The Christian Bible can be wielded many ways by those purporting to be followers and preachers of its message. Many aim to rock their audiences out of a lifestyle of indifference by turning scripture into a weapon of control and confrontation through definitive interpretations and simplistic summaries of God’s plan for man, while others uphold it as a lost template for living a safe and pleasant life. Both approaches create an anti intellectual environment where people can feel safe within their constructed subculture and those who don’t agree can stay the hell out.
While reading a review on Amazon about a book by Eugene Peterson, I came across this summary…
“You need to love the Bible, for one thing. I don’t mean love the Bible sentimentally. You need to be one who is willing to embrace the Bible for exactly what it is as it defines itself. It is not a promise book or a guide to “effective” living. Nor is it a book on how to keep out of hell. It is rather an immensely frank compilation of writings that point out God’s presence in human history as a whole and God’s presence in each person’s life. It becomes God’s word to us by virtue of its insistence upon God’s “take” on reality at all points.”
Wish I wrote that.
I’ve been pretty inspired by “new-retro” graphics for this piece, as the designers are seeking succinct but inventive ways to communicate things we find familiar. Similarly, the more complex the message I’m challenged to communicate, the more minimal my work seems to become.
The account of Jesus’ crucifixion is always highly emotive and difficult to convey without familiar sentimentality. At times, this powerful moment in history can loose it’s impact because of this. I hope you might find a fresh idea in this piece and forgive my cheekiness.
May you find this Easter a little unfamiliar.
Spider-Man… Spider-Man… Does what ever a Hindu Deity can…
What is in a name? I’ve never held much value in destiny, especially in the idea of namesakes. To call your child Rex is not going to pave his way to being a king (or a dog). In this article from The Age titled, Bad Boy Names, it details that boys being given unusual or feminine names were more likely to grow up as law offenders; perhaps from being teased or treated differently. A strange concept that has some merit when investigated. As Seinfeld observed, naming your child Jeeves would be condemning him to a life of butler-hood. In the book of Genesis, it was said that God brought his creations to Adam to see what he would name them… God was interested in what man would name his creation. What is the significance of such an act?
I have read that God did this to illustrate man’s mastery over creation. As a parent names their child, so man was given the task to name creation. A child’s name is given, often with the ideas and aspirations that their names carry. People comment on how a name is strong or beautiful. Perhaps the child is named after someone they admired or loved, in the hope that the child would grow up with their similar character. Adam was given the task to name the living creatures, and in this act, man was not only made distinct from the rest of creation, but an integral part in its destiny and future. Part of our struggle with existing in harmony with our world, as we pollute and destroy our environment, drive species to extinction, may stem from the idea that this stuff isn’t really ours; that it is someone else’s problem. It is a worthy reminder that the bible’s description of man’s first act, was to give creation its name, and with it, our hopes for it.
Sometimes we think the only place we can find spiritual revelation is in the Church (though we certainly can), however, sometimes it’s good to be aware that truth can be truth no matter where it is found. Here is an insightful commentary I found in an article from The Age newspaper. The article begins with questioning the Americans’ search for a saviour in Obama, highlighting our fluctuations between hope and cynicism and challenging our notion of what it it means to be saved. Read on…
Even if we don’t believe in a God, at moments of deepest hardship and despair we often find ourselves praying to one in the desperate hope we just might be wrong. “Save us from the time of trial,” says a line in the Lord’s Prayer, recited by Christians every week. Rescue us from the lives we live.
It’s a distortion of Christianity and the other major religions to say that this is what’s at the heart of faith. But many Christians base their faith on a belief that Jesus will come again, in power and glory next time, taking all before him.
This is the time of year when Christians celebrate the birth of the one they believe is the Messiah. At the heart of the story of Jesus’ birth is the tension that defies the logic of our human instinct. Where we look for Messiahs who are all-powerful and removed from our grubby realities, the story of Christ’s birth is anything but that. It’s dependent on human participation, and embedded within the least presentable parts of our lives and communities.
When we look at Jesus — God with flesh and bones — our understanding of a Messiah is redefined. It’s based only and always in love and justice; a power that’s collaborative, not coercive; one that doesn’t demand authority but instead speaks truth to it. The story of Jesus’ birth is not about being rescued from the world, but being taken right into its most fragile and godforsaken places.”
To reach out for a saviour is one of our most natural instincts. However, I think it is important to consider and appreciate how it is that we are being saved. It is time we let go of the notion that God is about a cosmic way to attain a comfortable and trouble free life. God’s love will take us to unpleasant places because to avoid it is to condemn us to an existence of spiritual and emotional infancy. This may be a harsh reality but in this reality, God is with us.
This painting by German artist Ben Willikens is haunting in its familiarity as it harkens to the image of the Last Supper by Leornardo DaVinci. However it is startling, almost offensive that the room is empty; Christ and his followers are missing. Instead, we are presented with a cold and sterile environment, completely devoid life. Standing in front of this painting many years ago, in the Beyond Belief exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, my initial response to this artwork was a sense of sadness and loneliness, as if I came to a party too late and everyone had gone home. Staring from the shadows I can almost hear my own breathing echo in this room. This artwork, to me, was an anti-God statement.
Recently I came across this artwork in a book and I was filled, strangely, with a sense of awe. Around the same time, I had been contemplating the idea of what it means to encounter God. Someone had suggested to me the idea that we find God in the void, that God is the void. We are so desperate to fill the void because we are told that being alone is bad or success is to possess. We become afraid when we stare into a space that we cannot control. But, what if this void is an invitation into a spiritual place, where silence is the language and mystery is a friend? I didn’t see the empty space of Willikens’ painting this time. If you look beyond the empty table and dark doors the space calls you out. Christ has moved, the disciples have gone; a new story is being written beyond this room. Don’t mistake this as a call for action, it is a whisper, a gentle suggestion to stop running, stop striving and encounter the void, perhaps to confront the parts of you that you don’t like and a God you can’t manipulate. DaVinci’s Last Supper will always be a more famous representation of Christ’s life but Willikens’ version points me to the work that continues in all of us.