Reimagining the Sacred through AI Generated Art

Brewer, Michael. “Jesus of Nazareth.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Our Lady of Sorrows.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Mary Magdalene.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “St. Monica.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Holy Eucharist.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “White Christian Evangelical Nationalist Eschatology.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Antichrist.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Contemplating the Mysteries.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “False Gods.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.

Juneteenth Liturgy this Sunday!

Episcopal Church of the Saviour will be celebrating a Juneteenth liturgy this Sunday, June 19, 2022 at 9:30am! If you’re in area come out and celebrate Freedom Day!

Juneteenth: Freedom Day

“May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this work, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.”

Franciscan Four-Fold Blessing, The Very Rev. Kim L. Coleman.

The Four-Fold Franciscan Blessing by The Very Rev. Kim L. Coleman.

And now, may God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, exploitation of people, so that we may continue to work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. Amen.

May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this work, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

And the Blessings of God Almighty, the One who creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon you and all you love, this day, and forever more. Amen.

The Four-Fold Franciscan Blessing, The Very Rev. Kim L. Coleman.

“Jesus Christ Pantocrator” through the Lens of Colossians 1.15-20

Jesus Christ Pantocrator, Instanbul, c.1261

The hymn found in Colossians 1:15-20 opens with: “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.”(Col. 1.15-16, NRSVUE, 2022). The claim, according to the hymn, is that the Jesus Christ attested to in the gospels is the embodiment of the Creator whom we have not seen with our own eyes (Jn. 6.46). Through Christ, the Creator is revealed–meaning, the only way to understand God is to first and foremost, look to Christ.

The hymn also asserts what is found in the Gospel of John

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (14.8-10).

John 14:8-10, NRSVUE

The words and the work of Jesus reveal to us the Creator–referred to in the text and by tradition as the “Father.” The hymn reveals the work of the Creator is made manifest through the Son by whom “all things in heaven and on earth. . .visible and invisible. . .have been created. . .” (Col. 1.15-16). For me, it is important to start here in my examination of the claims being made by the late Byzantine mosaic located in Istanbul, Jesus Christ Pantocrator (c. 1261).

As Dr. Amy Whisenand shared throughout her June 14, 2022 lecture, “Pantocrator” translates into “Almighty” or “All Powerful.” This title, by its nature, is therefore making the claim that Jesus Christ is the same as God the Creator. The first text in the Pentateuch–the first five books in the Bible and Torah–identifies God the Creator by the title, “Almighty.” Genesis 17.1 reads: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. . .'” Later instances of the usage of Almighty as a title for the Creator can be found in Genesis 28.3, 35.11, 48.3, 49.25, and at least 91 other times throughout the Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocryphal texts. The mosaic’s use of Almighty as a title for Jesus therefore asserts a claim in line with Trinitarian belief that Jesus is not only a member of the Godhead but shares a co-equality with the Creator.

The Trinity Iconography Institute confirms the Chironomia–the meaning of “. . .hand gestures in supporting oratory, or conveyance of unspoken meaning understood by the audience” (Trinity Iconographers)–as a blessing. The positioning of the hand creates the “IXIC,” or the initials of Christ, which appears to assert that the highest form of blessing comes from the person of Christ. After all, what greater blessing can one receive if not from the One through whom “. . .all things in heaven and on earth have been created” (Col. 1.15)? Additionally, the hand gesture not only conveys blessing, but it is also related to classical oration from ancient history indicating “the speaker is going to say something important, which can also be applicable to all icons of Jesus Christ and His saints” (Trinity Iconographers).

In my own journey, as I walked away from the cult in which I was raised and the modern American Evangelical lens of biblical interpretation, I flirted with Eastern Orthodoxy. I studied its traditions, attended their liturgies, and experienced their rich practices of faith and theological interpretations. I discovered icons–works of religious art depicting biblical and divine subjects–were viewed as windows into the divine realm. It is part of the reason religious Byzantine art might seem strange and disproportionate to our Western eyes. The icons are meant to draw us into the story they tell. From that perspective, I cannot help but notice the very ordinary humanness of Jesus in this image.

We have a declaration of Christ as equal with “God Almighty,” the Father and Creator, yet he is very human in his appearance. It brings to life the claim that “. . .He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything” (Col. 1.18). The Almighty took on human form, walked not just among us, but with us. His emptying of himself and obedience “. . .even [unto] death on a cross” (Phil. 2.6-11) and his resurrection has made Christ the “mediator between God and humankind” (1 Tim. 2.5) and our high priest (Heb. 8.1-2). It seems that the humanity of Christ is crucial in the salvific act of God in order to reconcile God and humanity.

