg.


The old priest continued, “Jesus died between two lying thieves; I would like to do the same

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Jesus Christ conquered not by force, but by winning the heart.

Napoleon Bonaparte expressed the following thoughts while he was exiled on the rock of St. Helena. There, the conqueror of civilized Europe had time to reflect on the measure of his accomplishments. He called Count Montholon to his side and asked him, “Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?” The count declined to respond. Napoleon countered:

    Well then, I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him. . . . I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man; none else is like Him: Jesus Christ was more than a man. . . . I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me . . . but to do this is was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lightened up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts. . . . Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

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April 24, 2014 · 10:37

Hallelujah

Kelley Mooney

A crown of thorns placed on His head
He knew that He would soon be dead
He said did you forget me Father did you?
They nailed Him to a wooden cross
Soon all the world would feel the loss
Of Christ the King before His Hallelujah

Hallelujah x4

He hung His head and prepared to die
Then lifted His face up to the sky
Said I am coming home now Father to you
A reed which held His final sip
Was gently lifted to his lips
He drank His last and gave His soul to glory

Hallelujah x4

The soldier who had used his sword
To pierce the body of our Lord
Said truly this is Jesus Christ our Savior
He looked with fear upon his sword
Then turned to face his Christ and Lord
Fell to his knees crying Hallelujah

Hallelujah x4

Took from his head the thorny crown
And wrapped him in a linen gown
And laid him down to rest inside the tomb
The holes in his hands, his feet and side
Now in our hearts we know he died
To save us from ourselves oh hallelujah

Hallelujah x4

Three days went by again they came
To move the stone to bless the slain
With oil and spice anointing hallelujah
But as they went to move the stone
They saw that they were not alone
But Jesus Christ has risen Hallelujah

Hallelujah x4
Hallelujah x4

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April 18, 2014 · 12:06

Father Dawkins (?)

from the Telegraph

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Is Richard Dawkins leading people to Jesus?
By Damian Thompson Religion Last updated: April 16th, 2014

Winning souls for Christ!
My schoolfriend Michael – an atheist for decades – rang me the other night and told me he’d returned to the Catholic Church. “And you’ll never guess who converted me,” he said.
“Your wife?”
“No! It was Richard Dawkins!”
He explained that he was, and is, a huge admirer of Dawkins the biologist. (I’m with him there: I read The Blind Watchmaker when it first came out and was blown away.) “But then I read The God Delusion and it was… total crap. So bad that I started questioning my own atheism. Then he started tweeting.”
Like a loony on top of the bus, no?
“Exactly!”
Funnily enough, this is the second time in a week that I’ve heard of Richard Dawkins leading someone to Christ. Let me refer you to an article in The Catholic Herald by Francis Phillips:
Judith Babarsky, an academic … having only a “surface level” understanding of Christianity as she admits, was recommended Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion to read. She writes that when she began, she thought she would read “a logical, sceptical, nay scientific critique of religion.” Instead, she was surprised to find “strings of pejorative adjectives pretending to be argument, bald assertion pretending to be evidence, an incredibly arrogant attitude and a stance of moral equivalence incapable of distinguishing between the possible strengths and weaknesses of different religions…”
Indeed, Babarsky found Dawkins’ arguments so unsatisfactory, coupled with his own atheistic and fundamentalist stance, that they prompted her to examine for the first time what Christianity was all about. Her examination was to lead to her conversion to Catholicism. “In reading to refute Dawkins as well as educate myself … I discovered the God-man Jesus Christ. Not only did the Catholic view resonate with me emotionally but … it was intellectually honest.”
Here is a link to Babarsky’s original article, with its uncompromising title:

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that Prof Dawkins secretly converted to Christianity decades ago, and then asked himself: “How can I best win souls? By straightforward argument, or by turning myself from a respected academic into a comic figure fulminating against religion like a fruitcake at Speakers’ Corner, thereby discrediting atheism?”
Hmm. Let me throw this one open to the floor. />© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014Terms and Conditions

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April 17, 2014 · 10:03

George Frederick Handel

Born in Germany in 1685, George Frederick Handel moved to England in 1712

His various compositions were successful but eventually financial failure threatened to overwhelm him, and his relentless attempts to keep solvent had an adverse affect on his health. By 1741 it seemed certain he would land in debtors’ prison.

