Category Archives: Grace Gallery

The Third Station: The Kiss

The third piece for the Lenten exhibit, The Stations of the Cross is based on Matthew 26:47-50 which tells of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus and is entitled, “The Kiss.” Artist Keaton Sapp offers an extraordinary image which starkly depicts the moment with its strong contrast of light and dark…intimacy and betrayal. Matthew 26:47-50 reads,

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.
Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.

The betrayal of Jesus in the Garden brings to full circle the story begun in Genesis 3. In Genesis, a serpent deceives with the promise of blessing: “You will be like God.” Instead what follows is cursing.  In Matthew 26 the betrayer comes blessing (a kiss) and sets in motion the second Adam’s curse by the crucifixion.

In no time during Jesus’ last hours, does he seem carried along by circumstances into an unknown future. “Friend,” he says, “do what you came to do.” Jesus is, in some great measure, in command of all that is taking place. The evil he will undergo, is an evil he has volunteered for, is one to which he has submitted himself.

Now, we all have experienced betrayal. The violation of person, being taken advantage of, being presumed upon, or being lied to are things common to us all. My initial reaction to Judas’s betrayal is one of anger. “How dare he!” It seems all to easy. We live in an age of outrage and self-justified anger. And though anger rightly acknowledges an understood trespass, I wonder if we avoid the reality of the the profound sadness of Jesus’ betrayal. Jesus says, “Friend…” How deep that must have cut. After three years of living with and walking beside Jesus — after three years of witnessing miracles and listening to his teaching, Judas is willing to turn Jesus in and for thirty pieces of silver.

The Kiss 2

The Second Station: Watch with Me

The Second Station of the Cross is on display in the Grace Gallery. The scene is based on Matthew 26:36-46 which reads,

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Keaton Sapp is continuing to install artwork which will eventually compose a Stations of the Cross series which will be available to walk on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. If you have opportunity, take time to reflect on the scripture passage and the artwork. As I mentioned previously, Keaton is making use of a motif to abstractly represent Jesus and is intended to respectfully avoid depicting Jesus’ face.

As you reflect on the painting consider the mood of the scene in the picture. Where are the disciples? What are they doing? What is on the horizon? How is the tree depicted? How do these depict the events of the passage and how do they foreshadow what is to come?

If you’re interested, you may read my response to the passage and Keaton’s artwork on my own blog HERE.

Keatol Sapp 2020

The First Station: The Anointing

Grace Kernersville is very fortunate to have artist, Keaton Sapp contributing artwork to this Lent’s art exhibit, The Stations of the Cross. Grace will make use of the exhibit to offer an opportunity for people to walk the Stations on Good Friday and Holy  Saturday in April. In the meantime, I’d like to offer you another opportunity for you to reflect as you mark the season and prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

With previous exhibits in which we have hung seasonal art in the Grace Gallery, we have made use of ekphrasis which is writing that responds to a specific piece of art be it prose or poetry. Most recently Grace’s Advent exhibit, The Jesse Tree, made use of this sort of writing. Over the next five weeks, I will be posting the art for you to meditate and reflect on in order for you to write a response. I will include a few words about the art and provide a scriptural context for it. The artwork itself is somewhat abstract. In a desire to avoid making an image of Jesus and be a stumbling block to some, the artist is using the motif of a fig tree. The series will tell the story of fig tree, but through those pictures you should be able to discern the story of Jesus’ last day.

This week’s piece is entitled, “The Anointing” and is based on Matthew 26:6-16 which reads,

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

In this passage, Matthew juxtaposes two events prior to the last events of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Those last events begin with the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and continues with his watchful prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane followed by his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death on Good Friday.

It may be unsurprising to us in this day and age, but the two prior events in Matthew 26 seemed to be about money. In the first, a woman (presumably Mary of Bethany) anoints Jesus with a ‘very expensive ointment.’ This prodigal expression of honor and devotion irritates the disciples, for they ask indignantly, “Why this waste?” Jesus tells them to leave her alone for “she has done it to prepare me for my burial.” It seems that she, before all the rest, had some understanding of what Jesus was about to undergo. The second event in Matthew 26, is Judas going out to sell Jesus to the chief priests. He does so for thirty pieces of silver.

