From its very beginning, the history of the Christian church has involved taking the message of Jesus out to others and crossing geographic and cultural boundaries. We read in the book of Acts in the Bible of how the message about Jesus was spread by his followers on their missionary journeys through the Middle East, Asia, Cyprus, Crete and into Europe culminating in Rome, the centre of the Roman Empire. From its origins in the Middle East, Christianity spread quickly into North Africa. It had reached India by AD53 and China by AD 635. So it has always been a global religion and different cultures adopted different approaches to worship. Many artists have been influenced by the Bible and the depictions of Biblical scenes often reflect their own cultural norms.
What did Jesus look like? There are no descriptions of Jesus' physical appearance in the Bible. We know that he was Jewish, born into a poor family, but we have no idea whether he was tall or short, muscular or slim. The gospel writers were not interested in those details. This means that artists have had great freedom in producing images of Jesus, often portraying him to relate to their own cultural context.
This year in our Lent Groups the North Chilterns Group of Churches will be looking at Jesus as portrayed by artists from around the world. Called 'The Christ we share' it will be an opportunity to examine our own preconceptions about Jesus and to reexamine them in the light of other interpretations from around the world. There will be the opportunity to view the art works, to ponder them and to engage in discussions with one another. Meetings will be held at Totternhoe Church Hall on the first five Tuesdays in Lent: Tuesday 12, 19, & 26 March and 2 & 9 April gathering at 7.30pm for a 7.45pm start.
Everyone is welcome to come along. If you have never been to church before and you would like to think more deeply about who Jesus is, then this is a good opportunity to do so. It will be a relaxed approach with no pressure to join the discussion unless you wish to do so - and it is free!
The other thing worth noting is that although the sessions are linked, each one will stand alone. Viewing things through a different lens is often an enlightening experience. Other people see things that I miss.
They take another viewpoint. I hope you will take this opportunity to explore and discuss 'The Christ we share.'
Wishing you a holy Lent,
Joy (Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough)
About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.