Yet that very year became the turning point for him when his close friend, Charles Jennens, gave him a libretto for a sacred work. It was essentially 73 Bible verses focusing on the prophecies concerning, and the coming of, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, both from the Old and New Testaments.

A charity in Dublin paid him to write something for a money-raising performance, and for 24 days Handel barely ate as he worked almost constantly composing. In fact he told a friend he could barely keep up with the notation as the melodies and ideas flowed from within, directly from God Himself! At one point, the composer had tears in his eyes and cried out to his servant, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!” He had just finished writing the “Hallelujah” chorus.

Every word was from the Bible, 42 verses from the Old Testament and 31 from the New Testament. The “Messiah” was first performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742, to great acclaim.   It was so successful, it’s said that it’s proceeds freed 142 men from debtors’ prison!

Someone has said that Handel was a relentless optimist whose faith in God sustained him through every difficulty.

To God alone be the glory!

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Gospel of Jesus’ “Wife”. (from Huff Post)

An ancient, business-card-sized papyrus fragment that appears to quote Jesus Christ discussing his wife is real, Harvard University announced Thursday. The fragment caused international uproar when it was revealed by a Harvard historian in September 2012, with prominent academics and the Vatican swiftly deeming it a forgery.

Harvard officials said scientists both within and outside the university extensively tested the papyrus and carbon ink of the badly aged fragment, dubbed the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The document, written in Coptic, a language of ancient Egyptian Christians, is made up of eight mostly legible dark lines on the front and six barely legible faded lines on the back. The handwriting and grammar were also examined over the last year and a half to confirm its authenticity. Scientists have concluded the fragment dates back to at least the sixth to ninth centuries, and possibly as far back as the fourth century.

The document was never meant to prove Jesus was married, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King emphasized Thursday. Instead, she argued, it’s meant to highlight that some early Christians may have believed Jesus was married. The distinction is significant because debates over sexuality and marriage have dominated contemporary discussions about Christianity; the Catholic Church cites Jesus’ celibacy as one reason its priests must not have sex or marry.

“The main topic of the fragment is to affirm that women who are mothers and wives can be disciples of Jesus — a topic that was hotly debated in early Christianity as celibate virginity increasingly became highly valued,” King, whose specialties include Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible, said in a statement Thursday. “This gospel fragment provides a reason to reconsider what we thought we knew by asking what the role claims of Jesus’ marital status played historically in early Christian controversies over marriage, celibacy, and family.”

The legible lines on the front of the artifact seem to form a broken conversation between Jesus and his disciples. The fourth line of the text says, “Jesus said to them, my wife.” Line 5 says “… she will be able to be my disciple,” while the line before the “wife” quote has Jesus saying “Mary is worthy of it” and line 7 says, “As for me, I dwell with her in order to …”

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April 11, 2014 · 10:07

The man who would be King of Kings

The man who would be King of Kings

A 66-year-old Brazilian man has spent 35 years preaching the word of God – because he believes he is the reincarnation of Jesus.
Inri Cristo has ‘hundreds of followers’ from around the world, including the UK, Britain and France, some of whom live with him at his ‘church’ compound outside Brasilia.
Since 1979 he has travelled for 27 countries to spread his word, however his controversial views has seen him expelled from the US, Britain and Venezuela imageimage

As ‘Jesus reborn’ he has even taken the name of Inri, which derives from the latin acronym said to have been written on the cross during Jesus’ crucifixion, and stands for Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, or in English: Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews’ and Cristo, meaning Christ.
His Jesus-like dressing and unorthodox views on capitalism, abortion and even Christmas has seen him detained by police more than 40 times.

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April 9, 2014 · 02:12