Matthew seems to leave us with some questions. Firstly “What is the Son of Man worth?” Is he worth all your devotion or is his value only in what he can do to help you to accomplish your will? Secondly, the disciple’s question, “Why all this waste?” invites us to reflect on what and for whom we spend ourselves. For what am I pouring myself out? Reputation? Achievement? What is a life lived by faith in Jesus Christ worth? Lastly, Jesus’ question and statement, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me” invites us to ask, do we, as Mary, see the beauty of the One who brings us the gospel of peace?

1 The Anointing (c) Keaton Sapp

Lent 2020

February 26 is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning the forty day, season of Lent. If you count the days you’ll reckon that there are actually 46 days until Easter. The reason is that though is a season of repentance, preparation, service, and humility, nevertheless we are living life after the resurrection. The Lord’s Day, Sunday, is appropriately recognized as a day of rejoicing.

As you enter the season, there are several online resources you may want to make use of.

Biola University’s 2020 Lent Project is a daily devotional hosted online and sponsored by the Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts. You may sign up via email or visit the devotional website HERE.

Malcolm Guite will be posting daily on his website his own an other’s poetry and thoughts which are found in more detail in his Lent devotional, Word in the Wilderness. You may access his blog HERE.

PCA Pastor, Craig Higgins’ resource, “On Keeping Holy Lent” may be found HERE.

LenTree is an online devotional which offers one poem a day by George Herbert. You may find LenTree HERE.

You may access Grace Kernersville’s pamphlet on Lent, “Know My Heart” in the church foyer brochure rack on online here: GPC Lent Brochure.

Julie Canlis has a great talk, Lent to the Rescue, which you may view on YouTube HERE. And you may access a more detailed series she did for her church HERE.

In addition, Grace Kernersville will be blessed to have the work of artist Keaton Sapp hanging in our foyer as a part of a Lent art project. Keaton will be installing artwork each week as a part of his exhibit, Stations of the Cross. This installation will continue to Easter and will serve as a Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. We’ll be posting his artwork and commenting on the pieces each week on my blog, Backward Mutters of Dissevering Power HERE.

Jesse Tree Art: Slingshot

GPC’s Advent art project, The Jesse Tree, is being installed. New pieces are on display each Sunday. One of those pieces is a plywood sculpture of the Jesse Tree which I’ll be writing more about later. The other pieces are a combination of abstract art and poetry.

Why Abstract Art?
Representational art is often viewed as being inherently more worthy than abstract art. The seemingly inherit chaos of the art is viewed in some circles as refuting the idea of transcendent truth. This is false. All art abstracts at some level. The artists eye and imagination always works to communicate and focus. Every artist embellishes, adds qualities, or makes use of symbolism. Abstract art, however, does this with an abandon. The artist hands-over the painting’s meaning to the viewer, and in so doing, the viewer’s imagination becomes as important as the artist’s imagination in order to give the painting meaning.

How Do You Read Abstract Art?
There are several cues one may use to help read abstract art. Many abstract paintings have titles. The titles give you some clue as to the artist’s intent. Next, look at the colors and lines. How has the artist used line, color, and flow to communicate? Secondly, look at the larger context used. Is there a theme to the series? What sorts of references may the artist have been drawing from or which you are aware that may help you discern a meaning? Lastly, talk and share with others your ideas. Abstract art is about engaging the imagination and discovering meaning.

Each piece of art in this portion of the Jesse Tree project is accompanied by an ekphrastic poem. Ekphrastic poems are poems which are written in response to a specific piece of artwork. In ekphrastic poetry we are offered a view into the poet’s imagination as they dialogue with the artist’s work.

Here’s the first piece in the series. It corresponds to 1 Samuel 17 and the story of David and Goliath. The painting is titled, “Slingshot.” How do you read the colors? The lines? How can you derive a story from the painting about David’s struggle with Goliath? Because this is part of the Jesse Tree project, how does this relate to Jesus? How might who Jesus is and what he has done be brought to bear in the artwork’s meaning?

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© Adah Freeman 2019, “Slingshot” acrylic on canvas. All Rights Reserved.

Here’s my attempt to read the painting in poetry. This poem too, is entitled, “Slingshot.”

Once the world was shining-new, golden-bright,
Untouched by shade or stain but brilliant-white;
Then an enemy came
To steal by dark deeds, claim.

The menacing darkness blurred, broke, and scarred—
Tore with violence, crossed, mangled, marred
The field of shimm’ring gold
Whence all was lost or sold.

The darkness continued to blur and streak,
Sent giants: Despair, Dementor, Defeat
Who laughed at our fear, scoffed,
Defied our Lord, and mocked.

