March 20, 2019 midweek Lent sermon series Lent Chrismons
[Slide #1 Lenten Chrismons] Tonight, we continue our sermon series on Lenten Chrismons. If you’ve been with us you’ve heard about how a Chrismon, is simply any artistic symbol used to represent Christ. Most Christians are familiar with the cross being a Chrismon. [slide #2] Several of us in this congregation are aware that the ornaments used to adorn our church Christmas tree each year are Chrismons [Slide #3]. And if you’ve been part of our adult forum or advent series you’ve probably learned that the unique thing about a Chrismon is that they can only have that title if they’ve been hand made rather than professionally manufactured.
Our congregation not too long ago was blessed with women who wanted to express the message of Christ through art work. They hand made in the 60’s and 70’s Chrismons for our Christmas Tree [Slide #4 Chrismon tree]. And then in the late 80’s they came together again and made an entire series of Lenten Chrismons as part of our church’s 150th anniversary celebration [Slide #5 Women at dedication].
So here we are now decades later in a culture of overstimulation, over-visualization, oversaturated with media and images. I wanted to take a moment this lent and make sure we didn’t just ignore these lovingly handmade heritage pieces of art work. [Slide #6 Rope] Art work specifically made to engage us and encourage us to consider the message, ministry, and meaning of Christ our savior.
These symbols scattered around the window sills of our sanctuary are meant to enhance our Lenten journey. I pointed out last week that one of the interesting quirks about our Lenten Chrismons is that while there is a general order in which these symbols are to be laid out there isn’t a steadfast order. You see in the packing and unpacking displaying and mothballing from year to year the numbers on the display cards, the “shields” have become inconsistent and even when we consult the original dedication ceremony it conflicts with the boxes nicely typed order list.
So in a way it gives us a chance each year to change things up. I think while it’s frustrating for the “a place for everything and everything in its place” mindset, its somewhat freeing to think that not every Lenten journey is going to be exactly the same. Some years can start with the cup and the cross [Slide #7 of cup and cross] according to the dedication ceremony order, others with the wheat and grapes [Slide#8 wheat and grapes] according to the box set directions. While these aren’t major changes, they’re still enough of a change that can trip us up or make us notice rather than just same old same old, plow through and get it over with.
I think every year the season of Lent gives us at Greenford Lutheran an opportunity to examine our faith life. Just as we spring clean around the yard and notice the debris that’s piled up or the new shoots that have sprouted. Lent gives us an opportunity to examine what debris of hurt, unforgiveness has accumulated in our hearts, and also hopefully notice what new shoots of understanding, love and concern have sprung up there as well.
In a similar way a good piece of art work, especially a symbol representing Christ, should have an ebb and a flow to its meaning for us. Sometimes one of these Chrismons will especially talk to us, other times not. One of the ones that caught me this year was this one- the rope [Slide #9 Rope] When I look at this simplistic piece of rope my first reaction was big deal why in the story of Jesus’ passion would you stop here and bother to make a symbol out of this?
And then all the sudden these images and scriptures and connections started flooding through my brain. “They bound him and led him away” “Did you come out with clubs” Do you not think that I could call angels” The son of God allows himself to be put on a leash…he did that for me. But those who think they can bind God to their will are sadly mistaken. Do I try to bind God? Am I capable of saying what Jesus said, “Not my will but yours, God.”
Then I skipped from there to today- when we worship and use the brief order of confession and forgiveness- “we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves”- we’ve been made captive, we’re tied up in sin, bound by it. Jesus who knew no sin chose to be like us bound and captive in order to free us. He has set the captive free! I noticed how in this Chrismon despite it symbolizing Jesus’ bondage, the rope hangs loose.
It’s a little bit like why Lutherans prefer the empty cross over the crucifix that has Jesus body on it. We know the end of the story, the cross and Jesus death, isn’t the full story. The empty cross speaks of the empty tomb and Christ’s victory over the cross and death. A victory which he gives to us. The captive has been set free.
And the funny thing was all those images and messages flooded through my brain in an instant. A silent sermon through a simple hand made art work for Christ. Art work known as a Chrismon that are still speaking, still preaching years after they were made. Still speaking, still preaching to those who care to look and listen to these Lenten Chrismons, these silent sermons. Amen.