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Letter from Amy: April 10, 2024



Images: L: Rembrandt, Head of Christ, done from life, 1640s; R: Photo from Monday's solar eclipse. The light and dark patterns in this eclipse photo reminded me of the Rembrandt painting from Sunday.



"Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is."

1 John 3:2


Beloved,


I am delighted to begin our Eastertide series on 1 John. Unfortunately, Katie's sermon from Sunday wasn't recorded (the temperamental sound board strikes again!). But I loved the way she introduced John's letter, as though John is inviting us to behold Christ as one beholds a great work of art, approaching it from different angles, observing the light, the figures, the expressions, the movement. John is a faithful pastor nearing the end of his life, and his sense of childlike wonder seems to have deepened over a lifetime of following Jesus. His letter invites us to wonder alongside him, to look at Christ together from different angles in an atmosphere of awestruck love.


And as the verse above notes, there is something that changes in us as we behold Christ in wonder. We become more and more who we really are, and others see Jesus more and more clearly in us. Katie talked about this as though we are looking in a mirror and seeing Jesus reflected back to us in our image. Can you imagine?


One person who tried to imagine this reality was the Dutch painter Rembrandt, whose work we contemplated on Sunday. Rembrandt painted the face of Christ again and again and again in portraits and scenes from Jesus' life. In his works, Jesus seems mysteriously illumined from within, yet also deeply human.


The portrait above was titled, "Head of Christ, done from life." It's a strange description, because Rembrandt could not have painted Jesus "from life" any more than you or I could. This title likely means that Rembrandt used a living model, capturing a deeply human and intimate Jesus. Perhaps a young Rembrandt modeled Jesus after himself. Perhaps he modeled him after one of the Jewish young men from his neighborhood in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam.


Have you ever imagined Jesus with the face of your neighbor? Have you ever imagined Jesus with your own face? Rembrandt's painting offers us a powerfully humanizing imaginative act, like a visual meditation on 1 John 3:2: "When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is."


***


I am delighted to be joining our True Vine Atrium kids (ages 7-12) throughout Eastertide for their bible study before church. We are reading about the resurrection appearances of Jesus and wondering together at the moments in which the disciples suddenly recognize him in their midst. In response to these readings, we are working on collaborative murals with a variety of media over the coming weeks. I loved our conversations on Sunday as the children contemplated scripture while working together on their mural images. Our kids are brimming with insights — ask them what they're learning!


This act of wondering, of beholding, of imagining the Risen Jesus in our midst — this all may seem like children's work. It may seem frivolous or peripheral to the life of faith. But John's letter shows us a disciple who, at the end of a long life of faithfulness, is still beholding Jesus with wonder. May we all "see him as he is."


With wonder,

Amy

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