Beyond Personal Salvation

speaker:  Ruth Turley      scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25

listen to sermon

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Easter at Jones Plaza

Easter at Jones Plaza. Epic.

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Before Easter | Catch Up

so….. lent was crazy.
and i was not good keeping up with the weekly art posts.

so here is everything i did in a random order. but i just wanted to make sure it was on this blog.

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Cruciformity – Media

We’ve gotten some media buzz on our Cruciformity show. Here’s a couple clips.

Chris Seay – CNN Interview on Stations of the Cross from Ecclesia Houston on Vimeo.

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Cruciformity: Gallery Opening

Saturday night, February 25th, we had our opening for our Cruciformity: Stations on Skin show. Around 30 of the tatooees showed up and were the actual living “Stations of the Cross” while hundreds of art enthusiasts came by and interacted with the show.

Here’s a couple pics that are up on the wall of people’s tattoos.

It was an awesome night.


Below are pictures of the gallery stations. The statements below are from the people who are represented in the large pictures.

“Most people that know me would never imagine that I would actually get a tattoo, so when they see it I get a great chance to tell them how important Christ is in my life and to explain what Easter is all about.” – Dennis
“I selected this tattoo because it reminds me of my favorite catholic prayer “Jesus Lamb of God”. It makes me understand what Jesus did for us.”
“I have spoken with other Christians about my tattoo, Their comments all say I’m crazy. I say “Crazy for Jesus”. – Sherrell
 “I often forget that while Jesus was wholly God, he was also wholly human; this tattoo reminds me that in His walk to His death – His actual, mortal death – He felt pain, weakness, and loneliness.”
“People don’t really know what to do with the idea that my church is encouraging tattoos. And in that moment of being really thrown off, they’re open to hearing about Jesus, who He is, and what He means to me.” – Brent
“I am so thankful that I have found a faith community, imperfect as we are, that truly know and show unconditional love, as has been shown to us!”
 “I have wanted a tattoo since those 1960’s teenage years…but I could only push my Dad so far back then…and I just never did it.”
“I chose Station 4, Jesus meets his mother.  I think it is absolutely beautiful!  I am  a Mom to a wonderful son, and at times through the years I have seen him struggle and have seen him in pain, it was heartrending.  I can relate, though in only a minuscule way, to the pain that the Mother of Jesus felt on that day.” – Joyce
“This tattoo represents a life with some things I did not ask for, but was given the grace and ability, through Christ, to carry this journey out, walking upright, with perseverance and endurance which in turn produced fruitfulness in my life.”
“My story is really God’s story…I get to share how He has been real in my life… how He has been faithful, even in my faithlessness.  How He’s carried me, had others carry me and taught me how to carry.  How through His death and resurrection, I now have life…and others can have life too.  This tattoo is an awesome ‘breaking down of walls’. And it also serves as a constant reminder that His love is permanent….for not only me but everyone.” – Stephanie
“Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the aesthetic of Station #6 that appealed to me. In fact, my first thought was that it was a little funny looking. The appeal for me was in Scott’s single-word description. “Humility.” I couldn’t get past it. It took a bit for the image to click, but when it did, I was moved. The image of a tree that’s been chopped down… So simple, but so powerful. Such a beautiful way to visually render Christ’s humility, especially in the passion story, and especially in light of Station 10, a tree growing out of a coffin, representing Jesus’ resurrection.”
“If Christ, even Christ, God in the flesh, can make nothing of Himself for the good of His beloved bride, the Church, how much more so should I humble myself? Metaphorically speaking, I am a tree in constant need of chopping.” – Luke
“I think all too often, we as Christians are known more for what we hate and that we want to force other people to live a certain way. I plan to use this (tattoo) as an opportunity to tell people that Jesus lived in a way that was very different from that. Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to suffer and die for us. What he wants most is our freedom, and he invites us into a life that creates freedom for us and for those around us as well.” – Wayne
“Christ’s death on the cross is what allows me to be who I am today, but understanding the pain and the suffering of the actual act of crucifixion has helped me to understand grace in very personal way.”
 “It was not till I started to attend Ecclesia that I realized that there were many other ways to communicate the blessings and joy of Christ with others.  I never thought that I would be able to open conversations with others about my faith by adorning myself with art that means so very much to me.” – Noel
“This is my first tattoo, and I chose “lay me down” because death is a reality that I encounter regularly (as a nurse practitioner) and I find strength in my hope and faith in God. I would like to get the “rise again” tattoo on my other foot at some point.” – Sung“In recent years the urge (to get a tattoo) was still there, but I didn’t know what to get so I waited and I knew this was the year.  When the announcement and images where shown at church, it became clear as to why I waited and the decision was made.  My wife squeezed my hand and said this is what you were waiting for and this is meant to be.”
“The image itself is a dual representation of me and of course, Christ. It was a connection that held true to my journey with Him the minute I saw it.  First, in my opinion, it is the most meaningful of the stations.  Christ rose again from hate, doubt, and disbelief.  Second, it is parallel in meaning with my fall and struggle to raise again with Christ in hand.”
“I have never been more sure of his presence in my life.” – Guadalupe

