For centuries, the church has observed a season called Lent.
Lent is a period of reflection and imitation. It’s a season of spiritual preparation in which Jesus’ followers embrace intentional self-denial, just as Jesus embraced His cross.
This year, Christ Community is commemorating Lent in a variety of ways.
Our celebration of Lent began on Ash Wednesday, with services at both our Leawood and Brookside Campuses. And next Friday, March 29, we’re honored to be hosting The Gologotha Experience at our Brookside Campus.
We’ve also chosen to engage Lent through stunning visual art on display in our Four Chapter Gallery at the Downtown Campus. This March and April, Four Chapter Gallery is presenting Cross & Resurrection, a collection of artwork created by Christos Collective that focuses on Christ’s sacrifice for us.
As these pieces have hung in our space for the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by how many congregants have stopped at each piece, taking in their beauty and exploring what they communicate about Jesus’s death for the sin of the world.
But it’s not just our congregants who are finding themselves challenged and inspired by the work. I’ve likewise found myself particularly drawn to a pair of of paintings that hang behind our stage.
The first image in the pair presents the crowd’s derision of Christ as He made His way to Golgotha. Angry accusers hound Him, while others offer to speak on His behalf, leveraging His suffering for their own 15 minutes of fame. Some seem to ignore His suffering, focusing instead on lesser distractions, while others look on with mild pity. No one in the image seems to recognize the gravity of the work that is being accomplished in front of their eyes. They’re blind to the fact that they’re witnessing the Son of Man give His life to redeem the world He made.
The second image builds upon the message of the first. It depicts Christ resurrected. In this image, indifference towards Christ continues but takes a different form. The crowd remains distracted. Some are glued to their screens, while others continue to leverage Christ to build their own platforms. Those who derided Him at His death now deride one another. They’re caught in a cycle of scorn and condemnation. Yet again, those who have witnessed a remarkable miracle—Christ’s resurrection—seem oblivious to its implications.
Art is a visual language. And it speaks to the human soul in ways that words cannot.
This is what I love about art. This is why I’m so thankful that our church is committed to the arts.
Just as Lent invites us to embrace a particular, embodied spiritual discipline (i.e., fasting) so that we might learn more about what it means to follow Jesus in all of life, viewing art grants us the ability to slow down and engage the gospel story in an entirely unique way. Art speaks to us on a cognitive and emotional level. And it can cause us to understand our discipleship to Jesus more fully, when we take time to reflect on its message.
Seeing Jesus as He truly is is key for Christian discipleship. If we want to follow Jesus, we need a fully orbed portrait of who He was, and what He prioritized, and how we are to respond to Him.
While He walked among us, Jesus was perceived in many ways. The desperate saw Him as their only hope. The religious leaders saw Him as an intolerable threat. Peter saw Jesus as a political revolutionary—a militant leader, who would overthrow their oppressors and establish a Jewish kingdom. (This is why Peter wanted to sit at Jesus’ right hand, and why he drew his sword at Jesus’ arrest.)
Put more plainly: Peter thought Jesus would cross out the Roman Empire, not wind up on a Roman cross.
But Jesus’ death and resurrection changed all that. After Jesus rose and spent time with Peter, Peter saw more clearly what discipleship to Jesus required.
This Lenten season, we need our vision adjusted. We must see Jesus as the Son of Man sent to die. And the powerful collection of paintings in our Four Chapter Gallery helps us do just that.
If you haven’t seen this work yet, I invite you to join us at the Four Chapter Gallery for April’s First Friday. The Gallery will be open from 5:30-9:00pm on Friday, April 5. Come at any point during that period to engage this thoughtful collection. Allow the art to speak to you. And see if God might use these powerful images to give you greater insight into how you might follow Him in the various roles and responsibilities He’s prepared for you.