Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Professor Brian Cox

OK so this is rather tongue-in-cheek; and it may be just to annoy The Man, who feels he should have been given his own BBC show about the wonders of space since he is roughly the same age as Brian, and has the same Carl Sagan book from his childhood. But girls - come on. Look at those lips...

He paints a picture of the heavens with every word he speaks
Describes the telescopic view of every star he seeks.
He names the furthest galaxies and makes dark matter bright
He changes his location almost at the speed of light
His mouth describes phenomena, such as how the sun’s eclipsed:
But all is lost on me; cos I’m just looking at his lips.

Oh, Brian Cox, Brian Cox
You’re my favourite science fox
When you speak of nuclear fission
You’re like a man who’s on a mission

He understands how black holes squeeze the juice out of reality
Explains, with aid of diagrams, the lighter side of gravity
He’s a proper scientist, a real physics insider
He’s got restricted access to the large Hadron collider.
He knows which planet has what moons, their colour and their size,
But I remember nothing; I just gaze into his eyes.

Oh, Brian Cox, Brian Cox
Let me stroke your lionesque locks
I really wish that I could listen
But you’re creating quite a frisson

He comprehends the laws of nature, knows where Einstein’s at
Can update us on the status of Schrodinger’s blessed cat.
No place on earth is too obscure, no planet out of reach
He travels far, from star to star, to boldly go and teach.
He segues from the desert to the Big Bang to the sea:
But all except his glorious pecs are sadly lost on me.

Oh, Brian Cox, Brian Cox
Let us dance beyond Orion’s rocks
Please hear this, my heartfelt petition
You can be my personal physician

You’re so steamy, so D-reamy
I wish that we could form a teamy

Oh, Brian Cox, Brian Cox
You’re my favourite science fox
My love for you is spilling over:
Please stop, before I turn supernova.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Until the end

It shouldn’t be him.

I know everything he’s done, and everything he’s said, but still - it shouldn’t be him.

He’s too young, it’s too soon. There’s so much more he could do, that he could have made of himself. I believed in him; I knew we hadn’t seen the best of him yet. All this.... it shouldn’t be happening to him. He’s only 30 years old. All that potential…wasted.

Of course, lots of other people would say he got what was coming to him. That he’s a liar, a thief, and a trouble-maker. But I know him. I’m family, you see. I know he was only trying to do what was right by us. To feed and clothe us. If he didn’t look after us, no-one else would, not our sort. And, yes, he stuck it to the Romans at the same time. That’s why they hated him. He’s a dirty upstart Hebrew who didn’t know his place. Well, he always had a big mouth on him. I should know, he’s my brother. And perhaps he shouldn’t have taken what didn’t belong to him. And then of course the violence… well, he had to defend himself, didn’t he? No-one ever gets anywhere in this world by turning the other cheek. But he doesn’t deserve this. He should have got off with a flogging at most, something to remind others of who’s in charge. As if we needed reminding! Not this…horror.

He shouldn’t be here, like a common criminal. They’re the ones that deserve it. The murderers and villains, with no thought for human life. Still, they got what was coming to them. No-one cries underneath their cross.

Except I see I’m not the only one. There are other women, gathered under another cross, softly crying now. I recognise that state: the one that comes after the disbelief, and anger, and wailing. Soon they’ll be left with nothing but despair, like me. Because what else is there? We’re losing our family and friends. These ordinary men that are extraordinary to us, because we know them and love them. I wonder what he’s done to deserve this?

He’s panting out a few words now, my brother. Cursing the Romans. Spitting out his pain and grief. Insulting the man next to him, who was supposed to be some kind of religious leader, even the promised one from God, for all the good it did him. What else is there left to say?

This other man, the one with all the weeping women, is trying to speak. ‘Father, forgive them…’ Forgive who? The Romans? The Rabbis, now clustering round and muttering between themselves? The mockers, with nothing better to do on a dark Friday afternoon than to poke fun at a dying man? – or does he mean the rest of us, those who wait for death here on this forsaken hill?