Before the gallery opening, one of the tattoo participants asked me what the most surprising aspect of the project was. Was it that so many people got tattoos? Thinking about it, my response is that I was surprised by how thankful everyone is who partook in the show by getting a tattoo. Pretty much everyone who got a tattoo thanked me for putting on this project and working hard on the designs. Their tattoo process meant a ton to them and they just had gratitude for being in a community that provided them the chance to get a meaningful tattoo.

There have been many comments from outsiders on this project and everyone feels like they should have a place to say their opinion. Well good for them. For me though, I know this was worth doing for the fruit I’m seeing in this community and in the lives of the people who participated. It’s been such an honor to be able to be involved in this.

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Upcoming: Crucifixion According To Radiohead – 2 cities

The Crucifixion According to Radiohead is a multi-media meditative service on the execution of Jesus Christ narrated by the music of Radiohead.

This year it will be happening in two places

Wednesday April 4th, Austin TX

I will be performing this on Wednesday in Austin, TX. 7pm.

Friday April 6th

 GOOD FRIDAY at Ecclesia in Houston, TX

Performance times: NOON, 6PM, 8PM, 10PM

The stage performance will be a bit different this year, but here’s a clip of last years performance to give you a little idea of what it’s like…..

Crucifixion According to Radiohead | All I Need from scott erickson on Vimeo.

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Cruciformity Show

photo by

Kate Shellnutt wrote a great article about our upcoming Stations of the Cross show at Ecclesia – “Cruciformity: Stations on Skin”


Just a reminder about the opening…..

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Cruciformity: Stations on Skin – the designs and invite

This year for our yearly Stations of the Cross show that we host in our gallery, we have decided to do a Stations on Skin show. That’s right… tattoos.  Now, this is probably not the right fit for a lot of church communities. But for Ecclesia, in the heart of the city of Houston, in the Montrose neighborhood, and considering our congregation, we feel like this is an appropriate response to the season of Lent for the context in which we live.


Chris gave me this idea in December last year and I have spent two months working away on designs that can represent the story of the cross, the history of christian symbolism, and a maturely developed tattoo culture. This was no easy task… and in fact I scraped two full design ideas. It wasn’t until I was led by a friend to the story of Russian prison tattoos that everything came together.

I don’t know if you know much about Russian prison tattoos but here’s some enlightening paragraphs from this website:

According to the book of Genesis, God placed a mark on the world’s first murderer before sending him into exile. The mark of Cain indelibly branded its bearer as a criminal and social outcast.
It is not known when tattooing first became a common practice in Russian prisons and Stalinist Gulags. Soviet researchers first discovered and studied this underground activity in the 1920s; photographs of prisoners from that period suggest an already elaborate and highly developed subculture. More than simple decoration, the images symbolically proclaim the wearer’s background and rank within the complex social system of the jailed.
The Russian prison population is one of the largest in the world. From the mid-1960’s to the 1980’s, thirty-five million people were incarcerated, and of those, twenty to thirty million were tattooed. The tattoos display inmates’ contempt for official justice and retribution– phrases and images directly mock the political system and the absence of any possibility for “reform” within the jails. “For a convict, prison is a crime college,” reads one typical statement. Convicted female gang members sometimes prefer the simple declaration, “People are wild animals.”

