April 3, 2019 Midweek Lenten Sermon Series #4: Lenten Chrismons
If you’ve been joining us for the past couple Wednesdays, you’re up to speed on the sermon series and its focus we’ve had for lent this year. If not let me just do a short recap. Chrismons are so named for being “Christ monograms” shortened to the word Chrismon. A monogram is a symbol, that is used as a substitute for the actual item. Like letter monogram’s of a person’s initials such as JFK to refer to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But a monogram can also be a picture or artwork- like the Nike Swoosh represents the Nike company.
One of the most common Chrismons a symbol for Christ is the cross. And we have several of these in our sanctuary. (Slide #2). A very accepted and often anticipated symbol to come across in a Christian church. A little less common but somewhat well-known Chrismons are those that show up on Christmas trees. (Slide #3). Now one of the things unique to Chrismons, is that they’re not just a symbol. They must be a handmade symbol of Christ. So, no professionally manufactured type Nike symbol rendering of a symbol of Christ. The idea is the symbol of Christ gets handmade loving attention.
Now Greenford Lutheran has been blessed with lovingly handmade Chrismons since the 60’s when our ladies group started making them for our Christmas tree. (Slide #4) Yet it didn’t end there. (Slide #5) Later in the 1980’s these same women came together to take on another challenge: to make Lenten Chrismons. Symbols of Christ that had more to do with Christ’s journey to the cross than his birth at Bethlehem. By our 150th anniversary in 1991 they had made over 15 Lenten Chrismons to be dedicated and displayed.
Tonight, we’re going to look at a grouping of those handmade Lenten Chrismons. I say grouping because as I referenced when we started this sermon series the Lenten Chrismons have a rather confusing numerical order. As best I can surmise the exact order the Chrismons wasn’t a focal point of those who hand made them because they pictured them being displayed on a tree, not nicely set out on shelves or window sills. Like many ornaments on a tree you hang them in groupings not so much numerical order.
So while this may be confusing even annoying for those with the “a place for everything and everything in its place” mentality, it also an interesting opportunity to allow symbols to have more than one meaning and interact with each other. For example, (Slide #6) the Robe and Dice are numbered #9, and the Whips are number #10. But the notation cards for #9 cites Matthew 27:35 but the notation card for number #10 cites Matthew 27:26 (nine verses earlier than #9). (Slide #7) We could complain about its inaccuracy or explain it away or simple explore it.
Tonight, I’m choosing to explore it. I used the Robe on Sunday planning to use the Whips for the midweek service. At the Sunday School hour we explored all sorts of ways the artwork inspired and informed us: (Slide #8) the one thing Jesus had of value on earth was being gambled for right in front of him, the robe looks like a cute tennis outfit which kind of sanitizes this whole experience which is sometimes what the church does to our detriment.
We chased a lot of inspiring and well-meaning squirrels of symbolism in our 45 minutes but not once did we mention the symbolism of depicting the part of Jesus crucifixion account of the soldiers placing a robe on him. Why would we? We had a singular focus, we figured it out to exhaustion, or had we. The imperfection of the numerical order sometimes forces me/us to consider the Chrismons as a grouping rather than singular.
(Slide #9) So now grouped together not only does this symbol convey the tragedy of having your earthly possessions stripped away, it can also portray the humiliation of being mocked, the remembrance of being beaten and treated unfairly. When we look at these symbols as a group we get a much bigger picture of how much our savior loves us, because we see visually, these symbols help us envision once again what Jesus was willing to endure for our sake. The oft cited phrase of “suffered under Pontius Pilate” begins to take on shape and meaning not just ritual repetition. Thanks to these silent sermons our hearts and minds can wonder anew at what the lord can do.
I used to refer to them as “simple” silent sermons. But now I ‘m not sure how simple they really are. I think they are simple and complex, just like love is. Perhaps since we celebrate lent as Christ’ passion we should remember that “passion” is another word for love. And love while it is often as simple as three little words “I Love You” its also way more complex and complicated than 1,2,3. God’s love for us as visualized by these silent sermons tucked onto our window sills, is simple and profound, straightforward and complex. God’s great love for us in Jesus Christ is what we make of it and it stands separate from us. Kind of like these Lenten Chrismons lovingly made not so long ago. These silent (but perhaps complex) sermons of Greenford Lutheran. Amen. (Slide #10)