Friday, December 13, 2019

Advent Brought to Life in "Kitchen Maid with the Supper of Emmaus" by Diego Velazquez, 1618 A.D.


"Kitchen Maid with the Supper of Emmaus" by Diego Velazquez, 1618 A.D.


This is God's way. His Kingdom grows unnoticed by the world. It's the seed that grows unseen. And during this darker time of year when the days are short, the nights are long, and we wonder if we can hope that the light will come, we need to remember that Jesus has come in shocking ways and will do so again.


There are many reasons why I love that God gave us the name Emmaus City Church. One of the reasons is expressed in this post:

What Does "Mass" Mean? | How Our Name, Emmaus City Church, is Connected to the Meaning of Mass

These two sermons also reveal from the passage in Luke 24:13-49 why and how we seek to embody our name:

+ Luke 19:10, 24:13-35: The Road to Emmaus  
Luke 19:10, 36-49: The Road Back from Emmaus to Jerusalem

Also, David Smith's Moving Towards Emmaus: Hope in a Time of Certainty is a potent little book featuring reflections on this text as well as powerful stories of people who encountered Jesus in surprising ways. 


Yet even with all the writings, sermons, and stories included in links above, the painting above tells another beautiful story of why we love the name, "Emmaus City Church," especially during this season of Advent when we anticipate Jesus' coming in surprising ways to those who need Him and hunger to be filled (i.e. see The Magnificat in Luke 1:53), which very much includes us.


The Name, "Emmaus City Church," Brought to Life in "Kitchen Maid with the Supper of Emmaus" by Diego Velazquez, 1618 A.D. 


In 1618, the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez depicted the Emmaus meal in a painting called "Kitchen Maid with the Supper of Emmaus". Jesus and the disciples are portrayed in the top left corner. But the picture focuses all our attention on the maid. The astonished look on her face as she overhears their conversation suggests she's realized that a previously dead man has just eaten her food. The meal is hinted at, but it's all washed and tidied away. The central item is a piece of rag. The new world has collided with the old.  

Sometime after it was finished, the painting was altered by its new owner. The Emmaus scene was covered over entirely, and a few inches were cut from the left-hand margin (so that even in the restored version one of the disciples is missing). The original version was only rediscovered in 1933 A.D., when the painting was cleaned (see A Story as Sharp as a Knife by Robert Bringhurst). In the altered painting, the resurrected Christ had been edited out of the picture. The Bible story was painted over. Today we often remove the transcendent, the divine. But what we're left with then is merely the washing up. We're left with rags.

But in our broken world at the sink with rags, Christ's resurrection is the promise of a new world. But we have not yet received our full resurrection and our world has not yet been renewed. We live between the cross and resurrection, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

For now Christ is incognito. Paul says: "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:3-4). The reign of Christ is how hidden. But one day it will be fully manifest. For now, though, we live as disciples of the cross. We embrace obscurity, hiddenness, weakness, marginality, and smallness. 

The kitchen maid in Velazquez's painting appears to be an African slave. The artist lived in a time when Spain was debating the status of slaves, and Velazquez emphasizes the maid's dignity by portraying her as listening intently to Christ's words. She may be unnoticed by the world around her, but she dominates the painting and therefore our attention. The last shall be first. This is God's way. His kingdom grows unnoticed by the world. It's the seed that grows unseen.

So we walk alongside people on the Emmaus road not as victors, nor as people with all the answers, but as fellow human beings, fellow sinners, and fellow strugglers, waiting for the Christ to be revealed. 

+ from A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table by Tim Chester, pgs. 129-130

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan 

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