image :: Forest Edge, James Ensor (1877, Belgian)
“His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” Romans 1:20
I get tons of questions and responses to the blog, and my current practice is to keep all of them private. Some of you have been curious about how I think about the various elements of each post. I thought I would say a word about the use of art & music with the 2018 Lenten Readings. Below are a few thoughts I’ve shared in the past that others have found helpful. I hope that they might help you get ready for this year…
Both daily readings – the Scripture and the accompanying prayer- tell the truth directly. In His Word, God directly tells us the truth about who He is, who we are, and how He accomplishes our salvation. The written prayers that accompany each daily watchword are not Scripture. But they do quote and endeavor to directly speak to the truth of the Scripture, aiding us in our reflection upon God’s Word.
The included artwork will often come at the truth indirectly. The artist’s job is to tell the truth in a way that appeals to the imagination. They stop us in our tracks with captured beauty. They set us off balance with captured pain. They use color, form and sound to connect to our sub-consciousness and emotions in a way we can feel, but have difficulty articulating.
In light of the very direct truth-telling of Bible passages like Romans 1:18-21, we understand that every human being knows, at some level, that there is a God, that there is an eternity, that good and evil are not relative, that love exists, that we need grace, that redemption is possible. Good art, regardless of the spiritual convictions of its maker, will reflect human inherent knowledge of God, to some degree or another. Even art explicitly designed to promote a non-Christian message will often do some poignant truth-telling. God’s common grace for the skeptic keeps their art from being completely untruthful. Remaining sin in the Christian keeps their art from being as clear and compelling as it ought to be.
When any art gets at this underlying reality which all people intuitively know, we stir the knowledge in their imaginations and undermine the intellectual concepts that seek to smother what their hearts “know”. So, art can tell the truth through sensory experience. Art can raise the questions that only the Good News of Jesus Christ can answer.
Some of the music I pick speaks the truth directly– like Bach chorales and Gospel standards. Some of it evokes feeling and emotions, painting scenarios in desperate need of God’s grace– like Anna St. Louis’ Fire. She sings about the sun rising, smoke clearing, and a feeling of an escape from some heavy burden. Who doesn’t know how to long for that?
Some of the art I choose clearly paints a Biblical scene. Most of it surprises, makes us scratch our head, and flies under the radar to set the stage for God to speak to us through His Word. Like the viewpoint James Ensor’s Forest Edge. The rich impression of a dark, distant treeline. The sense that there is a Threshold. Who isn’t looking toward the Forest Edge?
Whether it’s in the freedom we want, the gap we see, or the longing we feel, our need is the theater for the glory of God. I look forward to Jesus leading us to Himself this coming Lenten season. I’m grateful you’ve joined us, or you can sign up here.
sound :: Fire, Anna St. Louis (2017)
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