Friday, April 27, 2012

Meditation: Rublev's Icon of the Trinity



Every once in awhile I like to deviate from my usual format and share another side of my communion with the Lord. I enjoy meditating on powerful spiritual images and recording them in my journal. This recent icon was part of an article in a magazine I subscribe to called, "Conversations." The magazine focuses on the contemplative side of Christianity. From my journal writings on April 25, 2012, I am sharing my recent meditation on Rublev's Icon of the Trinity.


"Father, 
As I look upon this icon the words that come to mind are peace and unity. There is a holiness yet an earthiness to the picture. The brightness of the colors reflect a power of the presence of the Three. Though their colors are distinct for each member, the blue color they share connects them. Unity in diversity. The figure in the middle and to the right look to the figure on the left in humble adoration and expressions of love and devotion. The figure on the left receives this gift and in return reflects it back to the other two. The author of the article identifies the figures as God the Father (left), Jesus the Son (middle), and the Holy Spirit (right). The bowl on the table representing the communion of the Trinity and the acknowledgement of the covenant made before the world began, that Jesus would give His life for the salvation of the world. There almost feels like an unspoken understanding between the Father, Son, and Spirit and a silent satisfaction that "It is Finished!" The house and the tree in the background represent to me the earth that was redeemed and while the Trinity is joined together, there is a seamless connection between heaven and earth. The Trinity is very present in the world. The communion table they sit around is the strong reminder of our remembrance every time we participate in communion. It is the focal point and center of our worship. It is the simple uncomplicated symbol of the gospel. The position of Jesus' hand on the table with two fingers extended reminding me of His nature, one God in two persons, human and divine. The Spirit also has one hand on the table in deference to the Son and a reminder that His power comes from the Son's commission to be the power which resides in humanity  bringing new life in Christ as reflected in the green color. Christ's clothing also reflects His dual nature, the brown, earth, representing humanity. The blue, divinity, equality with the Father and the Spirit. God the Father has no hands on the table as the Son and Spirit reflect who God is. The gold of His garment reminding me of purity and matchless worth. The color almost translucent reflecting God as Spirit. The grass under their feet again representing their connection with the earth yet at the same time existing in a spiritual realm apart from the earth especially the Father and Spirit whose feet are resting on golden blocks. Where are the feet of Jesus resting? The wings typically symbolic of angels again pointing to the Trinity's distinction from creation yet indicating the ability to be where ever they are needed. The wings speaking freedom to go where ever they desire. And the rod each one holds reminds me of Psalm 23:4b, "I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me." These are the plain and simple messages You bring to my mind Lord. Apart from doctrines and denominations, it's all about the love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and what was done for humanity. The positioning of the Trinity opens the table up and invites me to come and join them, again reminding me that this is the focal point of worship."
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where Joy and Sorrow Meet

Once again Easter has come and gone. The excitement of Holy week building up to the celebration of the resurrection has for many of us begun to fade from our memories. The realities of work and the diversion of the April school vacation creep in and quickly refocus our attention. However my mind is still preoccupied with Good Friday. My husband and I attended a Good Friday service at a church of one of my pastoral colleagues. There were many familiar faces in attendance and one in particular captured my attention. This particular young man and his wife used to serve at the daughter church of my former home church in Douglas, MA. At the time he was interning while completing his seminary education. He met his wife while interning, they married, and had a daughter. Subsequently after graduation, he moved on to pastor a church in Grafton, MA. While serving in Grafton, I heard he and his wife were expecting a second child, a little boy. However, the news that followed shortly thereafter was not good. The couple were informed that there were serious problems with the pregnancy and the child would die shortly after birth. As is typical in these situations, the couple was given the option to abort rather than carry the child to full term. However this young pastor and his wife refused to terminate the pregnancy and trust the situation to the Lord. Over the course of the nine months myself and many others prayed for a miracle. The baby boy was born but as predicted, he died within a few hours. This is one of those situations where the "why" question pops up. It reminded me of a sermon I preached on Psalm 42. It is one of the many so-called "psalms of lament"in the Bible. In psalms of lament an individual or group cries out to God for help. The church has often been criticized for not acknowledging these types of psalms for they speak to the hurts and questions of the community of faith. Many times we tend to focus on the "happier" psalms that rejoice in the Lord. But there are those dark moments that we all experience throughout life where we need some answers from God and Psalm 42 reflects that longing. In the midst of his struggles the psalmist repeats a key refrain, "Why are you downcast , O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:5,11) In between these two verses the psalmist also proclaims, "By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me---a prayer to the God of my life." (Psalm 42:8) Certainly, this couple had good reason to be downcast but they decided to hope in the Lord. Even though their prayer was not answered as they desired, I believe they had a sense that like the psalmist they would "yet praise Him, their Savior and their God." On Good Friday they came to the service holding a double blessing from the Lord, twin baby boys! I was told that a year to the day after they buried their little boy, the twins were born. God not only gave them a son but multiplied the blessing twofold. It is reminiscent of Job and all the sorrows he endured. After all was said and done we are told that, "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first." (Job 42:12a)  Why this couple or Job went through their experiences is not clear. However, Psalm 42 is a reminder of joy and sorrow meeting together and in the midst of trouble lies the mystery of God. One of my favorite contemporary Christian groups, Avalon, sums it up best in one of their CDs entitled "Stand", "There is a place where hope remains in crowns of thorns and crimson stains. And tears that fall on Jesus' feet. Where joy and sorrow meet."
To God Be The Glory!
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Through A Mother's Eyes

