Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hymn of the week--Beneath the Cross of Jesus

We sang "Beneath the Cross of Jesus" for our Communion hymn this morning. An excellent pick, and kudos to the rector (who is on vacation) for picking it before he left. This verse especially jumped out at me:

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

As I sang it, almost against my will, this story came to mind. Via Dawn Eden, I learned this week of an "artist" (I use the term with some hesitation) in Australia named Adam Cullen who was at least short-listed for (and it appears may have won) an award known as the Blake Prize for his deliberately mocking and cartoonish painting of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

One judge, Christopher Allen, resigned from the judging panel in protest when his colleagues insisted on including Cullen in the short list. I find it at least notable that originally Cullen was not on the short list and that Allen resigned when the other judges changed their minds and included him. I wonder if the clue to this about face might be found in the words of the chairman (I assume, of the judging committee), "The Blake Prize...embraces diversity in its entries and it is important to us that we remain open to the many styles through which artists engage with the subject area." Uh-huh. Perhaps we could rightly interpret this as, "Even if it means giving prizes to work of no artistic merit, we have to include at least one and maybe more works mocking Christianity every year to prove our transgressive credentials." Hats off to judge Allen. Is it just barely possible he was making an artistic judgement here? (Side note: Somehow I missed the Christian riots over this deliberate offence to what they hold holy. Perhaps someone could give me the links to those news stories...)

But the story doesn't stop there. As Dawn Eden says, the real kicker is in the final line of the Telegraph story, when Cullen gives us his response to the brouhaha: "How can he be so offended? It's just a Jew on the cross."

Um, yeah. Huh. And that's supposed to mean what, exactly?

The more you think about that line, the more unintentional resonances it has. It reminds me of what St. John tells us about Caiaphas--that when he said it was expedient that one man should die for the people, he prophesied though he did not know it. And when Jesus died he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." "It's just a Jew on the cross." Pontius Pilate himself couldn't have said it better. Shaking it off. Telling himself it doesn't matter. How could it matter? How could this obscure Jewish teacher, crucified by the Romans in the first century A.D., matter? Just another of the victims of the cruelty of man in history. Lots of Jews were crucified by the Romans. It's just a Jew on the cross. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn. They shoot out the lip, saying, 'He trusted in God that he would deliver him. Let him deliver him, if he delighteth in him.'" "Come down from the cross, if thou art the son of God."

Cullen is in a long line of the mockers of Jesus on the cross. And all their mockery God Incarnate, the Jew on the cross, took upon himself, and by it they did the will of God against their own will. "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities."

Upon that cross of Jesus, mine eye at times can see the very dying form of one who suffered there for me. (And for Adam Cullen, too, hard as that may be to believe.)

And by his stripes we are healed.


Beth Impson said...

Thanks, Lydia. We had to miss church this morning -- illness in the family -- and this post is a strong encouragement that I needed today.

Lydia McGrew said...

I'm glad.

I think it may be a case of God's bringing good out of evil, if that rather nasty painting can be used for meditation in a roundabout way.

I hope all of you get well soon.

William Luse said...

I can tell this kind of thing gets to you. As it should.

Um, yeah. Huh. And that's supposed to mean what, exactly?

I'll tell you: his precious 'diversity' is defined by, as in has no existence apart from, its contempt for Christianity, most specifically for the person of the Savior. That's the bottom line, the thing that gives it birth.

Lydia McGrew said...

I think that's clearly true, Bill. What's particularly shocking, of course, about Cullen's statement is that at least in America anything that sounds so much like anti-Semitism is not something people are supposed to say to the press. He doesn't seem to have that taboo, which is troubling in itself. I don't know if this reflects some difference in Australian culture, or if that sort of weird and dismissive reference to a Jew is becoming more acceptable generally, or if I am just over-reading his statement. But it's the kind of thing that if it got quoted in an American paper the Anti-Defamation League would be suggesting an apology, I think, and the person would be saying he spoke hastily or was quoted out of context or something.

William Luse said...

The Jews will never cease suffering this kind of calumny simply because the most important person ever to live on the planet was one of them, and he was a very demanding fellow, unreasonably so. It will always be this way as long as irreligion is the going thing among the cognoscenti and the commoner alike.