Monday, August 18, 2008

This is a picture of Rublev's icon of Christ the Redeemer from the 14th century. It was discovered in the early 1900's in an old woodshed where, according to ledgend, it was face down and being used as a step. In April of this year, the iconographer, Peter Pearson ( came to New Harmony and for an Icon Workshop. This is the icon we painted. It was a wonderful experience. I used this icon yesterday as a part of a slide show at St. Stephen's before worship. The gospel lesson was Matthew's story of the Canaanite woman coming to Jesus and the disciples to ask them to heal here daughter. (Matthew 15:20-28) Whatever Jesus was doing in this story he was not using his best pastoral skills. But the woman in the story is such an example to us of persistence and prayer. She is also a model for us of the Jesus Prayer (the prayer of the heart)... "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner..." This woman, although not Jewish, was no doubt a believer in God and one who had called upon God's mercy many times.
I remember how much of a change it was in my life when many years ago I learned the Jesus Prayer at a day long retreat in Durham, NC. The Society of St. John the Evangelist ( had a house there at the time the the brothers taught us how to pray this prayer of hospitality. It is the place my heart goes when I don't know how to pray or when I am angry or confused. I guess I would say that it is the "home page" for my prayers. This icon of Jesus is one of the pictures that comes to mind with that prayer. Over the years I have had other prayers that have meant much to me, but this prayer of the heart has been my home.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Culture of Reconciliation

This icon is from a church in Galilee. A friend visited there recently and this picture was among those she took there. She also brought me a small copy of this icon - 2 inches X 3 inches, written with what looks like an eyelash! It is stunning, the faces very clear and the colors much like the one pictured here.

The scene is Jesus with Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It pictures the disciples in a rolling sea behind them with the Galilean hills reaching up around the sea. But it is clearly the post-resurrection event where Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples. In that event Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?" He asks him three times and each time Peter professes his love for Jesus. There is much that can be learned from this encounter, and it is clear that Jesus is "dealing" with Peter - he is taking him to a new place of ministry. He is enabling Peter's pastoral minstry by shepherding him through the rocky ground of his own betrayal. From this moment on Peter's love for those who come seeking will reflect this moment when Jesus loved him in spite of his failures.
I just finished "The Lemon Tree," by Sandy Tolan. It is the true story of two families - Palestinian and Israeli - who live in the same house in Ramla. Before Israel gained its independence in 1948, the house was owned by the Palestinian family of Bashir. As the Palestinians are relocated, the house is inhabited by a Jewish family whose daughter, Dalia, struggles to come to terms with her identity. Tolan follows Dalia and Bashir's difficult friendship and their struggle to understand and honor their different histories in the land of Palestine. I found it a helpful book for understanding the history of Middle East conflict and the enormous cultural difficulties that prevent healing and reconciliation. Are cultural differences a barrier to reconciliation happening?