Living Beneath the Cross

All this month, I am focusing on this painting by Rogier van der Weyden called “The Seven Sacraments Altarpiece.”   I have asked several friends of mine, who just happen to be women pastors, to comment on this painting using the following as their guide:

 Community—Seasons—Sacrament— Sacrifice — Cross— Christ

 I asked them: “Like the sounding of a complex chord in music, which one of these words are you hearing the loudest as you view this painting?”
(I hope you will be able to click here to see the details of the seven sacraments that surround the crucifixion scene in the center.)
Image Source: Seven Sacraments Altarpiece 1445-1450, Rogier van der Weyden, 1399/1400-1464, oil on oak panel, 200 x 97 cm (central panel) Royal Museum of Fine Art Antwerp.
 (I find it interesting and insightful how Pastor Surekha writes her meditation about all of Jesus’ disciples who are missing from the scene at the foot of the cross.)
 Cross ~ guest blogger Pastor Surekha
Disciples! Where did you go? I see only women beneath the cross weeping for Jesus in his suffering.  These are the faithful women who did not leave Jesus until the end. Seeing them, I begin thinking about all those who were missing and I wonder how this is possible after all those miraculous moments they had witness. How is it possible they left him in the end?

I remember when Jesus led James, John and Peter up to the mountain to the exuberant experience of his transfiguration, to strengthen them spiritually and give them something to hold on to– knowing how they would be facing testing times in the future. By doing this, Jesus demonstrated how he shared a special relationship with these three disciples. Where did they go?

I remember how after the Last Supper, Jesus went out to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane and again, he takes his three beloved disciples: Peter, James and John. When I read this story, I can understand how Jesus was tired at the end of his ministry, and how he longed for solitude to prepare himself for the journey to the cross that is coming. After they reached Gethsemane, Jesus tells them, “Sit here, while I pray”. That’s all he wanted. Jesus says in vs 34 “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death, remain here and watch.” Three times Jesus asks them to be awake and watch, but they were sleeping and resting each time. They were sleeping souls when they should be awake and watching out.

Even Jesus’ most beloved disciples, let him down. How could they do that?  Did they understand what was going on? Surely not! Otherwise there is no way they could have fallen asleep. They were simply oblivious to what is happening around them, and so they fell asleep. Because of this, when the testing times came, they were not prepared for the worst. Where are they when he is being crucified? Jesus must have been totally disappointed and heartbroken then.

What about now?  Are we asleep to the warnings and signs for the day that we might have to take up the cross of Christ? Are we able to recognize the Christ event on the cross when it is happening to one of our brothers or sisters? As we will soon enter the Passion Week, let us resolve to stand beneath the cross, to weep and to remember to be wakeful because we know that we will celebrate his glorious resurrection morning.

May God bless these words.

SurekhaPastor Surekha Nelavala was born in Sullurupeta India and now lives in Frederick Maryland where she is the Pastor and founder of the Global Peace Multicultural Community: A Lutheran Fellowship. This is a mission congregation  created to be a welcoming place for worship and communion for people of diverse background and cultures. This mission particularly aims to reach out to the people interested in cross-cultural forms of worship and a community that aims to provide a church of muti-colors and cultures. We welcome everyone who wishes to join our worship services, gatherings, Bible studies, meetings and discussions of Spiritual Formation, retreats, events, and celebrations. We aim to incorporate social, cultural, spiritual elements in all our activities.


I hope you will listen in on one of Pastor Surekha’s sermons. Her voice is beautiful and the opening joke is priceless:))

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