Daily Devotion for Thursday 11th April 2024

Thursday 11th April 2024  Christ and the Thief Alma Lee

 

image used with the artist’s kind permission

Information

Alma Lee lives in rural Wisconsin and notes that she  sits down to work and never knows what is going to come out.  She des not usually do preliminary drawings or plan or pray, but merely open herself to the flow of Christ and sees what happens.  Christ and the Thief is a Cubist view of salvation.  In Cubist works of art, the subjects are analysed, broken up, and reassembled in an abstract form—instead of depicting objects from a single perspective, the artist depicts the subject from multiple perspectives to represent the subject in a greater context.

Reading: St Luke 23: 32 – 42

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing.  And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’  There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’  One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’  But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Reflection

I thought I saw the two criminals eying each other across the space with Jesus in between them. Their faces in profile make up his full face looking forward.

The chess board in the background suggests a game of strategy. Is this where it has ended up – the testing of the authorities, the snatched opportunities, the considered challenges to the status quo? Maybe for the two offenders, as one of them admits that they are being punished according to the law for unlawful deeds. We are not told what their crimes were. The Romans were not the first to use this form of capital punishment, employed against political or religious agitators, pirates, slaves or those who had no civil rights. Perhaps there is some hint of dashed hopes in the derision of the first criminal – had he believed that Jesus might be the Messiah?

From the argument between the two sides Alma Lee creates a compelling image of sadness and compassion as Jesus looks at us and beyond us. By what systems has he been condemned? And yet he can comfort the one who expresses belief in him with the promise of a place in Paradise, the restoration of Eden from where humanity had been expelled through their own actions.

The two criminals, left and right, debate law and order, the correct or incorrect application of justice. Jesus seeks forgiveness for those who put him to death. Where are you and I in this picture? Grieving bystanders looking on, co-condemned using our last breath to berate or argue, or repenting our actions and seeking to be close to God?

And then I read again the title the artist gave to her work, and I realise that this is Jesus looking into the eyes of the fallible human who asks to be remembered by him.

Prayer

Jesus, do you know me?
Will you remember me, from your kingdom?
Grant that the strategies I adopt in this life
emerge from love and forgiveness
that I may dare to look you in the eye.
Amen

 

 

 

Today’s writer

The Revd Fiona Thomas freelances in strengths-based approaches and is also in transitional ministry with the pastorate of Bellingham, Catford and Lee Green in South London.

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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