There is another criminal, a real hard type, on the far side. Now he’s joining in, having a go at my brother. ‘Whaddya wanna go shouting at him for? He’s done nothing wrong! At least we’re getting what we deserve!’

Are we? Did any of them deserve this? Do any of us, who are watching and waiting, deserve this?

Now he’s asking for some sort of comfort. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom’. Kingdom – huh! There’s a crown of thorns on his head, and a sign above saying ‘King of the Jews’. A fine king he makes, all bloody and broken.

Now this ‘king’ is whispering back: ‘Today, you and I will walk together in paradise’. Well, I wish I could see that, I really do. The king and the criminal, hand in hand. Some people have no idea of reality.

He’s getting weaker. They all are. There’s a weird kind of half-light to the sky, and a low rumble of thunder in the distance. The birds are quiet. Everyone else seems to be staring up at the man beside us, waiting for him to say something more. No-one ever looks at the likes of us like that. We’re not important, not worth paying attention to. Just one more bit of street scum to be cleared away.

Looking up at the man called the king I see he’s looking at my brother, with something like pity on his face. No, not pity: love. It’s as if he knows him, like I know him. And loves him, like I love him. More, even. It’s strange… in the middle of all his pain, the man seems to want to reach out to a low-class scoundrel like my brother, seeing all the good stuff that’s inside him. Knowing all the bad, but loving all the good. My brother jerks his head up suddenly, and meets his eyes. Something happens to him, I don’t know what, but I know it’s good: then he sighs, and his head flops down.

I think he’s gone.

And through my tears I see that the King is looking at me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Art in Lent 5: Resurrection

What words do we associate with resurrection? Are they static words, or active ones? Resurrection means ‘the act of rising from the dead’. It suggests upward movement; a change of state; a bodily transformation. For a long time I have associated the word resurrection with dance - that bodily expression of an inward state of being. Dance is capable of expressing joy and wholehearted involvement in a way that other strands of the arts cannot. A large part of the reason for that association is due to this image by Bagong Kussudiardja: though I must confess that it does not actually represent the resurrection, but Christ’s ascension into heaven.


Bagong Kussudiardja was an Indonesian artist, dancer and & cultural activist. He studied dance in New York, and founded an Indonesian institute of fine art. Working mainly with batik, his images are full of the fluidity he expressed in his dancing, with many pieces taking dance itself as the focus. Usually his figures are dressed in the bright cloths of traditional Indonesian dance. In contrast this painting uses more sober, stark colour – a deep brown figure against a pale background, in which a white bird shadows the uplifted movement of the figure in the foreground.

The title of the piece is ‘The Ascension’, which identifies the figure as Jesus and recalls the moment when he was taken back into the heavenly realms. However, his dress – a simple loincloth – calls to mind the moment of resurrection. The white bird behind him stretches out its wings and tail, as if it is taking the form of the grave clothes that Jesus is shedding. His ankles are crossed, as if still tethered to the cross; but his arms are flung wide, embracing the heavens.

As the figure lifts his arms his body is thrown off-balance, as if in movement: he seems to dance, or even swim, towards the heavens. This is in contrast with the more staid and regal bearing of Christ in many Western depictions of the resurrection, such as that of Piero della Francesca. Kussudiardja’s Jesus is more joyful, leaping from the earth and praising his Father in heaven. Yet this is not a solo performance; the presence of the bird demonstrates the opportunity for any who would join the dance. We are invited in, and feel that at any moment he may reach down and clasp our hand to swoop us up into ecstatic motion. The resurrection is both inclusive and ongoing.

Another image of dance that has spoken to me over the years is far more familiar: it is ‘Danse I’, by Matisse. In the fluidity of the figures and in the open circle I find a picture of the church: a people rejoicing in the freedom of Christ, both echoing his resurrection and looking forward to the day of their own. The circle is not closed; a print of this picture used to hang on our wall and I felt that at any moment I, inhibited and undemonstrative as I am, might join the dance. Each figure dances freely, individually, without concern for form or structure; yet the whole is coherent. This ‘church’ does not busy itself in striving towards conformity, but celebrates the diversity of the people of God. Even the gender of the dancers seems confused at times – even more so in Matisse’s second version of this subject – and I am reminded of the Biblical assertion that in him there is no male or female…all are one in Christ Jesus.

