The Door

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Spend a few minutes with the above photo.  To see more detail you may want to expand it by clicking on it.  What do you notice?  What are your eyes drawn toward?  Pay attention to the carvings in the wood.  The leafy branches.  The rooster handle.  The glass window.  What might God be trying to say to you through this image?  What does your imagination anticipate you would see if you were to open the door?

Jesus said to his disciples, “I assure you: I am the door [gate] of the sheep…If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Additionally, in his book, Silence and Beauty, Makoto Fujimura shares some insights into beauty from a Japanese philosopher.  “[T]he ideogram of “beauty” is made up of the sacrificial sheep on top of an ideogram for ‘great,’ which I infer means ‘greater sheep.’  It connotes a greater sacrifice…This greater sacrifice may require sacrifice of one’s own life to save the lives of others…This is what is truly beautiful.” 1

How have you experienced a connection between sacrifice and beauty in your own life?  How might accepting the invitation of an open door require a sacrifice on your part?  How might it be a sacrifice on the part of the one extending the invitation?  Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us, his sheep.  Have you or will you accept his open door invitation?  Where in your life might he still be extending invitations to pass the threshold?______________________________________________________________

1 Tomonobu Imamichi, “Poetry and Ideas,” Doyo Bijutsu 2, no. 114 (1994): 42, cited in Makoto Fujimura, Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering  (Downers Grove, IVP Books, 2016), p. 66.

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Out of the Mouth

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Spend some moments looking at the above image.  What do you notice?  What stands out to you?  Placing yourself in the scene, what would you expect to hear and smell and feel and taste?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a crowd, “‘Listen and understand: It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man'” (Matthew 15:10-11).  Later on, he explains to the disciples, “Don’t you realize that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated?  But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man” (Matt. 15:17-18).

Now contemplate the image above again.  A dentist is only able to repair our teeth, but God is one who is capable of restoring our inmost beings.  With the above in mind, answer the following questions: 

Are you inclined to see God as a cosmic dentist, as one who gleefully uses the spiritual equivalents of drills, retractors, excavators, and chisels in an effort to sanitize the heart?  Or might you begin to see Him as one who offers his very self in an effort to fill the cavities of our heart, remove the infections of sin, and reverse the decay of our souls? 

What, in your inmost being, needs healing?  How might God be inviting you to let Him perform a “cleaning” of the soul?

Tree of Life

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Spend some moments looking at the above image.  (If necessary, you should be able to expand it by clicking on it.)  What do you notice?  What stands out to you?  What do you find yourself drawn to?  Placing yourself in the scene, what would you expect to hear and smell and feel?

Scripture has the following to say about the new Jerusalem: “On both sides of the river was the tree of life bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations” (Revelation 22:2).  After reading that passage, how does your perception of the image above change?  Does the fact that the tree above, surrounded as it is by life (pedestrians walking by, customers shopping, and fruit that sustains and nourishes the body), alter your perception of the Scripture passage?

In “The Dream of the Rood”, an ancient Anglo-Saxon poem from the perspective of the cross itself, the cross of Christ is referred to as a “tree”.  Do you see any connections between the tree that Christ died on so that we might have life and the “tree of life” from the book of Revelation?  Does the “tree” that Christ died on have any bearing on the life and flourishing of society as pictured above?  What about in your life?