But God’s Shepherd descended in between,
Went outside the camp where he was last seen—
For our glory-sealing,
Bearing stripes for healing.

He flung himself at death, and slew the Night
And with his arms he slings us up in life.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.

Where Are You?

GPC’s Advent art exhibit, Where Are You? begins December 3 and continues through January 14.

Hope
The first week’s theme is Hope. The first promise of hope comes in Genesis 3:15 where in the midst of God’s pronouncement of judgement and curse, God says that the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head.

Asher McClain’s pyrography of the tree of life together with the new blooms points to this hope.
Adah Freeman has captured the moment in which Eve beside her husband (whose head is bowed in shame), raisers her eyes upwards having heard the promise of redemption.
Michael Kuehn’s song, Adam, tells the story of Adam from creation, to loss, to hope. You may listen to the song via the player below, and the lyrics are provided.
Pressed lips onto the dirt
Breathing life into the earth
All at once my limbs awake
Blood flows through this jar of clay

I was made for this
Perfect love from a quickening kiss
To join the dance and sing along
To love, thrive, belong

Pursed lips to ear I heard
Those luscious tempting words
My heart the willing prey
“Did God truly say?”

The sweetness never came
Sickened by the bitter shame
Laid bare by sin and scared to die
All for the love of a lie

Then the promise rang in my ears
One day you’d wipe away these tears
A bruised heel to crush the head
To bear my shame and raise the dead

My fragile form exposed
You made me costly clothes
Piercing skin of blameless hide
You graciously placed me inside

Love
The second week’s theme is Love. In those moments when our loves are revealed and the cost of love is manifest, we have the opportunity to cry out, “Here I am!”

Asher captures the view of Genesis 22 from the mountain top. (It was not lost on us that it snowed this very weekend in Kernersville. Did Asher know this was going to happen?)
Adah’s portrait of Abraham captures the moment when Abraham with knife in hand, hears the call of the Angel, “Abraham! Abraham!”
Michael’s song, Abraham, tells the story of Abraham’s journey with Isaac to the mountain upon which Abraham was to sacrifice his son.

You may listen to the song via the player below.
Here are the lyrics.

Dad, where are we going?
What are we gonna do?
I’ve never seen your face this torn before
Dad, how much farther now?
Why aren’t you saying more?
I’m getting worried something’s really wrong
You can tell me I am old enough
You can tell me I won’t say a word
I know I can’t make it easier
To do what you’ve gotta do
But I am so much bigger now
Can’t I at least carry the wood?
I may not fully understand, but
Together we’ll see it through
Cause daddy I love you

Have I ever told you, son?
The miracle you are?
How when we heard we laughed and laughed and laughed
But every word was true
Every promise kept
And I believe He will be faithful still
I won’t lie to you I’m terrified
Of all that God has asked of me
But He has never failed me once
To do what He said He’d do
The hands that knit you inside the womb
Have power the could raise you too
His ways are higher than my ways
I trust He will see this through
Just know that I love you

Abraham!
Stay your hand!
The Lord provides
Himself the Lamb
His head stuck among the thorns
By myself I’ve sworn
To show how I love you

Joy
The third week’s theme is Joy. The joy of being found is realized when we come to see that the Lord has been seeking us. He draws us from the rivers of our lives and our wandering in the wilderness into his presence. His promise is that, if we trust him, we will worship him.

Asher’s pyrography is of the burning bush in Exodus 3.
Adah’s portrait of Moses is of the moment Moses turns aside to see this curious fire. From the bush he hears the Lord’s voice speak to him.
Michael’s song, Moses, tells Moses’ story and imagines what it meant for Moses to be drawn to the Lord and sent on the Lord’s mission.

You may listen via the player below.
Here are the lyrics.
In the dusk there’s a speck of dawn
Something in the light is turning me aside
To see what’s going on

Suddenly this is holy ground
A miracle of flame is calling me by name
Where I thought I’d not be found

Grant me the grace
To stand in this sacred space

You know my name and you told me yours
Now I know who I am and I know what I’m for
Drawn to life, like when I was a boy
From the wilderness and into joy

But I’m not who you think I am
Maybe if your fire burned a little brighter
You would understand

You’d see the blood that stains these hands
See the darkest part of my orphan heart
See me for who I really am

But I feel your love as heat
Warming the ground beneath my feet

You know my name and you told me yours
Now I know who I am and I know what I’m for
Drawn to life, like when I was a boy
From the wilderness and into joy

From my beginning until my end
You’ll always be who you’ve always been
Known to my core since before I began
Alight in the blaze of you, here, I am

You know my name and you told me yours
Now I know who I am and I know what I’m for
Drawn to life, like when I was a boy
From the wilderness and into joy

Peace
The fourth week of Advent’s theme was “peace”. Peace is the fruit of faith of which Mary is an example. After being told of all she will play a part in, she replies, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me as though hast spoken.”