Behind the figure in Kussudiardja’s painting is a bird, a creature that inhabits both earth and heavens. Its wings and tail are spread open as it takes flight, reminding us of the verse in Malachi (4:2) – ‘the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings’. Specific birds are used symbolically in many cultures. It is not clear which bird this represents. Is it a swan? In Indonesia, swans symbolize the discrimination between good and evil. Or (more likely) is it a white peacock? The peacock is well recognized in Asian art, and Christian symbolism links peacocks to immortality and the incorruptibility of the soul. The white feathers of the bird also bring to mind that of a dove. To Jewish thinking the dove was the bird of hope, the one that found evidence that the flood of Noah was subsiding – and so that God’s wrath was ending. Within Christian thought the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as seen at the baptism of Christ. This painting marks a moment of rebirth, as Jesus leaves behind the limitations of human flesh and rises to the life eternal that he has promised to share with us, through the work of the Spirit. The bird acts as a midwife to this rebirth, as she will do also for us when we leave behind our own flesh and rise to eternal life.

It is interesting to consider how different artists have depicted the resurrection, over the years. Too many for my taste are in soft focus, perhaps even with Jesus developing a propensity to float several inches above the grass. In many paintings Christ is inscrutable, aloof perhaps. The scars of crucifixion are clearly there, reminding us of recent agony and death; yet the face is not entirely of this world. Many images have Christ alone, or surrounded by those who sleep; the resurrection has come stealthily and secretly, and has yet to be discovered. In some the harrowing of hell is depicted – the doctrine that Jesus descended to the place of the dead. Many update the events, or change the location to surroundings familiar at least to the original audience. How would we want to imagine the scene? Or how else could the energy and wonder of the resurrection be represented?

In a number of films of the life of Christ the film-maker stops short after the resurrection, or merely hints at it. Directors are squeamish about re-introducing the figure of Christ, after so bullishly murdering him in the previous scenes. For me the best modern film that portrays resurrection does so without any mention of Christ. Instead, an entirely innocent man is incarcerated in a hellish jail for almost 20 years. During this time he suffers all manner of degrading and agonizing torture, both physical and mental; and yet he retains his integrity and dignity throughout. He shows courage, wisdom and tenacity, and achieves moments of joy and a sense of freedom for the other prisoners and therefore also himself. At last he is pushed too far, and his long plan is revealed; during the time of his imprisonment he has been digging a tunnel out, slowly and painstakingly. He drags his body through the narrow tunnel, then crawls through half a mile of sewerage pipe to freedom.

Whilst Andy escapes he does not leave the others without hope. He ensures the downfall of the corrupt and vicious prison warden, and so ushers in more humane era for the prison. His best friend, meanwhile, is released soon afterwards, having served his time for a real murder and become a changed man over the years of imprisonment, many lived alongside Andy. Without the routine of prison life, he is lost; but is found in the revelation of the plan Andy has for his life. It is fascinating to me that the author of the book that inspired this film should have called it ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. In it the characters find redemption, both in terms of paying their debts to society and those they have specifically harmed; but also in terms of their very natures being ‘saved’ by the experience of knowing Andy. What was for Andy an escape from hell became a rescue mission for them all.

At the climax of the film Andy finally emerges from the hell of tunnels and sewers to stand tall, washed by the cleansing rain, a free man. Jesus has left the prison of the human flesh and traveled through the pit of hell and death to rise, arms outstretched, free at last. In Kussudiardja’s painting I see the same stance, the same joy and liberation. It is both an end and a beginning, a new start that each of us are invited to take – if we will only join the dance.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Art in Lent 4: Doubt

This should have been the easiest of the Art in Lent sessions for me to write. This is, after all, the one in which I feel that I am an expert. Doubt has been a major feature of my walk with God, so much so that I cannot imagine another way of ‘doing’ faith. Without doubt, would I even recognise faith, when it comes?

