No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world which Jesus holds. Other gods have been as devoutly worshipped; no other man has been so devoutly loved. –John Knox
At Congress this year, I once again heard from one of my favorite speakers, Father Richard Leonard. One of his talks, “Screening the Sacred,” focused on movie depictions of Jesus but also included reflection on the Gospels and discussion of the power of images in our lives. Father Richard asked us to “do an inventory” since what we see, hear, and sing about Jesus can be retained for a lifetime. Now that I’m shaping two other lives in my home, that of my daughter and, even if he doesn’t realize it, Blues, I thought it a good opportunity to take stock.
You could argue that my outfit today is irreverent. Conceived by Kerusso.Com, an online Christian store, its nod to Coca-Cola means to make us rethink corporate branding and revisit who Jesus is in our lives. The tagline, “Eternally Refreshing” is followed by a quote from John, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.” Tongue in cheek or not, the logo argues that drinking Coke products won’t ever give spiritual rejuvenation or satisfaction. I specifically wanted to wear this shirt today because it helps to remind me of what I so often forget.
This painting of the Good Shepherd belonged to my father. You can see it in old photos from the early 70s when my dad married my mom after his draft stint in the US Army. Throughout my childhood, this painting hung in my brother’s room. I always found it comforting and tender. When my dad said he was getting rid of it, I protested and brought it to my house where it sits above my makeshift altar. These days, my daughter looks at it and names Jesus aloud. This is an image I would love for her to retain for the rest of her life.
The central piece of art in my living room is a reprint of an album cover for Santana’s “Hymns for Peace” by Oakland artist Michael V. Rios. When I first moved into my house, I wanted a piece of Chicano/Latino art but I was honestly tired of seeing Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Simon Silva. As much as I loved the work of those iconic painters, I wanted something different. I love the scope of this painting, Christ the Redeemer amidst a pantheon of African, Aztec, and Mayan iconography, against the backdrop of a baby in vitro. It may be small in size but powerful.
My mom’s neighbor and my former piano teacher brought back this crucifix from Mexico. Made from a tree branch and carved from wood, it offers a stark, simple depiction of the crucified Christ. Father Richard reminded us that our Good Friday question is not why did Jesus die but why Jesus was killed. This angular image reminds me that sentiment and sadness are elements of Christ’s passion but not the ultimate meaning. I see a man who suffered capital punishment. A once revered community activist, he is alone in death. But his loss calls authority and power into question.
In my house, Jesus is nourishment, comfort, harmony, and sacrifice. He is commercial, traditional, ethnic, and multicultural. May these varied images continue to challenge us to seek him.