This also from Wikipedia:

Russian criminal tattoos have a complex system of symbols which can give quite detailed information about the wearer. Not only do the symbols carry meaning but the area of the body on which they are placed may be meaningful too…
Tattoos done in a Russian prison have a distinct bluish color and usually appear somewhat blurred because of the lack of instruments to draw fine lines. The ink is often created from burning the heel of a shoe and mixing the soot with urine, and injected into the skin utilizing a sharpened guitar string attached to an electric shaver.
In addition to voluntary tattooing, tattoos are used to stigmatize and punish individuals within the criminal society. They may be placed on an individual who fails to pay debts in card games, or otherwise breaks the criminal code, and often have very blatant sexual images, embarrassing the wearer. Tattoos on the forehead are usually forcibly applied, and designed both to humiliate the bearer and warn others about him or her. They frequently consist of slurs about the bearer’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, or perceived collusion with the prison authorities. They can indicate that the bearer is a member of a political groupconsidered offensive by other prisoners (e.g. Vlasovite), or has been convicted of a crime (such as child rape) which is disapproved of by other criminals.

What strikes me about the prison tattoos is that you are visually branded with your crimes whether you decide to or not… and it’s for everyone to see.

So back to the Stations project…. In my opinion the Protestant visual culture is very under developed. Mostly it’s cute-sy lambs and shiney gold things (just go to a christian bookstore). But when you look at the story of Jesus going to the cross… its a very hardcore story. It’s the story of an innocent man convicted in an empirical justice system, tortured and brutalized, publicly shamed and mocked, and then mercilessly slowly murdered. This is not a cute-sy shimery story. This hits at the core of our beastly human condition.

And yet the good news of the story is that Jesus allowed this to happen to him. He went through it all: from shaming, to torture, to death, to hell…. and came out on the other end victorious over our greatest fear…. our ever impending death. But it’s not just the victory over death that gets me…. it’s that Jesus shared in some of the worst human experiences. Now I know there are people in our community with criminal records. He’s shared in that. I know there have people been abused. He’s experienced that. I know in our community there have been people publicly shamed and embarrased. He’s known that… more than probably any of us. His journey to the cross was not just to get to dying… but He took on some of the worst parts of being human.

And He over came those things. It’s no longer His story. And it’s no longer our story either.

These tattoos, to me, symbolize the marks of Him. They lay over the crimes and shame I could have all over me… telling everyone who I really am. But instead, I have Jesus’ markings instead. His story covers mine. It’s called grace and mercy. That’s the story of the Stations that I think we forget. He has gone before us in these things. He has overcome them. He brings healing.


The Stations of the Cross are typically figurative and contain two essential things – Jesus and a cross. To be in honest, in considering getting a tattoo, I personally don’t want either.

I’ve spent my whole 20’s deconstructing the white scandinavian Jesus that hung in my Lutheran Church and I didn’t want to add to the overwhelming caucasian Jesus imagery out there. And crosses…. Although I think hugely important and very sacred,  I think symbolically in our culture it’s lost it’s impact. It’s become more of a decoration and a stigmatized religious symbol than an epic icon of reconciliation between God and man.

So I had to look elsewhere to find the symbology that I think depicted what the stations could mean. I needed to represent tattoo culture honorably and to also give a head nod to the historical religious symbols that were out there. My main inspirations then came from Russian prison tattoos, Jerry Sailor tattoos, art by Stephan Doitschinoff, and designs by Eric Gill.


Here are the 10 station designs. Descriptions are below.


Prayerfully allowing Himself to be the sacrificial atonement for all of humanities crimes


This a nod to a well know christian image about the sacrificial lamb. In this design, I’ve tweaked it a bit… having the cross that He is being given piercing him…. pouring out His blood into the cup that He has been given. The tear where the eye is stands for murder. The image is also a nod to the vision John saw of Jesus on the island of Patmos where he sees Him as “a Lamb standing, as if slain.”  And then TOLLE CRUCEM TUAM means “take up your cross”.


There are 3 Jesus Falls in the traditional Stations of the Cross. I decided to combine them into one station. A – Alpha, O – Omega. B – Beginning, E – End. The infinite sharing in our finiteness.


This tattoo is all about the pain of parenthood… of seeing your kids suffer. It’s about Mary meeting Jesus in the midst of his torturous journey. the crown, the dove, the tear, the heart…. all symbols of parenthood.


Simon the Cyrene was taken out of the crowd and forced to carry Jesus’ instrument of death. He shared some of the temporary weight of the cross… the cross which would inevitably be a symbol for his own salvation. To me, this image represents the burden of carrying one another through death. We all expereince it – death of family and friends. It’s a basic human experience. We make it through in community… in bearing one another’s burdens and pain. But death is not the end for us…. “NON OMNIS MORIAR” – I SHALL NOT WHOLLY DIE.

