Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Model for Welcoming Change

Acts 11:1-18
John 13:31-35
I love this story in Acts!  It is such an important story that it is told twice, once as a simple narrative and a second time by Peter as he defends his actions before some very critical believers in Jerusalem.  This is the story that is told to model how the new Christian community welcomes change as their movement grows in unexpected ways.  The detailed narrative is in chapter 10, the chapter before what we heard this morning.  
What do we learn from this powerful story about how the church welcomes change?  First, our scriptures teach us that we should not be surprised by something new.  In fact, we should learn to expect new things from God.  We read in Isaiah 43:19, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  That is the arc of the Biblical story.  God is always ahead of us.
So how does change happen in this story?  The Holy Spirit plants this new idea through visions to both Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and Peter, the devout Jewish disciple of Jesus.  This change comes from both outside and inside the faith.  Peter refutes the idea of eating unclean animals using the law that he knows well.  If this vision is a test on scriptural purity, Peter ought to be passing it, but he keeps having to take the test over again and hearing a new word from God, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”  Peter is a good Jew.  He knows the scriptures and he follows the law given in the Torah.  He has grown up in the faith and is observant.  He knows the tradition.  
While Peter is still trying to make sense of what he has seen, the Spirit told him that three men were going to ask him to go with them.  When they arrived, Peter offered them hospitality and then went with them to meet Cornelius the next morning.  Because of the vision he saw and the nudging of the Spirit to go with the men, Peter was willing to venture into a new place that was off limits to an observant Jew.  He hardly preached a few sentences when the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household and friends with such power that Peter was astonished.  He saw the fruit of the Holy Spirit where he never expected it.  He experienced God working in a place and a way he never imagined with people Peter had learned to call unclean.  Peter remembered the words of the voice in his vision, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”  When he interpreted his experience in light of his vision, we came to the conclusion that he could not withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit, even though it was against the Christian understanding of both Jewish law and tradition.  He reasoned that God had already acted on behalf of these Gentiles, therefore he needed bless and welcome them into the body of Christ.  Of course he had to defend his actions before the rest of the Church.  It took time and many other experiences before the Church fully welcomed Gentiles without requiring them to become Jews first.  There were a number of questions that needed to be addressed.  Change takes time.  But we have a model for learning how to follow God into a new future.
This is a powerful story about how we learn to discern that God is doing a new thing, at least new to us, and embrace change.  As Methodists, we ground our discernment in scripture.  That’s where we begin.  And so it’s important for us to know and study the scriptures, to read them carefully for genre, audience, intent, and to consider the limits of translation.  We read the scriptures for their witness to the experience of others of the power and mystery of God. But we don’t stop with the scriptures.  We use a four pronged approach to try to understand how God is leading in change: scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.
We look to the tradition of the Church to see how faithful Christians before us have interpreted scripture and found meaning for their lives.  The tradition is our history, and as history, it includes our best ideas and our worst mistakes.  We learn from both.  What has worked in the past, and what has not?  We can look to the tradition to see how the Church has embraced change over the centuries to know that neither the Church nor the faith is ever static—and that is precisely why both have endured.
The third prong of our discernment model is our own experience.  After all, the whole of the Bible is a record of human experience.  Your experience and mine is as relevant and revelatory as that of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Ruth, David, Ezra, Isaiah, Hosea, Peter, Andrew, John, Mary Magdalene, Paul, Barnabas, Lydia, or Timothy, just to name a few.  We also try to make meaning out of the events of our human lives and our encounters with the divine.  Our experiences often challenge our beliefs and expectations and make us have to rethink our suppositions.  I remember moving to Japan as a young bride and encountering a culture entirely different from my own.  It was a revelation to discover another world where the language, architecture, customs, religion, money, traffic rules, everything was so very different from the world I knew and still good and effective and normal for its citizens.  Wade Davis, an Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, says it this way, “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”   Our experience teaches us about the unique manifestations of the human spirit even when we do not travel.  All we have to do is listen to the experiences of others with an open mind to embrace new possibilities.
Finally, we apply our God-given ability to think and reason.  I like Brian McLaren’s quote on the front of our bulletin,
I guess you could say that the Bible is a book that doesn't try to tell you what to think. Instead, it tries to teach you how to think. It stretches your thinking; it challenges you to think bigger and harder than you ever have.
There are so many questions we can ask.  Where do I see God in this?  Do I see the fruit of the Holy Spirit?  What do I know that I didn’t know before this experience—about God, myself, and what it means to be human?  If I were the other person, what would I need or want?  What is the most loving response?  Would people know that I am a Christian by my love in the way I act?  
These are the four tools we use to discern God’s leading in times of change:  scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.  We often call these the Wesleyan quadrilateral, but as you can see from Peter’s story, this is a biblical model.  We need good tools for discerning the direction to take because we know that change is certain in life.  There are a number of words that Christians use for change:  conversion, transformation, newness of life, rebirth.  I like “changed from glory into glory.”  It acknowledges that we don’t move from wrong to right, but from one best way of seeing God to the next best way of seeing God.