This is the time of year when we focus on Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. It is fitting and appropriate as the resurrection is the hall mark of our faith as Christians. While I was meditating during this Holy week I began to think about Mary and her journey from the cradle to the cross. In the gospel of Matthew the angel tells Joseph he is to give the name Jesus to the son that Mary will bear because "He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Of course Joseph shared this news with the expectant Mary but I wonder did they understand what the angel told them? Notice the angel did not say that Jesus would save His people from the Romans which is what the Jews were waiting for with the coming of the Messiah. Mary obviously knew that Jesus birth was something beyond the ordinary with the visitation and announcement to her as recorded in the gospel of Luke 1:26-38. And at Jesus baptism, I wonder was Mary there to hear John the Baptist repeat the angel's words, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)  From fleeing Herod's attempt to kill her son (Matthew 2:13-18) to the beginning of His public ministry (Matthew 4:12-17) we experience the highs and lows that Mary faced as Jesus life unfolded before the world. If Mary had the ability to journal about the events taking place, I wonder what she would have written? Perhaps she would have talked about the unbelievable experience of the angels declaration. I can imagine her documenting  the pregnancy and the feeling of growing ever closer and more connected to the child in her womb. Maybe at times she paused and was overwhelmed with the reality that this child was the son of God. She may have even asked the question, why me? She may have written about all the unusual experiences and interesting people that entered their lives after Jesus birth including the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20), the blessings of Anna and Simeon at the temple (Luke 2:21-40), the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) and the amazing wisdom of Jesus at a young age. (Luke 2:41-52) As Jesus began to teach and preach, her journal entries may have focused on the reaction of the crowds to His words. Mary may have felt a sense of awe at the miracles He performed and deep love for the compassion Jesus had for the outcasts of society. However, did she somewhere in her heart and mind replay the words of the angel, "He will save His people from their sins."  When the Pharisees and religious authorities began to demonstrate their anger towards Jesus, did Mary begin to have a sense of what the angel meant? Is that the reason she and Jesus siblings went to talk to Him? (Matthew 12:46-50) Would her journal entries begin to reflect a sense of fear and anxiety? After Jesus returned to Jerusalem and the events of Holy week began to take place, what thoughts crossed Mary's mind? Did she write about the hope in her heart after Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem? (Matthew 21:1-11) Did that hope quickly vanish as Jesus cleared the temple (Mark 11:15-18)  further stirring up the aggravation of the religious leaders?And when He was finally arrested (Matthew 26:47-27:26) and Mary received the news could she even have put pen to paper because of the heaviness of her heart? As she looked into what was left of the face of her dying Son (John 19:17-30) did Mary finally begin to understand the reality of the angel's words? I believe, like the disciples, Mary did not fully realize what Jesus had accomplished until after His resurrection. No journal entry could have been more powerful than the knowledge that Jesus was alive. The magnitude of what Mary had lived through from Jesus birth to His death and resurrection is beyond comprehension for any human being let alone the woman who was obedient enough to say, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38) As we ponder the Easter story and celebrate His resurrection, I pray we will once again stand amazed at God's gift of love to the world. May you experience a blessed Easter!
HE IS RISEN!
Pastor Sheree