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Refelctions from Mythic Palestine – Part 2 September 30, 2010

Posted by dan snyder in art, Christianity, Devotional Journal.
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I asked a jailor on the western shore: are you the son of my old jailor?
Yes indeed
Where’s your father?
He replied: Father died years ago laid low with the boredom or guarding
He left me his profession and told me to guard the town against your songs
I said: how long have you been surveying me and imprisoning yourself?
He replied: since you wrote your first one
I said: but you weren’t born yet!
He said: I have time and eternity I want to live to
the rhythm of America within the walls of Jerusalem
I said: whoever you are – I’m leaving
and the me you see now isn’t me I’m just a ghost
He said: you’re an echo in a stone nothing more
that’s why you never left or stayed
that’s why you’re still in your yellowed cell
so let me get on with my work!

-excerpt from Mural by Mahmoud Darwish

A Myth at Work
Many Palestinian Christians are being held captive as custodians of Christianity’s most sacred theme park (I am indebted to Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem for this metaphor). If the people left or the churches went into disuse, enemies of the church would quickly claim the property and establish rituals commemorating their own histories. Since the land is holy to three faith traditions, the same piece of real estate can stand for more than one story. Christians from around the world want to commemorate “our” story at our sites. I took for granted the people who clean the toilets and keep the sites active so the site remains “ours.”

Souvenirs

Hope for Return

Graffiti art in UN Camp - Aida

Streets of Aida Camp

UN Refugee Camp - Aida

Refugee children are being held captive in UN Camps around Bethlehem. They are prisoners to the hopes of their grandparents. The myth is that one day they will return to their family estates from which their parents and grandparents were evicted over 60 years ago. Many of them keep keys to door-locks of homes they have never seen as signs of a promise. Some homes have even been torn down or are now covered by shopping malls. Yet the myth exerts a holding power over them.

There is a myth that circulates in Bethlehem that Christians are leaving and soon there will be only Jews and Muslims in Palestine-Israel. The myth makes people think what it might be like to be the last Christian in Palestine. Mr. Kattan owns a jewelry shop and is a silversmith in Bethlehem. He weeps when asked what hope he has for the future of his teenage son, Samer. He wants his children to have a good life and to grow up in peace without becoming bitter and angry. Samer wants to attend Bethlehem University, but cannot think much beyond attending college because graduating will mean having to find employment in a village with a 60% unemployment rate. He sadly mentions the possibility of leaving his homeland for Brazil like his Aunt and Uncle.

Mr. Katan and son Samer

Jewlerly Store in Bethlehem, Palestine

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Reflections from Mythic Palestine April 29, 2010

Posted by dan snyder in art, Devotional Journal.
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There is no nation smaller than its poem
But weapons make words too big for the living
and the dead who inhabit the living
And letters make the sword on the dawn’s belt glitter
Til the desert becomes parched for songs or drowns in them
[poem exerpts from Mural by Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008)]

book cover

I thought reading a poem by Mahmoud Darwish would be a wonderful way to prepare for living in Palestine-Israel for three weeks. His words portrayed hopelessness to me. So I arrived assuming I would bring hope to the people I would meet. This assumption was fueled by a myth. Perhaps I did bring hope. But I found a deeper hope that will linger with me for the rest of my life.

A Myth Described
Palestine-Israel is a mythic land. And so it is impossible to discuss the life of the land, the theology of the land or the people of the land without tripping over mystique and legend.
I was recently browsing through the 1905 edition of the reports of the International Sunday-school Convention for some research I’m doing on that movement. Scattered throughout the pages were photos of Palestine. The people in the photos looked like characters from a Cecil B. DeMille film complete with turbans and shepherds.

Old Palestine

Old Palestine

More interesting to me was the impetus behind the photos. The Sunday-school Convention had been held in Jerusalem in 1904 and these were pictures commemorating the occasion. When the Convention was held in Toronto or London, no one thought to put pictures of Canadians or early 20th century Britain in the report the following year. When it was held in London or Chicago, large and new church buildings showcased as venues for the nearly 2,000 participants. But in 1904 there was not a venue large enough in Jerusalem and a three-section tent needed to be shipped from France to house the Convention. Typically speakers from around the world would report at the conventions, but usually the host city would have special delegations. The only Middle Eastern delegation I could find was a Rev. Archibald Forder, thirteen year Missionary among the “Ishmaelites.”

Mosaic Wall in Holy Seplucher Church - Jerusalem

Mosaic Wall in Holy Seplucher Church - Jerusalem

These were some of the photos that inspired philanthropists from the U.S.A. and Great Britain the likes of John Rockefeller to begin claiming Palestine for the “Jews.” These Palestinians looked so “backward,” their land was so “barren,” and their religion so “non-biblical” that the notion of God’s people “returning” to make the land holy again spilled off the pages. It would take real imagination to believe that this land “was smaller than its poem.” The myth of the Holy Land is overpowering.

