Sunday 17 February 2013
In Stanley Spencer’s painting called ‘Driven by the Spirit into the wilderness’ (1942), one of a series he painted of Christ in the wilderness, we see Jesus striding through a barren and fragmented landscape, grasping the branches of trees to the left and right of him. He is barefoot, simply clothed, at one with nature around him. This is a physical Christ, with energy and momentum.
‘The Scorpion’ is another image from this sequence of wilderness paintings, that we used for the Autumn Education Lecture series His Story: Our Story and are using for our Lent Retreat that takes place in two weeks’ time. In it Jesus is settled and focused, seated on the ground, gazing upon a scorpion he holds in the palm of his hand. Again he is at one with the landscape, the folds of his clothes and the position of his body correspond to the hills that undulate behind him. There is harmony of shape and colour. Again he is a very physical and human Jesus. But this time, like the petals of a flower encircling the centre, his limbs draw our attention to the focus of his attention, the scorpion. For Jesus in this moment, it is the only thing in the universe. He is utterly absorbed by it. We are unsure whether what he contemplates is something he fears or something that he embraces.
Two very different postures and pictures. Jesus, out in all weathers, striding through the landscape, full of energy, and then seated, absorbed, deep in contemplation. As we enter these first few days of Lent, how is the spirit guiding us? How are we being led to quite focused contemplation of what God wishes to place in our hands, and how are we being encouraged by the spirit to engage with the world around us?
Revd Katherine Hedderly