Known as the “Weeping Prophet,” Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem after the people had fallen into sin. Here is today’s reading from Jeremiah, Chapter 3, verses 1 through 5. It is a harsh condemnation issued on behalf of God, but we need to remember that thanks to the work of Christ on the cross, God will return for his church as a bridegroom for a bride.
Having exited the Christmas season, let’s take a few moments to meditate on where the Christian story takes us as we move through winter and into spring. In between his birth and the moment depicted above, Jesus revealed much about God’s plan for humanity, including how the promise of salvation would be fulfilled.
Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
As we move toward the Christmas season, let’s not forget the larger story. Christ grew in wisdom and stature, and as a man had much to teach us regarding God’s love and expectations for us. Then he died for our sins, restoring us to God.
We can easily imagine Mary holding her son both at his birth and his death, when he was brought down from the crucifixion she witnessed. The Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo beautifully captured the latter moment in a sculpture commissioned in 1497. It is called the Pietà, which in English means “Piety.” It is on display in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
While it is a scene of death, the sculpture certainly can remind us of Christ’s birth. Mary is depicted as remarkably young, more like her age at Jesus’ birth than at his death more than three decades later. Michelangelo also altered the scale of the characters—if the two characters in the sculpture were to stand, Mary would tower over Jesus. And yet, the scene appears astonishingly natural, a mother cradling her son. The image seems to bridge the moments of birth and death.
Dear Lord, in this approaching Christmas season, may we carry in our hearts the full meaning of Christ’s presence among us. Amen.
This Sunday at Holston View UMC, the sermon will be “The Righteous Man,” drawing from Matthew 1:18-25. We will be hearing about Joseph, of course. In preparation, I offer you Guido Reni’s “St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus,” circa 1620.
Lord, thank you for the incarnation, the blessed event we prepare to celebrate, and the very human people who were part of your divine plan. Amen.
No, that baby in the fresco, found in the Tornabuoni Chapel in Florence, Italy, isn’t Jesus. He is John the Baptist, cousin to Jesus and the one who would announce the coming of the Messiah. Today is a good day to consider the story of his father, Zechariah. In particular, you might want to take time to hear his “song,” the prophetic declaration he makes when his tongue is unleashed.
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, is remembered in part for his last words, “The best of all is, God is with us.” He actually said the phrase twice before dying. The second time, we are told, he raised his hand and waved it in triumph. Below is a book engraving of his passing, artist unknown. (If you can help me find a proper attribution, please pass it along.)
Lord, may we always sense that you are with us. Amen.
This Sunday at Holston View United Methodist Church, we will hear Mark 13:1-8, where Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman Empire. In this passage, Jesus is straightforward about what would happen.
There are other passages, however, where his pain regarding the future of Jerusalem is evident. In Matthew 23:37, he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” In Luke 19:41, we are told Jesus at one point wept over the city.
In 1892, the artist Enrique Simonet imagined this emotional moment.
Lord, like chicks who know their mother, may we in faith huddle beneath your wings. Amen.
This Sunday at Holston View United Methodist Church, the sermon will draw from Mark 12:38-44, where Jesus again causes us to think about our spiritual relationship with money. If you cannot join us in person, join us online at 11 a.m., or watch a recording later.
As we prepare for Sunday, James Tissot’s “The Widow’s Mite” is offered for your consideration. Much of the artwork developed around this story shows the widow with a child in her arms. While the addition of the child is an elaboration, going beyond what we find in the text, these depictions do remind us of the basic call to care for “widows and orphans,” the most vulnerable people in Jesus’ day. Note in particular the expression captured on the widow’s face.
Lord, keep us mindful that in your eyes, treasure is stored in the heart. Amen.
The painting below, Raphael’s “Death of Ananias,” depicts a moment when God’s justice fell upon a husband who was part of a deceptive couple in the early church. (The wife receives her portion soon after.) The story is found in Acts 4:32-5:11. Does the story and its depiction shock you? Why might we be shocked that God’s justice could be so swift?
Lord, we thank you for the mercy and grace you continually shower upon us. We know that without Jesus Christ, your justice would be swift, righteous and terrible. Amen.
As we at Holston View UMC move toward a Sunday service of healing, here’s an opportunity to meditate on an image based on Matthew 9:18-26. George Percy Jacomb-Hood in 1895 painted this oil on canvas depicting the raising of Jairus’ daughter.
Lord, may our faith sustain us, and may the signs you send us astonish all witnesses. Amen.