And yet I have really struggled to write this. In part, that struggle has come because there is no one piece of art that represents doubt as I experience it. Because, after all, doubt is an absence, isn’t it – and how do you paint an absence? Doubt is the missing piece, the gnawing ache, the secret guilt. Doubt at best is the thing we leave behind when we come to faith, or come to a greater experience of faith – so that we can say, yes I experienced doubt, and ultimately it strengthened my faith. It made me examine the reasons why I believe and means that I no longer shove things under the carpet. Faith becomes stronger, richer and more considered. Surely doubt is something that is cast off, so that we can walk in the footsteps of Christ once more.

Well…sort of. Actually that is not my experience, and that is perhaps why more than anything I have found it hard to write this session. For me doubt is a daily encounter, and for a long time that meant that I found it difficult to deepen in faith. Now I have come to a sort of armistice with doubt; it always hovers there, and some days it informs my thinking and feeling more strongly; but on the plus side, it also informs my faith. More on that later…

The image we are using is Caravaggio’s ‘The Incredulity of St Thomas’. Now housed in the San-souci palace near Berlin, it was originally painted whilst Caravaggio was in Rome aged about 29, around 1601. Although other details of its provenance are unclear it uses the same model for an apostle as was used for a series of paintings on the theme of Matthew’s gospel, commissioned for the Contarelli Chapel, which were his first major commission. Caravaggio’s religious paintings caused a sensation because of their dramatic and often quite macabre details. He used not idealized settings but realistic, dimly lit surroundings with his models taken from the street and elevated to the position of angels and apostles. Caravaggio himself lived a disreputable life: in the years following this painting he was accused of beating another artist, and a soldier; he was arrested following complaints about his behaviour;, and once for throwing stones at the guards. He was accused of throwing a plateful of artichokes at a waiter. He fled Rome in 1605 following a brawl in defense of his mistress, and following a disputed game of tennis in 1606 he killed a man. The darkness, violence and ugliness of Caravaggio’s paintings came straight from his life and his own heart.

And yet – he painted beautifully. Each line and furrow of the skin captured. Each passing thought expressed in each face. Every character in a Caravaggio painting has a role; there are no bystanders simply there to improve the composition. You instantly believe in the moment, can imagine the conversation and predict the action. Take his version of the meal on the road to Emmaus – each figure is intensely active, involved and ready to spring into word or action. Or his ‘Calling of St Matthew’, in which four figures are turned towards Peter and Jesus as Matthew doggedly counts the money. You believe in these characters, whether the style of art is to your taste or not; they matter. They are you and me.

Which is why ‘The Incredulity of St Thomas’ is interesting. There the four characters are, all intent on the wound in Christ’s side. Even Jesus seems engaged in self-examination. As I said, it is difficult to imagine how doubt could be portrayed in art, and this is not the moment of doubting but the moment of faith for Thomas, based on the evidence he sees and touches. This is a popular subject; but other depictions are rather more reverent, and certainly less visceral that Caravaggio’s verson which is comparatively graphic - the sort of art that would have the BBC putting out a ‘this contains images of a disturbing nature’ warning. As we travel into the painting we feel as if we, too, could reach in and place our fingers inside the warm soft flesh. It is shocking, unseemly – almost distasteful.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.                                                                   John 20: 19-20

We read here that Jesus appeared, and blessed the disciples (‘Peace be with you’), then showed them him hands and his side; then they rejoiced. His presence alone was not enough to convince them of his bodily resurrection. So it does seem a little harsh that Thomas is saddled with the moniker of the doubter. Jesus seems more than happy to allow for the disciples’ confusion and skepticism, and is not squeamish when he offers his wounds for Thomas’ inspection. In this painting Jesus even takes Thomas’s hand and guides it into the gaping spear-wound. He is not offended by Thomas’s incredulity, even as he is not offended by ours. But he speaks to us down the years as he says, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’. He lets us know that he understands the difficulty in reaching and maintaining faith without the tangible evidence before us. There is a special blessing for the disciples who are to come after this time.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later… Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”                                    John 20: 24-29

