Daily Devotion for Wednesday 3rd April 2024

Wednesday 3rd April 2024  Tyler Ballon Deposition
 
 
Information
 
Tyler Ballon was born in Jersey City in 1996 and grew up surrounded by religion in the family while simultaneously being exposed to day-by-day violence in the neighbourhood. After graduating from Maryland Institute College of Art, he now lives and works in the city that he grew up in.  Ballon chose to tell the residents’ stories through large-scale figurative paintings and powerful reinterpreted pictoral compositions borrowed from artists such as El Greco, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rembrandt Van Rijn. What makes his paintings so powerful is the fact that he is not copying the originals, but extracting their essence and placing them into a whole new context, bringing them into the present by pressing relevant issues such as poverty, shootings, thefts, depression, anxiety. The Black artist also celebrates values such as family, friendship, respect, altruism in his works.  Deposition (2018) is one of Tyler Ballon’s most appreciated paintings and is part of the permanent collection of Maryland Institute College of Art. Inspired by El Greco, the painting hurtfully shows the moment right after a young man is shot and killed. Interestingly enough, there is no sign of blood, because the grotesque of it all is not Ballon’s purpose, but the emptiness of the moment, the feelings, the silence.
Reading  St Luke 23: 50 – 56

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council,  had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.  It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.  The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid.  Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

Reflection

What do you see in this painting?

Despair? Disbelief? That there is nothing more to be done than take a body away? The description of the painting talks of there being an emptiness, but although the outpouring of emotion is silent, it is there with every brushstroke. It is reminiscent of the depictions of Joseph of Arimathea, as he and another of Jesus’s disciples carried Jesus’s body away from the cross.  It expresses what happens in a community when a life is taken due to gang warfare or a crime that is utterly pointless.

Jesus’ death, though, was not pointless. It was about changing something in humanity that, as this painting depicts, has yet to be fully grasped.

Much of the painting draws the eye to the body limp with death. Yet, one individual, as they take the body in their arms, looks out of the painting. Their look is of disbelief and full of the emotion of that needless death. But it is also of accusation. How will this not happen again if we do not change? If we continue to love only our own?

Jesus’s death was not solely about healing the relationship between humanity and God. It was about the healing of all relationships—the removal of ‘them’ and ‘us’ in the world.

We might look at this painting and not see our communities or our neighbours. We might see a place that is somewhere else. But this is happening on every street, in every place, somehow. There is tragedy and needless harm because we see distinctions that should not be seen.

When you look at this painting, what do you see?

See Jesus, limp with death, calling us to change and see the world through different eyes.

Prayer
 
Loving God, it is easy to see pictures in the news,
hear of lives, full of promise, tragically lost,
and dismiss them as having anything to do with us.
They are of another place, of a different people.
Yet, in every encounter, we meet someone not like us.
With any word or action, we can cause another harm.
In your death and resurrection, there is forgiveness.
Help us to see that and change, Amen.

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Dr Elaine Colechin, Minister, Bromley URC and St Mark’s United Church, Greenwich

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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