Christ’s humanity establishes him as the “firstborn” not just of the dead, but of all creation (Col. 1.15). Therefore, being both God (Jn. 1.1-2) and human (Jn. 1.14-18), and being that he is also the begotten Son of the Creator in whom the Creator was pleased (Matt. 3.17; 17.5; Mk. 9.7; Lk. 9.35), it stands to reason that the value–or worth–of Jesus, from whom the greatest blessings are given, supersedes that of all creation. Therefore, the obedience of Christ to the Creator by way of his life and death, confirmed through the resurrection, is what allows all of creation, “whether on earth or in heaven” (Col. 1.20) to be reconciled to God. In this way, when viewed through the hymn found in Colossians (Col. 1.15-20), Jesus Christ Pantocrator proclaims the salvific work of Jesus Christ for all creation and reveals to us the character of God.

Mennonite Church USA Affirms the LGBTQIA+ Community

The Mennonite Church USA has passed a resolution acknowledging the harm it has done to LGBTQ+ folk, and removed a ban on same-sex marriage.

Lily Wakefield Pink News, 2022

On June 1, 2022, the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States, Mennonite Church USA, affirms the LGBTQIA+ community as equal members in the body of Christ. The church body acknowledges the harm they’ve caused by denying an entire community of people their identity, and they are lifting their ban on same-sex marriage. The denomination also vowed to be inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community in its theology moving forward.

This is great news!

Happy Pride!

Let Us Mourn; Let Us Grieve. Let Us Change the World. This is holy.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” -Jeremiah 31:15

Litany of Lament
(Episcopal Church, Enhancing our Worship vol. 5)

God, hear our prayer
And let our cry come to you.
Merciful God, we come to you in sorrow. Help us to grieve; let our tears flow; and look upon our broken hearts. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.
We have lost children. We have lost hope. We have lost our way. Consider our losses. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.
Our faith has been shaken. We are haunted by memories and weighed down with guilt. We are sick with sadness, weak with despair. Help us know your presence. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.
In our suffering, we turn away from those who suffer also. Our bonds have been strained, one with another. Show us your compassion and help us forgive others and feel their sorrows. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.
[We longed for these children, but wickedness has betrayed our hopes. Help us to honor them, and trust in your faithfulness. God, hear our prayer,]
And let our cry come to you.
Help us envision a future filled with promise, even if we cannot know what lies in store for us. Help us have confidence in your love as we take each new step. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.

Christless Christian Nationalism on the Homefront

The Adventure Church/Tower District battle in Fresno, California has been, and continues to be, a glaring example of evangelical Christianity’s relationship with white supremacy, colonialism, and American nationalism. There were a number of red flags in this situation from a moral, ethical, and theological perspective.

One problematic example which stands out is that particular cult’s relationship with the white supremacist group ‘Proud Boys.’ When the modern KKK comes to defend your cause, it would do well to review and analyze your cause. One might ask, “why is a hate group so interested in supporting me?” Or perhaps it would be worth the time to consider what a designated terrorist group finds so attractive about the church in question.

Secondly, Adventure Church’s hostility, belligerence, and cruelty demonstrated a behavior which might arguably be called ‘the spirit of the antichrist.’ At the very least, it appears to indicate an absence of Christ among both the congregation and its pastor.

For example, the excessively loud and obnoxious ‘Christian music’ blasted through oversized speakers to harass the homeless seems to be far from any sort of Christ-likeness. The unwillingness to love the community and the intentional injury caused to the Tower District’s community echo more the behaviors attributed to the Sadducees and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew than of Christ.

Honestly, I suspect the whole stunt was an attempt to follow through with a decades long wet dream of area wide evangelical (nationalist) churches to slip into the Tower District and clean it up “for GEEZUS.”

I don’t understand how the irony of Christian nationalists continues to baffle me, but it does. How in Christ’s name do they claim to be disciples of Jesus while actively doing ALL OF THE THINGS he condemned of the religious elite in the Gospels?

In short, the whole burning dumpster fire serves as another example of the generally Christless Christianity practiced by specific segments of American culture.

What hurts personally is that I think about how similar Adventure Church is to the cult in which I was brought up—Calvary Chapel. The same symptoms were, and frankly, are, present in that place. Elitism. Us vs. Them perspectives. Isolationism. Ends-Justify-the-Means public motivation. Dangerous indoctrination by uneducated, ill trained, and ill equipped individuals. Fascist and authoritarian sentiment and philosophy. Toxic masculinity. Fragile masculinity. Sexism. Mysogyny. The list of abhorrent similarities goes on.

The worst of it, for both Adventure Church and the cult I escaped, is all the suffering was caused “for geezus.” As if nailing Christ to a tree wasn’t enough.

Reading Assignment: “Adventure Church Issues Response after City’s Recent Agreement to Purchase Tower Theater.”
-Fox26 News