Wyeuca in the Windy City, Part One: The Beatitudes.

When I first began talking with Nate Ledbetter about coming to Chicago to contribute artwork for the ministry at Church on the Block, the first thing that came to mind was a series on the Beatitudes. The literary framework of the Beatitudes makes for a great foundation to build artwork in pairs, and with a running theme. I began work on them before Ieft for Chicago and finished them on site.

The Beatitudes are a series of blessings pronounced by Christ to his followers, recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew and Luke differ in their presentation of the Beatitudes, for many different reasons, but I won’t get into that here. What is important as far as this art goes is that Luke’s Gospel, mores than Matthew, Mark, or John, has an overarching theme of Jesus’ concern for the defenseless, the poor, and the marginalized. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes reflects this theme; whereas Matthew’s version is more expansive and covers social and spiritual themes, Luke’s recording is shorter and does not expound quite as much on the spiritual apsect of the teaching:

Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are the hungry, for you shall be filled.

Blessed are those who weep, for you shall laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you and exclude you for the sake of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and great is your reward in heaven, for they did the same to the prophets before you.

In Jesus’ day and in his culture, poverty was not just an economic state, it was an existential state. A friend of mine puts it succinctly, “in Jesus’ day, being poor meant you had nothing left but God.” There was a view that if you were poor, sick or excluded in some way, then it was God’s punishment for something you did, or for the sins of your parents, and you were destined to remain in that state for the rest of your life.

The Beatitudes combat this view by teaching that even though you may suffer hardships, you are still blessed and loved by God, and even better, you can find relief and restoration in him. It also serves as a reminder of the community of faith in which the followers of Jesus live. When one suffers, we all suffer; when one rejoices, we all rejoice. In reminding us of this, it also places upon us the freedom to reach for help when we need it, and the responsibility to offer help when asked.

So here they are. More photos on display at www.facebook.com/wyeuca.images

I hope they are as much a blessing to see as they are to read. More to come tomorrow.

Jem.

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