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
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.