Campbell's Soup Can (Tomato) (1962)
Andy Warhol
copyright 1962

Proper 12, Luke 11:1-13

Historical Description:  

Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) is most known for his painting of “pop art” in the 1960s. He is known for paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, dollar bills, and many other iconic images. The Campbell’s Soup Can is one of those iconic images. For a movement of art that appeared to be anything but art, Warhol and pop art has remained influential.

This unassuming painting of a Campbell’s Soup Can blurs the line of art and the world. Warhol painted many soup cans from Tomato to Onion to a scene of 100 Campbell’s cans. Recently Campbell’s has sold soup with Warhol designs as its labels.

Devotional Reflection:

When you look at anything by Andy Warhol for the first time, you might exclaim, “This isn’t art!” The Campbell’s Soup Can is just the image that might evoke displeasure, an anticlimactic feeling, or utter disdain. A painting like this is so simple it seems anyone could paint it. The simple Campbell’s Soup Can that could sit behind the closed cabinet doors of a kitchen is presented on a canvas. This is just the sort of thing that makes art strange for so many people. How can this be art? Whether it hangs in a gallery, is ridiculed in a museum, or is viewed on the internet there is a simplicity, a whimsical allure, to the work of Andy Warhol.

“Lord, teach us to pray,” the disciples ask. It is such a simple request and Jesus offers simplicity in his answer. The prayer he gives to his disciples is unassuming and straightforward.

There is no question that this is a prayer indeed. But how did the disciples not know how to pray? Before we hear Jesus’ answer to the disciples, we might listen and hear overtones of other prayers.  We could overhear disciples praying like the Pharisees, we could consider the temple rituals of the Sadducees, or even the total ignorance of the pagan world may come to mind. In contrast to these people and these prayers, Jesus offers a simple act of prayer.

This prayer is near and dear to the Christian community. Yet at times it seems too simple to be a real act of prayer. Praying for daily bread might seem trite to some.  Particularly in a world where our basic needs are typically met. Praying short petitions seems rote and disingenuous in contrast to long prayers and meditations of the heart. This prayer, however, calls us into a world where the simple has beauty, and where the mundane has divine significance. Jesus leaves little to wonder, but much to appreciate when he teaches his disciples about prayer.

What we are left wondering is not whether hallowing God’s name is important, or if forgiveness of sins is essential, or even if we should pray for God’s kingdom to come. Those things make sense in a faithful prayer.  But daily bread?  What does that have to do with the kingdom of God?   If we are not careful we may treat this teaching like some treat Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can, as different from and not relevant to the world of art.  So this petition about daily bread is not connected to the larger richer experience of the kingdom of God.  The simplicity of Jesus’ words can cause us not to see the complexity of his petitions, how praying for daily bread can relate to the kingdom, can relate to something like helping the needy around us as a manifestation of God’s work or his love.

A simple soup can.  It reminds us not just to pray for our own daily food from the gracious hand of our heavenly Father but to recognize the fullness of the kingdom of God. We pray these words because God promises to hear our prayers. But we also live these words.  Our lives become this prayer in action as Jesus calls us into a sacrificial love for neighbor that is simple and unassuming. Drive around the city.  Watch as this prayer reminds you that giving to the poor and needy is part of the kingdom.

Dismissing the simple things, or even not asking for them in prayer, is like dismissing Warhol’s simple artwork. There is more to the kingdom of God. For this reason, Jesus teaches us to pray, and by praying to seek his kingdom, this simple and unassuming kingdom present in our world.

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