Mosaic Detail

Mosaic Detail

I experienced the power of the myth at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Walking through the entrance one eventually sees a mosaic depicting the death and burial of Jesus. It is well photographed as Christians travel from around the world to get a glimpse. The mosaic is on a wall the once divided the Church in two sections – one side for Catholics, one for Orthodox Christians. When I heard about the divide I assumed we would only visit one of the sides. But soon I realized that people are permitted to freely wander in the spaces on both sides of the wall. The original purpose of the wall is irrelevant now. But the wall will remain as a reminder of the rift in the unity of Christ’s church. It must remain because pilgrims from around the world come expecting to photograph the mosaic on the wall. There are hundreds of such pilgrim sites with this “holy permanence.” The mythic power of Palestine holds the land and its people hostage.

Songs of Bethlehem January 29, 2010

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Songs of Bethlehem

there’s a little town next to Bethlehem
where the houses come down at the stroke of a pen
still the singers sing and the children dance
in the streets with joy
and when rockets glare where the angels sang
that the hope of the world was coming to reign
there’s a bell that rings with a hope that sings
shouting “build again!”

so sing me the songs of the poor and the weak
feed me their bread, wake me up from my sleep
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem
paint me a picture of courage reborn
shape stained-glass windows from the rubble of war
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem

although Hebron’s hills with its cliffs and crags
are all peppered with watchtowers and blue and white flags
there’s an angel there who puts her gray hair in harms way
while in Bethlehem many mothers weep
yet this Arabic pastor refuses to leave
he says “have no fear, there is treasure here
in these jars of clay.”

so sing me the songs of the poor and the weak
feed me their bread, wake me up from my sleep
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem
paint me a picture of courage reborn
shape stained-glass windows from the rubble of war
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem

no myth they tell can push our hope away
we long for words that pull us from our graves

so sing me the songs of the poor and the weak
feed me their bread, wake me up from my sleep
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem
hand me a trumpet, teach me to play
we’ll march ‘round this city till the wall falls away
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem

so sing me the songs of the poor and the weak
tell me their stories, let me laugh till I weep
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem
paint me a picture of courage reborn
shape stained-glass windows from the rubble of war
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem
teach me the words, sing me the songs of Bethlehem

words and music by dan snyder
northstar mcp 2010

Mr. Kattan and his son, Samer

Mr. Kattan and son, Samer; Bethlehem, Palestine

Saying Yes and Saying No February 25, 2009

Posted by dan snyder in art, Bible - Meditation, Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ.
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a man must choose

he is not a spray of

flowers nor of birdsong

nor the fall of dry twigs

in a rising wind

Francis Sullivan, “Vision with Its Outcome”

Whenever we say “yes” to something or someone, we are saying “no” to something or someone else. “To say yes and no means taking on responsibilities and obligations. Saying yes and saying no are companions in the process of constituting a whole and holy life.” (M. Shawn Copeland as quoted in Practicing Our Faith ed. by Dorothy C. Bass, 1997.)

As you look at the painting below ask yourself, “to what was the person saying ‘no’ or ‘yes’?”

Credits: Tanner, Henry Ossawa The Annunciation 1898. (oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Henry Ossawa Tanner "The Annunciation"

Henry Ossawa Tanner "The Annunciation"

What sort of support do you and Mary, the mother of Jesus, have to help you to say “yes” or “no”?

Watching the Cloudy Skies December 3, 2008

Posted by dan snyder in art, Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ.
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When you were a child, what were the first signs that clued-you-in that Christmas was coming?

For my dad, who grew up in the 40’s, it was that he saw smoke coming out of the chimney’s. For my mom, it wasn’t until the day before Christmas when the Christmas Tree made it’s way into the living room that she new Christmas was upon them. In my childhood it was Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma’s that ushered in the holiday’s.

What about this year? What are you watching for that let you know the Season is here? Or perhaps, the signs just burst into your life whether your ready and watching or not!

The disciples of Jesus ask him to tell them what the sign(s) of his return will be. And included in his answer is the text for this week, Mark 13:24-37

24“But in those days, following that distress,
” ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

26“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens”

As I read through Mark 13 (and other such apocalyptic passages) I get the impression that Jesus is pretty excited about his return. As this passage continues, he says that no one except the Father really knows when this return will happen, but this doesn’t really seem to concern Jesus. It seems that he’s okay not knowing as long as the there is the assurance that his Father knows. I suppose we should be as satisfied.

But it seems that the return of Jesus is not so exciting to contemporary people. With the exception of a few fundamentalist TV preachers who have an almost overly enthusiastic sense of urgency, most people I meet are hoping it will happen but suppose that it won’t happen like – tomorrow!

