I don’t know who first said this, but it fits where I am. I don’t know much about art be it Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci or Jackson Pollock, but I recognize that art has an amazing power to communicate ideas and emotions to us in a way that the written word doesn’t; to use another catchphrase, a picture paints a thousand words. It’s not that it’s better, words have explosive power when used well, but it’s different, engaging us in a different way. It’s no wonder then that over the years Christians have used art to celebrate our faith, to worship God and to communicate our beliefs to others. Sadly, I fear the Protestant church lost sight of this at the Reformation, with the removal of images and statues spearheaded under Oliver Cromwell they threw out the baby with the bathwater and now many of our churches are devoid of any decoration at all other than the Cross.
The way in which God can speak through the arts is something we’ve explored a lot in our Wednesday evening Bible Study group. In a recent course we watched a creative Bible story retelling each week, communicating the Scriptures in new and engaging ways, ranging through cartoons, dance, and drama. Our current course is using a variety of paintings based on Bible characters and episodes as a springboard to see them from a fresh angle as we discuss what the painter is trying to say through their work. I think we’d all agree that it has been a stimulating and challenging course.
This week we looked at the life of John the Baptist through two paintings by Caravaggio. One presented us with an image of a young and pure John reflecting on a lamb that stood at his feet, representing Jesus, the Lamb of the World (the one who was to be sacrificed for us). The second showed the killing of Jesus by Herod; a much bleaker affair all together. The challenge of his life struck us all – here was a young man who having weighed up who Jesus was, was willing to give up everything to prepare everyone for his coming, even if it meant angering the authorities and even risking martyrdom. Have we, like him, grasped who Jesus is and what he demands from us? Are we willing to make him the focus of our lives?
The thought I was left with was that we, like John, are called to prepare people for the coming of Jesus, not just to looking back at his life, death and resurrection, but looking forward to the day when he returns to complete his work of putting all things right and bringing everything under God’s authority. I was also left with a question, how can we communicate this to our culture today? Through words? Art? Music? Ideas on a postcard, in a doodle or a song please!
Church Newsletter, 03.03.13