Christ the Judge

Christ the Judge

Of the riches of art in the church of Saint John’s Memphis the mural — Christ The Judge is a favorite of mine. This is partly because I look at it as I stand in the pulpit facing the congregation as I preach. Seeing the image of Christ in glory prepared to bring down the curtain on history is a corrective to homiletic hubris. Also I am continually fascinated by the book held up by the angel on the lower left. This is the Book of Knowledge and inscribed on it is an equation of Albert Einstein.

When the mural was painted in the early 1950’s this was the edge of human speculation on the nature of the universe. Einstein, like other physicists, searched for an equation to describe everything, a unified field theory. The equation on the book is not the famous equation of relativity but rather Einstein’s unified field theory. John De Rosen was a very erudite fellow and placed the very edge of knowing on his art.

As it turns out Einstein was incorrect. This theory was not adequate for his purpose. It seems appropriate that on the Book of Knowledge there is a speculation that is not quite there yet —- such is our Knowing of science and of God.


During the ill-fated Somalia peacekeeping inititive “Blackhawk down” entered the lexicon. The loss of the helicopter and crew to brutal death shocked Americans and the peacekeeping soon ended. Good intentions and hopes died in the downed Blackhawk.

The photo below is entitled Butterfly Down and it evokes in me the loss of hopes and dreams. We have fantasies of what life will be and how it will turn out. We have in our minds expectations of what we will be and what we will possess. The Butterfly fliting from flower to flower with grace and apparent lightness of being is a good symbol of our beloved ethereal fantastical expectations of our life.

Eventually we will hear the breaking news — Butterfly Down! Our cherished expectations have crashed and burned. What are we to do? We can of course become bitter (see July 24-25 Thing That Test All) or we can do something counter-intuitive and mature. we give up our downed expectations and learn to live not with expectations but rather expectantly knowing that whatever happens by grace we can face it and something good can come from it. We can move from rigidity and fear to supple flexibility and joy. Living with expectancy allows us to survive Butterfly Down.