Maybe this is because year after year at Advent, we talk about the the Coming of Jesus and then it never happens. But the Gospel Writers like Mark aren’t really biting their nails over the fact. PROBABLY BECAUSE THE COMING OF JESUS IS NOT SO MUCH AN EVENT AS IT IS A HOPE. I’m not saying that I don’t believe that Jesus won’t ‘literally’ return one day. But the ‘relevant living’ theology is that Jesus gives us signs that will help us know that his coming is very close – signs that are practical for today!

In verses prior to those in our text, Jesus says that one of the signs will be that the Temple (which the disciples found to be very impressive – v.1) will be torn down. There were times in Jewish History when the Temple became more sacred, provided more security, and gave a greater sense of identity than the God of the Temple. The building and its ethos was their strength, hope, wisdom, power, wealth, etc., – things that should have been found in God alone.

What are your Temples?

When our Temples are crumbling – when strengths become our weaknesses – Jesus said, “[Now] you will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” When you’ve tried everything you know to do, when you’ve run out of options, when you’ve exhausted all possibilities, and you throw your hands in the air in surrender – Jesus says, “YES! I am coming to you in your deepest need. Now you’re ready!”

Some people stand in piles of rubble – their Temples have crumbled all around them – and they keep trying, they won’t give up. Little do they know, they have no room for Jesus. If they would only surrender their Temple, Jesus could bring his great power and the glory of his Name to their situation.

One thing Jesus says about these signs is that you won’t miss them. It will be like the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of stars. Everyone will know the time is near. How about your life, your neighborhood, your nation, your world? Is it dark enough yet for you to see that your Temples aren’t working? When you become (self)aware of the desperate situation around you which makes you cry out to Jesus for help – then he will come with great power and glory.

Sometimes we don’t recognize that our Temples are working because our vision is puny compared to what God hopes to do. And, so, we keep on doing small things thinking we’re doing okay. But the kingdom never grows because we’re using the rubble of our Temples to build it with our strength. We need to see the marvel of the Kingdom before we’ll admit that we’re too small, too weak to build it.

So what do you want for Christmas? What do you need for Christmas?

If your answer is anything less than the power and glory that is found in the Person of Jesus Christ then you’ll always be disappointed. These are tough times – relationships, finances, sickness and death are wearing us all down. If there was ever a time we needed Jesus to come to us, it’s now.

Take a few minutes and meditate on this painting by Salvador Dali of The Girl Stand at the Window. As you imagine yourself in the painting, reflect on your sense of urgency and hope as you look to the clouds.

Salvador Dali, The Girl Standing at the Window (1925)

Salvador Dali, The Girl Standing at the Window (1925)

Prayer Poem: O Christ, O Cross, O Highest Name August 3, 2008

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O Christ, O Cross, O Highest Name,
enthrall my every thought
until Your Life and Death in me
Your Royal Will doth wraught.

Though stress or strain my soul endures
within Thy Life I hide;
Beneath the Cross and in the Word
Today, o soul, abide.

-Dan Snyder, 2004

Prayer Poem: O Greatest King (a servant’s prayer) November 6, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in art, Bible - Meditation.
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O Greatest King, 

Receive me into the company of Your servants today
as I serve the most noble cause of Your Kingdom.

Give me
Elijah’s listening ears,
Naboth’s loyal calling,
Elisha’s vision for greater things,
Amos’ voice for the oppressed,
Hosea’s softened heart,
Jeremiah’s honest tongue in prayer,
Ezekiel’s ready feet and careful ways, and
Isaiah’s hope for each person I meet.

As I find my identity in following You and You only-
guard me from self-indulgence and self-importance;
Take away my desire to die on my own terms.
May streams of living water flow from Your Throne through my life
to bring healing, strength and nourishment
to those in my home and neighborhood;

For the sake of Your Great Name and Your Kingdom.
Amen.

-Dan Snyder, 2005

pause: creation meditation November 1, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in art.
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As you can see, Greg’s work is extremely beautiful and eye-catching.  He is currently a junior at the University of Washington, studying to become a Visual Communications and Design Major.  He has been drawing graphic art and designing web sites for seven years now, and specializes in spacescapes. 

Greg says, “My major goal is to prove that spacescapes are NOT cliché, as some people think. They are quite possibly the most dynamic and interesting of all the topics one could draw or paint.”  We agree and are happy to have Greg’s work featured here, along with the other artists at Solar Voyager.

There is more space-art available for viewing, or purchase at Greg Martin’s Website. 

www.solarvoyager.com/gmartin.asp

www.artofgregmartin.com

visit this artists site for great imagination stimulation