Also, the goldfinch traditionally is a Christ symbol.



INRI stands for King of the Jews… a mocking joke.


this design was inspired by the passage in Isaiah 53:

 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. 


I don’t know why it hit me so hard this time around, but Jesus died. Not kind of died. But really died. Died like we’ll all die.

Inspired by Day Of The Dead art, this image came out. The cup is the cup of death… the cup Jesus was given to drink. The tear is for murder and sorrow. the 3 shot crow is for Peter’s denial… being abandoned by your friends and family. TETELESTAI is “it is finished“… the last thing Jesus said on the cross.


There is a song by Glen Hansard (the Frames, the Swell Season) called LAY ME DOWN. He tells a story of being a teenager in Ireland and being in love with a girl. He bought a cemetary plot for a christmas present and took her there Christmas Eve and said “would you be buried with me?”

This image is reflective of that story.


I think you get it.


So here’s the invite. If you would like to respond to the story of Christ’s crucifixion this lenten season by taking on a station, then feel free to use any one of these images. People from the Ecclesia community will be getting these tattoos before Ash Wednesday and participating in our Cruciformity: Stations on Skin opening on Saturday , February 25th at 7pm at Xnihilo Gallery (2115 Taft St, Houston, TX 77006). There will be all kinds of art and photos of tattoos on the walls in the gallery for the month long show… but for the actual opening the stations will be the real tattoos themselves – real tattoos on real people.

If you do not live in Houston but would like to have your picture displayed, please email a pic of your tattoo to me, Scott Erickson, and I will print it off and put it up with the station.

Any other questions or comments can also be directed to me as well.


The reason why we are doing this is because we believe in our context this is an appropriate contextual expression of our faith.

We had 126 people intially sign up to get tattoos out of our community. I had a conversation after one of the services with a young woman who had many tattoos. I wanted to find out if she had gotten the inking done locally (cause I was putting together a list of tattoo artists I could steer people too… support your local tattoo artist community!) but she told me she had gotten most of her work down in New York.

She’s only been in Houston for a couple months. She has a young daughter and going through a painful divorce. She explained to me what her tattoos meant. All of them had deeply personal stories. I asked her what she thought of this show and she said that she thought it was amazing. She went on to explain to me how most of the time when she attends a church that she feels like she needs to hide her tattoos… that they are inappropriate somehow. But to her, they explain who she is… so she feels like she has to hide who she is. (Sound familiar at church?) She then expressed how grateful she is to have found a community where she can be who she really is.

That’s it for us.

That’s the contextualizing we are striving for…. that there is a place for all who desire to know Christ and His resurrecting grace…. no matter how they are marked.

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Free artists to explore for our church communities….

Just had a few thoughts…..

The role of pastors in our churches is not to do the christian work for everyone else attending. They are their to encourage and support the community to do the work that God is calling them to do in their everyday lives.

That said, in some ways though we are freeing them up, through their pay check, to dive deep into scripture and to bring back to our corporate community things we may not have time individually to discover. They are given to us by the Almighty to spur us on in a deeper devotion to Jesus.

This year in considering my work as the artist in residence at Ecclesia Church, as I am planning out the rhythms of the year, I think in some ways my role is the same. The questions I am asking myself is:

  • What kind of insight/image/revelation can I bring to the community since I am freed in some sense to do the same thing as Chris is?
  • What kind of art does our community need to see to grow in their devotion to Jesus?
  • Where do we need to grow as a community and how can creativity help us get there?
  • What kind is the Spirit stirring in me to bring forth?

So… that’s what I’m going to be working on this year.

I think one of the biggest failures of the Church in respect to hiring artists is that they’ve taken all the creative potential that artists have and solely directed it towards making commercials for the institution’s programs. I think all creatives hired by churches should be commissioned to spend a quarter of their time bringing goodness into the world. What do I mean by that? That if you make films, then a quarter of your time should be spend making a film for the goodness of our culture. Or make a promo piece for a great local non-profit that doesn’t have the budget for one.  Something that is a blessing to the world in which we live in… instead of always keeping things for “in house” purposes.

I think that would do something…… something wonderful.

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12/24 – Christmas Eve

Emmanuel: “God with us”

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