Tag Archives: lent

The Ninth Station: Resurrection

Keaton Sapp’s ninth and final station in his series, The Stations of the Cross is installed in the church foyer. (You may read my thoughts on the eighth station on my blog, BackwardMutters.com). When he and I began discussing this project and making plans in November, we had no idea how this would play out. I had hoped that we actually would be able follow each week the unfolding of Jesus’s last hours, how we might walk the stations on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and how we might celebrate together the unwrapping of art and the glory of Christ’s resurrection. In addition, I hoped that we would’ve had a reception for Keaton and the artwork by this time. But as we’ve grown accustomed to saying, Things change. Neverthless, though this is the last piece, I am still hoping to have something in which we might share and in sharing might be able to experience the whole.

Keaton’s last piece is titled, “The Resurrection.” The tree that was pulled down, has now been raised in new life. In Luke 24:4-12 we read,

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

The promise of the resurrection is mirrored in many ways throughout God’s creation. There is, however, no reason that it should be – that life comes through death. We wonder at that season of Spring. We are so delighted to see the turn, to see what is described in miraculous terms: beauty, life, thriving, rising. We respond to the news of resurrection with suspicion and skepticism. We hear of the empty tomb, and we think them an idle tale. Even so, here is the opened tomb, empty, with the linen cloths by themselves. How from this sealed, dead place, can life emerge? The resurrection is not merely a metaphor or a symbol. Rather it is the reality which is echoed all around us in and through creation. He who was dead has risen just as he said!
Screen Shot 2020-05-01 at 9.45.28 AM

Artwork: © Keaton Sapp 2020, “The Resurrection” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

The Seventh Station: The Earth Shook

The Seventh Station in artist Keaton Sapp’s series, “The Stations of the Cross” is titled, “The Earth Shook” and is based on Matthew 27:51-61. The passage reads,

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

A number of details are present to convince us of the death of Jesus. The centurion’s confession, the women named by Matthew who were eye witnesses of his death and burial, and the identification of Joseph of Arimathea as the one who secured Jesus’ body and placed it in the tomb — all are intended to convince us of Jesus’ death. That Jesus died and continued under the power of death for a time shows us the extent of his humiliation. Jesus is not merely one who preached the Beatitudes, but he is the one who embodied them. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the mourners. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the persecuted because of righteousness. Jesus is all of these, and they point to his identity.

Jesus is not merely identified in the qualities of his character or the wisdom of his teaching. His death, of which we read and are confirmed in verifying is not merely the untimely end of one who is so virtuous. His death was not marked by a whimper, but a concussion. Now in one sense, the smallness of Jesus’ death is real. His crucifixion was hardly noted: a few women and a bored centurion. But here in Matthew Jesus’ death is marked a bit differently. When the one who is the Word made flesh, who is wisdom personified, who is rest dies, his death has a physical, concrete impact in the world: the curtain is torn, the earth shakes, the dead rise. The impact crater of the death of Jesus, shakes the very foundations of creation. Boom!

We are left asking on Good Friday, What can rise from that? We are left to do the only thing we can do: wait. In that waiting, God asks us, Son of man, can these bones live?

Seventh Station

Station Six: The Descent

Keaton Sapp’s Sixth Station of his series, The Stations of the Cross is installed. Take a moment and scroll back through the previous posts in which his work posted. It really is remarkable.

This scene which depicts the descent of Jesus is based on Matthew 27:45-50 which reads,

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

Jesus, in the moment of his greatest psychological, physical, and emotional pressure, cracked and what came out were words written by King David a thousand years earlier and recorded in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The first half of the psalm gives voice to Jesus’ lament. It even contains the expression of his enemies the text of which George Frederick Handel makes use of in The Messiah, “He trusteth in the God; let him who would deliver him, let him deliver him, if he delights in him! (v. 8)” Yet, Jesus’ cry is misunderstood by some of the witnesses of his crucifixion. They mistake his cry as a cry to Elijah to rescue him. The irony is that what these observers are in fact witnessing, is the salvation of which Elijah and his second, John the Baptist, proclaimed. Jesus came to save them and us. The Lord has come, and he has come to bear the condemnation of the curse because of sin in his dying on the cross. He does so in order that we may sing with him the second half of Psalm 22, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him (v.22).”

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 9.32.14 PM

The Denial

The Fourth Station in the Lenten art exhibit, The Stations of the Cross, is entitled, “The Denial.” This piece draws our attention to Peter’s denial of Jesus as foretold in Matthew 26:30-35 and fulfilled in Matthew 26:69-75. They read,

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Later in chapter 26 we read,

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the
rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter’s denial of Jesus is one of the most shocking and yet human of events recorded in history. All of Peter’s bravado and self-confidence come crashing down upon his head. A man’s world is undone by a rooster’s crow.

Both Luke and Mark have additional comments about the circumstance. Luke says that Jesus looked across the courtyard and caught Peter’s eye. What was in Jesus look? What did Peter see? In Mark’s gospel, an angel instructs Mary Magdalene to “tell the disciples and Peter that his is going into Galilee.” What might that specific instruction have meant to Peter? Though the denial is epic, the forgiveness is that much greater.

Artist, Keaton Sapp, continues making use of the symbol of the fig leaf as a way to symbolize the passion narrative. What do you see in his depiction? Is the leaf merely Jesus or could it be something els?

Station4 copy

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.