Appealing to the Artistic in the Apostolic

My last post dealt with apostles and the apostolic and the extremes and misunderstood notions prevalent within the church. Freedom and grace, not fear and control are the necessities needed in apostolic work. The great misunderstanding is that the apostolic work will yield similar results regardless of place or culture. That’s the fear and control talking. When a gospel of radical grace and freedom takes root in a community, the results will look differently depending on the context. Granted the expression of that discipleship community will be (hopefully) an expression of Christ, how that church expresses Christ will be manifold.

The apostolic writers in the New Testament used a variety of metaphors to express the church in her growth. The notions of a temple being built, a family coming together, the functioning of the Body of Christ, among others provides a plethora of ways the church is expressed in the world. Variety and uniqueness should be in the very DNA of every local church. This is why I would appeal to those with apostolic callings to be artistic in the work they do.

In Eph. 2.10, it states we are God’s workmanship, the handiwork of the eternal craftsman. The church is a work of that Jesus builds through the Spirit. This is the poema of God. The lyrical poetry crafted before creation that finds expression in the earth through the church. The context and culture a church finds herself in will offer different canvases and different media to express the reality of Jesus Christ. Some canvases may be small, others large. The media may be oils, acrylics, watercolor or collage. Some may very well be sculptures or even a dramatic work or poetry incarnate. Whatever creative raw materials are found in a given area, Jesus Christ will build His church through the Spirit, the finger of God.

The out working of such expressions of Christ in the world should challenge, stretch and transform us. If we find ourselves only agreeing with the art, the artistic expression is not doing the work of unveiling truth and beauty but merely becoming something petty but pretty. Something ‘pretty/petty’ is nothing more than a sanitized version of the God revealed in Jesus Christ. Sugar coated works of art belie the unrestrained passion the God of creation has for His Bride. Why should we as followers of Christ settle for something less? Why should we stifle or even kill the arts and artists?

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Profound works of staggering genuis

A few years back I had the privilege of standing before Van Gogh’s ‘Irises’ at the Getty Center. It is the one painting there that I will surely see any time I visit. Yet this last time that I saw it, it brought me to tears. Here is this painting, by a tormented soul of a man, now considered a genius years after his death. His paintings are priceless. How is it that paint on a canvas can bring someone to tears or evoke awe? Seeing the paint strokes, the colors, the composition and all the elements comprising the work provide a medium for communication that carries one over to a higher place. I consider Van Gogh a genius because his work still touches people. So much of his life is tied up in his paintings, it was the one thing he had to do, his passion.

The Pauline letter written to the church in Ephesus echoes the passion God has for us. The letter states:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph2.10.NIV (italics mine)

The NASB speaks of ‘workmanship’ and many other translation state, ‘God makes us what we are…’ We are His works of creation, His passion. The Greek word for handiwork is poema. A work of art invested with the very life of God, we have His fingerprints all over us, so to speak. The passion of God, while exemplified in the cross of Christ, is not limited to the cross but encompasses the totality of creation that was and will be redeemed. We are part of that beautifully crafted work and we have the privilege of participating in that work.

I firmly believe every brother or sister in Christ has a work that is potentially a profound work of staggering genius. It is their passion. One aspect of the unrelenting and wild passion of God they can reflect. We all need to find that in ourselves and recognize it others and encourage one another to fulfill that passion. Whether it is painting, poetry, woodworking, teaching, serving the poor, challenging government or whatever that passion might be, pursue it. In addition, do not think about it. Do it.

Grace and peace,

JWR

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