Asher’s pyrography captures the question. What gateway leads to peace? What security provides peace? What vista’s inspire it?
Adah’s portrait is that of Mary at the moment she humbly submits herself to God’s will and plan.
Michael’s song, Mary tells the story from her vantage point. You may note lyrics from the Magnificat. (A nice touch if you don’t ask me).
Here are the lyrics to Michael’s song.

What sort of greeting is this?
So marvelous, so mysterious
What sort of thing have I heard?
A promise so certain, a never-failing word

How can you speak of things that are not
As though they are?
Yet Lord I believe, and long to serve Thee
With all of my heart

Let it be unto me

My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices
For He is my Savior, His gaze is upon me
He has shown the strength of His arm
Holy is His name, Holy is His name

What sort of feelings are these?
Palms pushing and pressing, and bumping little knees
What sort of mother will I be?
Merely a girl, raising the Prince of Peace

Will He know my voice? Mind my words?
Need my care?
Lord here I am, Your will be done
With all that I bear

Let it be unto me

Not the righteous but the sinner
Not the wealthy but the poor
Not the proud ones but the humble
Not the healthy but the sick
Come you shepherds, come you wise men
Come and see what God has done
Come you weary, come you children
Come now, behold the Son
Holy is His name

Glory
Our final theme for the Candlelight Service was “Glory”. The glory of God rushes into creation with the birth of the Christ, Jesus, and the humble shepherds are the first to receive this news.

Asher applies a new technique and orientation to set off our final theme. Asher makes use of negative space (by darkening in the sky and showing the lighted stable where the glory of God has made his appearance. In addition the vertical nature of the pyrography not only complements Adah’s horizontal orientation (a change for her as well), but it draws our attention to the ascent and descent of the Son of God on Christmas.
Adah’s portrait is of those shepherds at the moment they see and hear the angelic choir sing, “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth, Peace, among those with whom he is pleased!”
Here is Michael’s song, Shepherds, (Behold the Lamb) which captures a shepherd’s realization of who Jesus is and what he has come to do. You may listen via the player, and the lyrics are printed below.
I have wandered here so long, these desolate scenes
Watching my flock by day, with more in my dreams
I was called out long ago, and my father before me
He said, “Son, your job is to watch over these sheep.”
Little did I know, those many years ago, that one day I would see
A lamb born to watch over me

I’ve wrestled wolves and weathered winds, I’ve faced many fears
But nothing quite like that night when the angel appeared
I fell on my face to a voice like trumpet blasts
Saying, “This night is born a Savior who will free us all at last!
For like your sheep you’ve gone astray, but the Good Shepherd born today,
He’s a keeper of men, and He won’t rest
Till they’re all safely gathered in.”

I went straight away to the sight
Led by one star’s brilliant light
There at the scene, it was all that I could say,
“Behold the Lamb, who takes our sins away.”

I still wander through these fields but nothing is the same
I was called out long ago, called out by name
Not a day goes by when I don’t think of what my father told me
He said, “Son, your job is to watch over these sheep.”
Little did I know, those many years ago
That one day I would see
A lamb born to watch over me

You may purchase a digital album of Michael Kuehn’s songs through Bandcamp HERE.

The Second Sunday of Advent

What a lovely surprise with this Advent snow this weekend! Though the disruption to our plans and routine can be frustrating, these are the moments when we hear the Lord ask us the question, “Where are you?” Our theme for Sunday morning was, “Love”.

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© Asher McClain 2017

(I can’t help thinking that the pyrography may have been a little prophetic. The snow hanging on the pine trees in Asher’s wood burning is mirrored out the church’s west window.)

We looked at Genesis 22 and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Adah’s portrait captures the moment when the Angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham in verses 11 and 12,

“But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.'”

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© Adah Freeman 2017

Lastly, Michael Kuehn shared a new song written for this occassion. You may listen via the Soundcloud player below, and the lyrics are included for you to follow along.

© Michael Kuehn 2017

© Asher McClain 2017
© Adah Freeman 2017
© Michael Kuehn 2017
All Rights Reserved