What We Throw

This is the devotion I submitted to the Custer County Chief for publication on December 3, 2020. Thanks to the Chief for publishing weekly devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.

For my family, and likely many others, Thanksgiving was different this year – no travel, and just our family. At the risk of being the bearer of bad news, Christmas may be similar. In the face of these coronavirus-influenced changes, more than few people have expressed to me exasperated versions of, “I just want this all to be over.”

Sometimes, though, exasperation is the wrong word. Sometimes, we also feel frustration, apathy, anger, or even rage. This last feeling reminds me a large mural by Banksy called “Rage, the Flower Thrower,” or “Love is in the Air.” Banksy is a mysteriously unknown, albeit famous, graffiti artist. Banksy painted “Flower Thrower” in 2003 on a garage wall in Jerusalem overlooking the road to Bethlehem, which is part of (or adjacent to) the wall separating Israel from the West Bank. “Rage, Flower Thrower” depicts a man with a backwards cap and his face covered, readying himself to throw something. His stance and attire suggest he’s going to throw a weapon. His outrage and spirit of protest is unmistakable. But instead of a tool of violence, he holds a bouquet of flowers, the only colored part of the otherwise black and white piece. In the face of unrest, violence, suffering, and despair, he chooses to throw a symbol of love and relationship.

“Flower Thrower” reminds me that we always have a choice about what we choose to throw into the world and our relationships. In the midst of trying times of every sort, we have the choice to act, speak, and respond in ways that either tear down or build up people and relationships. Except, as followers of Jesus, the choice is clear: we choose love, grace, and forgiveness – we choose flowers. Paul suggests this path when he writes,

“Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity.”

Galatians 6:9-10a, CEB

So, when we’re next exasperated, enraged, or frustrated, what are we going to throw? May it be flowers.

A Few Extra Ponderings:

The devotion for the Chief doesn’t include the following questions, mostly due to space limitations, but I’m not limited in space here. So, here are a few questions to ponder.

  1. Are there circumstances in which throwing flowers, or “doing good,” as Paul suggests are incompatible with your Christian conviction? By what scriptures, and particularly, what teachings of Jesus, do you justify your ideas?
  2. Banksy chose the location for his painting intentionally. He describes the wall between Israel and the West Bank as making the “largest open air prison in the world.” What thoughts, opinions, or ideas does this bring up for you?
  3. The placement of this art piece is significant. What message do you think Banksy intended? Does this message conflict with, support, or inspire Christian conviction, and in what ways?
  4. This is the beginning of the season of Advent, in which we look back to God becoming incarnate – taking on flesh – in Jesus, which took place in Bethlehem. Advent also looks forward to when Jesus will come again to make all things new. Therefore, our prayers for Advent often include the petition, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” Consider praying this petition daily throughout this season. What are you imagining will happen when Jesus comes again? Will he be like the Flower Thrower?

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