Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
Maybe the most recognizable piece of Renaissance art is Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” It is a fresco, a mural painting in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. I have not personally seen it. This wall painting is 180 in. by 350 in. Its creation dates from 1495 to 1498. Jokes abound about Da Vinci telling the disciples, “Hey, everyone! get on the other side of the table, I’m not painting your backs!” The chaos that everyone seems to be acting out in the mural is rooted in the context of the Biblical story; Jesus has just informed them that one of them will betray him. What we see is various degrees of anger, disgust, shock, and fear on the faces of the 12. The painting is very busy. It seems Italians, or Italian painters portraying Jews, always depicted their subjects speaking with their hands.
The chaos of Da Vinci’s scene looks vaguely like some of my memories of our family dinners. We had three children in 42 months. I remember fondly the time when one of our children complained we must be the worst parents in the universe. I immediately put CPS on speed dial for their benefit. I was certain every other family in the parish was the Cleavers and if the congregation ever found out how chaotic our family was, I would be revealed a fraud.
This past Sunday was celebrated as Father’s Day. In the 2020 TLC worship schedule, I was preaching. I was looking forward to it; another pandemic hit. In 1984, I took a study leave from the parish. I received an MS in Marriage and Family Therapy. The joke in my family was that I crammed a two-year program into three years… that thesis was a doozie. One of my favorite instructors recently died. A line of his indelibly printed in my memory reads, “One of the reasons God gives us children is so we will finish growing up.” That’s kind of an “ouch” moment. It is painfully true. Every time I have preached on Father’s Day, I have given thanks for the life lessons learned through my children. Even the painful ones.
Back to The Last Supper. Here is Jesus, breaking bread and sharing wine with new instructions (“Do this in remembrance of me”), all the while making it clear that he is fully aware one of the twelve has sold him out, and he is about to die. The pandemonium could not be any worse than if someone at the family meal just declared they brought Covid-19 to the dinner table. What kind of betrayal is that!? Who, me? All with a lot of finger pointing. There, in the midst of the chaos, is a saddened but serene Jesus, one hand palm down, one hand palm up. The twelve so aptly represent us. It’s not just Judas; we have all betrayed Jesus. We have all fallen short of God’s good intentions and we all have disappointed God, one another, and ourselves. Yet, we are the object of God’s love. I guess that’s why it’s called amazing grace.
I have made it a practice to parent by grace. Errors in parenting are made, forgiven, and moved on from. Da Vinci’s painting, though, makes me think that if I had a do-over I would change the supper seating assignments, regularly, maybe daily. Maybe I could have been a better parent if I had regularly sat in their seats, took a dinner world view from their perspective, tried to demonstrate a practical willingness to be more empathetic. Such a willingness might make it easier to be more emotionally present, in today’s world, with all those who are crying out against injustice. Jesus took a seat for all of us on the cross. From James the Lesser, to Peter, to Judas (“Go do what you have to do”), to us. Jesus has sat in our seat at the table, all the while beckoning us to look at life from his perspective… “For whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me” (Matthew 26:40). Dinner table advice: “Do it for Jesus.”
Pastor Tom Kidd
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