October 21, 2009

Visual Faith

Art is a subject I’ve wanted to study – not art history, and not the how-to. I’ve collected many books and it may be what I write on next, having blogged about the calendar for two years and putting it in book form (I really have several books in meself to write!) (and, as I’ve written sometime this summer, I am going to change my blog format … someday … when I’ve more time … haha!). But my art quest began moreso with “Come to me as a child” and the desire to Recapture the Wonder (which is the title of a book by Ravi Zacharias, and then there’s Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconelli). I want to study of the power of beauty, the power of the visual – Visual Faith.

I got a new Bible for this year’s devotional/ meditational/ lectio divina/ contemplative reading. It’s called the Mosaic Holy Bible, using the word mosaic as referring to us believers. On our own we are little more than bits of stone and glass, but together we make up the body of Christ, reflecting His image. The front third of the book has guided Scripture readings appropriate to the church season, along with writings encompassing a great cloud of witnesses from old to new; prayers, hymns, and poems, as well as full-color artwork – all for engaging the soul. Then the last 2/3 is the New Living Translation. I’ve not read that translation and am finding it refreshing.

I recently read the section titled “Creativity”. Remember, calendar girl me has told you our Christian Year begins the end of November with the start of Advent, and we are now in the season called “Ordinary Time”, the 22nd week after Pentecost. I really resonated with this creativity theme. Even if I weren’t artistic (which if you say that of yourself, I’d question your definition of “artistic” and maybe some quotations and comments here will help you think this through) … I’d still value the thoughts worth pondering.

“Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us” … So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them … Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
- Genesis 1

“Deep within all of us is a longing to recapture a sense of wonder, to marvel at the mystery of God and His creation like we did as children. But through the years our capacity for wonder has been stifled by busyness and ambitions, and we have resigned ourselves to explaining away all that once made us gasp in awe … Our sense of wonder is a blessing from God.”
- Ravi Zacharias

“Every experience of beauty points to infinity.”
- Hans Urs von Balthasar

All creation proclaims God’s craftsmanship and glory day after day and night after night—they make Him known in their way.
- Psalm 19

“I am creating new heavens and a new earth … Be glad, rejoice forever in my creation! And look!”
- Isaiah 65:17,18

I have been looking. I do notice. I do appreciate, hopefully beyond a rational assertion … but in the realm of aha!!!!!

“Art has long been a spiritual practice. Its modern stigma has undeservingly dampened Christian creativity and squelched the innate novelty with which we were formed. Fortunately, churches are once again beginning to embrace the full range of the arts, exploring the nonverbal ways God is glorified.

Of course, we were given this very mandate and model for creativity in God’s creation—nature and humanity are brave testaments to an imaginative Creator. As we enter an awestruck posture, it is right and appropriate to respond using the creative nature with which we’ve been blessed.”
- Mosaic Holy Bible

Our imagination as Christians has been primarily nourished by the spoken and written word as well as music. The church and its experience with beauty appears to be estranged, and the role the church could offer has been supplanted by art galleries and theaters. In desiring to respond to the presence of God with the whole of our beings, is there a place for visual artists and their responses in church? In saying above that we’ve been moreso nourished by literature and music, could I also say that we’re mal-nourished in our visual imagination?

The importance of creativity “is that the Christian life involves the use of the imagination—after all, we are dealing with the invisible [like God], and the imagination is our training in dealing with the invisible—making connections…”
- Eugene Peterson

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
- Albert Einstein

The root word for imagination is “image”, meaning a visual representation, a visible impression, a mental representation or idea, a simile or metaphor. The visual has a way of sticking in our memory and making demands on our conscience long after the explanations have been rubbed thin by the frictions of daily life. We do need moral propositions and principles, but we need images too, because we think more readily in pictures than in propositions. And when a moral principle has the power to move us to action, it is often because it is backed up by a story or visual image.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God … Through Christ God created everything … “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself …”
- Colossians 1:15-20

“Creator God, your Spirit enables our own creative abilities as we allow you to work through our words, our hands and our imaginations.

We thank you for the beauty of created things, for pots and bowls moulded by the skilful manipulation of clay, for a portrait which captures the essence of a personality, for the written word which transports us to a faraway place, a poem that captures the raw emotion of a moment, a prayer that speaks to our heart and soul.

You are present wherever mankind opens its eyes to see, can be heard whenever mankind opens its ears to hear, can be felt as hands are outstretched in faith.”
- John Birch

“The desire to create is not taught. The world and everything in it is the workmanship of the Creator. As created beings, we carry the image of God, not least of which is an innate urge called creativity.

Creativity is a spiritual discipline that followers of Jesus have too often ignored. As far back as Genesis, God gave humanity an artistic assignment. He asked Adam to name the animals and thus invited him into the creative process with himself, the Creator.

Unfortunately, the beauty and order of creation were soon scarred; God, however, was not deterred. The story of Jesus is the mark of the creative master at work. Only divinity could take something as offensive as the cross and use it to restore beauty. He continues his redemptive plan by empowering us to join him in this creative work … And the Spirit came in power to an expectant group of Christ-followers, and the creative force embodied in one person, Jesus Christ, is now available to everyone.

Peter quoted the prophet Joel to describe what has happened: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people’ (Acts 2:17). And with these words, God’s creative spark ignites the hearts of men and women in a whole new way.

God the Creator now places his divine imprint on our spirits. Pentecost shatters the glass ceiling of possibility. The garden is now replaced with an upper room, and the new assignment goes beyond simply naming his creation to calling his creation into a regenerative process, making old things new.

Wherever there is a divide, God’s creativity in us leads us to build a bridge. Wherever there is doubt, God’s creativity in us stirs our imagination and produces faith. Wherever there is despair, God’s creativity in us pictures and pursues hope. Wherever there is injustice, God’s creativity in us finds a way to show his love.”
- Mark Miller

Travis had a poster that said “Expose yourself to art”. And I think it was Madeline L’Engle who said to not judge art, but let art judge you.
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