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by Gabrielle Chavez
Jesus of the People
copyright 1999 Janet Mackenzie
I collect pictures of Jesus, hundreds of them. My current favorite is reproduced below by permission of the artist, Janet Mackenzie. She won a contest sponsored by the National Catholic Reporter to create a picture of Jesus for the new millenium.

Jesus of the People copyright 1999 Janet Mackenzie

Janet says that while her Jesus is male, she used an African American woman as her model. Since so many pictures of Jesus are effeminate men, I really like it that this Jesus shines with the strength of a woman, one who looks to me to have been abused yet stands straight and regal.

From the cross to the right of the head hangs a feather, weighty with symbolism. The cross on the left frames a yin yang. In the crown of thorns I see a revolutionary’s headband. Letters broken from the word “love” are held close in the folds of his robe.

I told the artist that for me this not so much a picture of the historical Jesus as an attempt to represent the universal Christ. This is why a large color reproduction now hangs in the room where our Christ the Healer circle gathers on Monday nights to build community and share spirituality in a universal way.

For some time, we have been calling Christ the Healer UCC an “all-embracing” Christian community to distinguish ourselves from the sort of Christians who exclude and condemn others for their beliefs or lifestyles. But inclusiveness, while very much at the heart of the life and teaching of Jesus, only addresses the form of the Body of Christ, not its vitality.  

What makes the all-embracing heart beat? Something that cannot be framed, either in a hundred doctrines or pictures of Jesus. Something that happens when we commune in the presence of love, when we hold hands or lay on hands to pray. Something that our drumming tries to express. Someone who is there when the body of Christ gathers in the broken pieces of love instead of throwing them away.

Gabrielle Chavez is a co-convenor of Chris the Healer UCC, which meets at 5150 SW Watson, Beaverton on Monday nights at 7. For more information or a newsletter, call 503-259-3315.