Thomas himself looks old, a little weary perhaps, with his cloak coming apart at the seams; and he has clearly seen many things. He is not a young man who may be swayed by tall tales. He wants to weigh the evidence. He doesn’t want to be called anyone’s fool. It is unclear from scripture whether he actually touches Christ, or whether the sight of him is enough; but clearly this is a life-changing moment. But do we believe that he, or indeed any of the other disciples, never doubted again? They may not have doubted the person of Christ, nor even his death and resurrection; but they may have other problems, ones that we are less likely to struggle with, concerning the ongoing presence of Jesus after he had returned to his Father. I imagine that, after walking and eating and sleeping next to him for three years, it was hard at times to learn to walk daily beside him without his bodily appearance on earth. Thomas may have had doubts in his mind that co-existed with the faith that allowed him to spend the rest of his life sharing the gospel with passion. We don’t know; perhaps he never said.

What do we know of Thomas? In other mentions of him in the gospel he comes across as a rather pessimistic man, as in John 11 v 16 (‘Let us go with him, so that we too may die); and someone who wanted things said plainly, such as in the exchange with Jesus in John 14: 1-6 (‘You know the way to the place where I am going.’ ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’). And we may suspect that some of his refusal to believe in Christ’s resurrection came from feeling left out when all the other disciples were in on the action. For some of us, being told something by everyone else is guaranteed to make us dig in our heels.

And am I a modern-day Thomas? My doubts, unlike my faith, are a personal thing. I have no problem sharing my faith. I do so at work, at home, with friends, at church. Jesus is part of my life; I am not embarrassed about that, and I find that he crops up pretty often in all sort of conversations. But sharing my doubts? Ah, that’s another issue entirely, and one that is only made worse when everyone else at church seems so sure. The problem is that I don’t have periods of doubt, to be swept aside by renewed faith. Faith and doubt co-exist. One feeds off the other. To consider God is to question much of what I understand about the material universe, about suffering, about theology, about the history and imaginations of human beings. In considering the doubts I find myself back at the side of Jesus, being asked once more if I want to place my hand inside his flesh. The more I think it likely that I will one day throw it all up in the air, the more I feel compelled to follow. And yet still I find myself thinking ‘yes, this is the way I believe, this is how I think God is; that is, if he exists at all.’

I used to feel concern that such an inner struggle meant that I would not ‘grow’, and become more like Christ. Now I look back and see the miracle: it happened anyway. I am not the person I was, and where I have changed it is mostly in a Christ-ward direction. Such is the miracle: in the ordinary and in the doubting, God’s holy fire has surrounded me and made things new. I keep returning to the image in Exodus of the burning bush: just one more ordinary scrubby foliage, that was surrounded by flame and inhabited by the presence of God. The one who is ‘I am’ inhabits even the ordinary doubts, and does not consume but leaps into passionate flame. The two exist together, the material and the spiritual, the doubter and the believer, the Spirit and the flesh. Heaven come to earth.

In Caravaggio’s picture I like to look at the faces of the other two disciples. Rather than standing back with a smug ‘well-of-course-we-never-needed-him-to-do-this-for-us’ look on their faces they lean forward, intensely involved. I like to think they were glad of one more chance to check that they hadn’t imagined it the first time. In church we spend a lot of time saying what we believe, and checking that we are saying it ‘right’; but it seems to me that there is far more that we don’t understand that we do, and so it should be since God is infinitely more than we can envisage. One definition of doubt is ‘to be uncertain’. Whilst I wish I were more certain about some things – perhaps it’s not something that comes easily to my nature – I am also concerned when Christians claim to be certain about everything they believe. Such certainty breeds pride, and can be anti-missional. It is in the exploration of doubts that we discover the possibilities that faith presents to us, not in rigid certainties but in the creative envisaging of a God who is bigger and more wonderful than anything we have so far experienced. I think that church should be a place where we can doubt noisily and openly, and where questions are as much a feature of our lives together – lives of faith – as answers.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Art in Lent 3: Suffering

I don’t often find images of the suffering of Christ very helpful in my contemplation of the Passion. They are either so gruesome that I find my eyes fixating on the details of suffering, losing the meaning in the process of this individual death; or else the Christ they show is sweet, silent, almost cloying in his innocence. I lose the sense of God choosing the path of sacrifice. I worry that the Man of Sorrows no longer has a choice.

