By my Spirit
"See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem's walls in ruins."
I need to be painting this morning but there is something heavy on my mind.
Questions about the place of the "visual" in The Church and for The Church.
A couple of weeks ago after a small prayer gathering one of those present read a short section of scripture- a prophesy from Zechariah- and when he finished and we all opened our eyes my dear pastor turned to me and said,
"Now, paint THAT!"
I take these things very seriously and there seems to be other rumblings in my heart this season that make me feel the Spirit wants to say something now to the people of God visually, tacitly, texturally, intimately... Maybe more than ever before.
This sense I have is growing stronger,...
I hear it in those around me. Yearning.
I spoke with a woman before the service started yesterday at church and she recognized me as an artist who's been involved in ministry in and out of my church.
I shared briefly that we had made some visual offerings within the church throughout the years but we're now mostly outside the church as a creative community.
Her response was "yes, that's the place for (the artists) ministry ,... Outside these walls."
Though I do agree to some extent -I disagree more -and I want to tell you why.
“Knowing what we know about the world, with all its wonder and wounds, what we will do? Do we see ourselves implicated, for love’s sake, in the way the world turns out?” -Steve Garber
It seems that throughout this whole long story of God and his people HE has been speaking to us in many ways but one of those is visual.
I believe it is the kindness of God to use visual means and especially beauty to speak to, lead, and woo his bride.
He did -after all -give us eyes to see,... ears to hear,..all of our senses.
I wonder what God feels when he sees his literal bride unadorned.
As I pondered these things through the night I remembered the temple in the old texts surrounding God's desires and specific instructions for how those details mirrored the temple in the Heavenly City.
Why did God do this? Yes, we know before Jesus' life and ministry on earth this was Gods dwelling place (with his people) also mirroring the glory of what would one day be fulfilled when the temple veil was torn,...
But what about in this "in-between-time."
What is the place for the visual sacrament in the now, but not yet?
What is the place of texture and color and imagery to communicate ideas of beauty and truth and to add depth and context to the seasons and to undergird worship and the teaching of the word.
In my heart I feel a groaning of the Spirit longing to reveal himself more fully and make known more of the deep and colorful and extravagantly generous heart of God to HIS people.
How deep and wide is HIS love and he calls us to love our fellow believers deeply.
As an artist this is how I best know to express my love,.. by way of generous visual and tangible offerings.
God came near. (tangibly near)
As an artist who is an actual member of a worshipping community I feel especially burdened and responsible for these issues.
"Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about."
I believe our leaders need beauty and visual liturgy to hold onto...reminders of what is true
(my leaders and the visionaries and friends around me) NEED this cup of cold water to help them stay the course and survive their visions and callings...though they may not even realize it.
It seems many times something visually beautiful can help me to slow down and take notice.
I wonder if it is time to use the tangible to help prepare the heart of the Bride for the days ahead?
This feels like a lot of words, but my heart has so many questions;
If the actual church building and liturgy doesn't picture the coming Kingdom and the Trinity then what /who will?
When the church is void of imagination what do outsiders and even followers of Christ come to believe about the character of God?
Why did God use the cloud by day and fire by night to lead the people of God through the wilderness?
What about the image of the snake on the pole raised up for those who might gaze by faith?
Why did God use actual bread and wine as sacrament that could be held and tasted ,... experienced?
Why did Jesus become human and submit himself to our limitations and take on our bodies and our senses.
Why does the Spirit give John such wildly descriptive images in Revelation and of the City, the River, and the Lamb?
What would it mean to bring these anointed and prophetic images into the church?
What would these colors and pictures from the very heart of God do in the heart of His bride?
What if the Holy Trinity is longing to make known a new verse of his lovesong over His church and this time HE longs to engage more of her senses in his romantic pursuit"
What is the place for painting "prophesy" from scripture for a particular faith community to help them hold on to vision and the truth of the coming Kingdom?
What is the place for colored fabric and fine embroidered cloths to drape the cross or for communion to help us imagine THE BRIDE adorned in all her glory.
Where will we see actual glimpses of the coming glory if not in our actual church?
Should our imaginations be left to be developed other places?
When we come together for respite as THE BRIDE and wait together for our groom do we not want to see our longings for him and delight in him stirred? What about our deepest desires to be SEEN AND KNOWN....?
ARE THESE TOO DANGEROUS TO BE LAID VULNERABLE BEFORE THE ALTAR?
Is not beauty/music/poetry the language of the spirit?
Bono seems to think so:)
Is this the time when true worshippers are to worship in SPIRIT and TRUTH?
What does this mean for us?
As lovers do we not long for our hearts to yearn even faint for the courts of our God?
Do we not long to taste the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?
Do we not have responsibility as the creative people of God as we are implicated in this story for loves sake to paint the pictures of the coming Kingdom now?
Do we not carry in these jars of clay a glory that is not of ourselves?
Shouldn't the actual church building be helping the people of God envision the coming glory
all the more as we see the day approaching?
Why did Jesus actually use water to wash his disciples feet to prepare them for what was coming? Why didn't he just wash them with words?
How can we use beauty and symbol, poetry and color to strengthen her heart and adorn her for the return of her Beloved?
“Restless in bed and sleepless through the night, I longed for my lover. I wanted him desperately. His absence was painful. So I got up, went out and roved the city, hunting through streets and down alleys. I wanted my lover in the worst way! I looked high and low, and didn’t find him. And then the night watchmen found me as they patrolled the darkened city. “Have you seen my dear lost love?” I asked. No sooner had I left them than I found him, found my dear lost love. I threw my arms around him and held him tight, wouldn’t let him go until I had him home again, safe at home beside the fire.”
Song of Solomon 3:1-4 MSG
Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God's new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.
living in the tension with you and hopeful HE is coming soon.
COME QUICKLY LORD JESUS.