In addition there are cultural difficulties. Images of the cross are now specific to that one death in our minds: it is easy to forget that, under Roman occupation, crucifixion was reasonably common, and associated with the lowest in society – the thieves and murderers, the scum, for whom it was important that the form of execution was not only agonizing but also degrading. Indeed, Christ was not portrayed on the cross in Christian images until many years after his death, such were these associations at the time. However painful to look at, many images of Christ’s crucifixion are a relatively pretty and dignified version of the truth. In reality there was no heavenly light or glowing halo; no protective loincloth; no dramatic raised head or meaningful looks. Only the agony, the panting breath, the splintering wood, the searing nails, the scorching thorns, the naked public defaecation, the burning muscles, the few gasped out words before death. And what of the face of Christ? How do I relate to a sixth century icon, a painting by a Flemish master, a Victorian allegorical work, a twentieth century film? What about those from more alien cultures to our own – from Mexico, from Japan, from Ethiopia? How can I find Christ, through such variety?

I find that simplicity is helpful; hence my choice of ‘Ecce Homo’ by Mark Wallinger (1999).

Ecce Homo: behold the man.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" John 19: 1-5

In the KJV v5 is translated as ‘Behold the Man’; after questioning him, and receiving no answer that convinced him of Jesus’ guilt, Pilate echoes this in verse 14 with ‘Behold the King’. These are ambiguous words. Pilate could be accusing – either the crowd or Jesus; pleading – for the crowd’s mercy; or even worshipping. So too is this sculpture ambiguous. It is startling in its simplicity: a pure white man, life-size, with no seams associated with life-casting. Every last skin bump and pit is shown. The eyes are closed, in subjugation; does the knowledge that they had to be closed because of the process, the way the model had to wait entombed in resin, change the way we respond? He is naked, save for a small loincloth; Wallinger has not chosen to depict the robe; but the crown is there. This is a Christ someway between the twin pronouncements of Pilate, between ‘Behold the man’ and ‘Behold the king’. He is both. He is neither.

The crown of thorns is gently gilded, echoing the shining haloes of the icons of the past. This Christ has been afforded a golden crown, a sign of kingliness, the gold that was given to him at birth and is his by rights – now painfully pressed into his skull. His hands are bound behind his back. He is shaven, hairless, beardless. Vulnerable. He has the skin blemishes of all men, but the defining features of no-one. He has no need to call attention to himself; this act is not for showmanship. He closes his eyes and imagines the goal, the ones who have been and are to come – the whole of the human race, for whom he stands this day.

Context is everything. Standing alone in a room the sculpture has a lost and lonely look; the figure seems to be waiting for something to happen, and not really engaged in the events of this world. But this piece was originally displayed on the fourth, previously empty, plinth of Trafalgar Square. On the other three plinths stand General Napier, George IV on a horse and Major General Sir Henry Havelock, puffing out their chests and standing larger than life. Nelson, trapped atop his column, gazes out at the city. The glory of man, in war and lineage. The massive lions, with their cradling paws much loved by children wanting photographs of themselves, stare down the feasting pigeons. What would a Messiah do to break into this scene, to get himself noticed? Wallinger’s Messiah simply stands, teetering on the edge of his largely empty plinth, offering himself up to the choice of the masses. Worship? Mercy? Violence? …or indifference?

In Wallinger’s Christ I find my God again. It is a simple, elegant piece that captures the essence of the God-man that gave up his life. Not just his life-breath, but his life: his dignity, his freedom, his influence, his beauty. The lack of physical defining features enable me to find those features I love most – his overwhelming mercy and love, his humility and courage. Seeing that small figure against the backdrop of the self-important city reminds us of the God-perspective, and that little of what we think is important is really important. We must take time to behold the man, and behold the king.