We have just made an important decision in adopting our new welcoming statement and joining the Reconciling Ministries Network and the five ethnic caucuses that work for full inclusion in the United Methodist Church.  Not only have we agreed to be fully inclusive in the way we do ministry, we are joining the work of changing our governing document, The Discipline.  Living into change takes time.  As we are changed from glory into glory, may God grant us deep wells of wisdom and wide margins of grace.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In the Breaking of the Bread

Isaiah 43:1-12
Luke 24:13-35


     Abram welcomed three strangers into his tent, and showed them his best hospitality, only to discover that they were angels sent to deliver the good news that his wife Sarah would bear a child within the next year.  The Bible tells us that Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 89, so I’m not sure how good you could call that news.
     A widow in Zarephath risked sharing her last meal with a stranger, only to discover the stranger to be Elijah, a prophet of God.  Her jar of meal and jug of oil never ran empty.
     So strong is the value of hospitality, that the writer of Hebrews admonished his readers, “Let mutual love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  The Biblical witness tells us that we meet God in the stranger.
     That’s what happened to the two followers of Jesus who were walking to their home in Emmaus that first Easter Sunday.  Their hearts were still heavy with grief while they tried to wrap their minds around implausible stories about angels and an empty tomb.  A stranger joined them.  He asked a few questions and then began to interpret the ancient salvation story in light of the recent events.  He began with Moses and moved through the prophets.  
     Could there have been a better preacher or teacher than Jesus?  And yet, if we are to believe the witness of some of his own disciples, they didn’t recognize him in his teaching.  They had been talking about Jesus and all the things that had happened in the past week—the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and later, his arrest and crucifixion.  How close they came to Jesus during that week we don’t know.  As followers close enough to have heard about the resurrection from the women, they may have also heard about Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and his prayer in the garden.  They may have watched at a distance as he was crucified, suffered, and died.  They knew he had been buried and the tomb sealed with a stone.  
And then a stranger joined them as they walked.  For several miles Jesus walked with his followers illuminating the scriptures, interpreting everything in the scriptures about himself.  And they still did not recognize him.  When they arrived at their home, the two disciples prevailed on the stranger to stay and eat a meal with them.  During dinner that night the stranger took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  In the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened, and they saw Jesus.  Had they not invited the stranger to share their table, they would not have seen the risen Christ.
     What do you know about breaking bread?  What are your experiences of inviting strangers to eat with you?  I’ve told you about growing up in a military town where my grandma or aunt invited soldiers to dinner after church.  Our family heard wonderful stories about big cities and small towns and other families.  My Grandma saved food during the depression for anybody who came to her door looking for a meal.  Like the widow of Zarephath, somehow Grandma’s pantry never ran out.  The strangers at our table created and preserved community.  I didn’t get it then.  Sometimes I resented the people we had to get to know and wished that it could just be our family—where we could be more comfortable.  But my grandma, the Sunday school teacher, didn’t care how snotty we kids were, she was always as gracious as if it had been Jesus himself sitting there eating and telling stories.  Church potlucks function the same way.  Whoever shows up belongs as we get to know each other better sharing food and stories.
     One of my favorite theologians, Glàucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, says that it doesn’t matter if we are eating together or studying the Bible together, whether we break bread or break open the word in Sunday worship, if there is no stranger with us we have not welcomed Christ, we have not entertained angels.  Oh, to be sure, I see Christ in you, and I hope that you see Christ in me.  It’s just that we miss the unexpected story, the moment when our eyes are suddenly opened and we know that we are in the presence of God.   When we welcome the stranger, we welcome Christ.  
     This is a very remarkable story that the church tells about the experience of the early church and why communion was so important to them.  
You can talk about Jesus as much as you want,
you can search the scriptures at length,
you can preach and you can teach,
but you will not meet the risen Christ until the bread is
taken, blessed, broken and shared in the community of the beloved.
That is where, the early church tells us, you will meet the risen
Christ.  That is when our hearts will burn within us.
So can I mess with your minds for a minute?  Sometimes, it’s helpful for me to ask a few “what if” questions.  What if it’s really not Jesus who joins the disciples on the road to Emmaus?  After all, no one recognized him.  What if it’s someone they don’t know?  There were a lot of people who followed Jesus.  The two friends walking on the road to Emmaus are not named because, I think, they have not been central to the story before.  They are not part of the twelve, but men who were part of Jesus’ larger congregation, if you will.  So what if the man who joins them on the road is another member of that larger group of followers?  He adds his questions and experiences to the conversation.  Along with the other two, he is trying to make meaning of the events of Holy Week.  He’s trying to put it all together.  
I teach a class in the ecumenical seminary at Seattle University that asks students to make meaning out of their first experiences of ministry as interns along with what they have learned in classes and know from their own Bible study.  They spend a year with me learning to put it together.  They ask hard, deep questions.  They pray, think, listen, and write.  And sometimes what they write brings me to tears because I suddenly see the face of Christ or the compassion of God as they discover it for themselves.  It truly is an experience of my heart burning within me.  My faith is suddenly enflamed and I fall in love with God all over again.  Wonder and love wash over me and I am in awe.  Their experience of ministry with a stranger I will never meet has broken open the word, and Christ is present.  Maybe, just maybe, that’s why they didn’t recognize Christ on the road—he wasn’t present until their hearts were suddenly opened with the familiar ritual of breaking bread.   
     What all the post-Easter experiences of the risen Christ tell us is that the Church and individual disciples continued to be surprised by the real presence of Christ at unexpected moments and especially when they broke bread together.  That’s why we come to the table every week.  We don’t know when the circumstances in our lives will leave us gasping, or weeping, wondering, or rejoicing.  We don’t know when one of us will be on our knees.  We break bread together every week because we don’t know who Christ needs to meet at the table. The table needs to be spread and ready.  And so we come to the table, and invite anyone who will come, to join us.  We hope to find the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread.  We expect to see Christ unexpectedly in our midst.  We long to behold our very selves in the broken bread and to become what we eat—the body of Christ.  We pray for our eyes to be opened.  
     Today, when we come to the table, I invite you to hold each person in prayer as they eat and, while you are praying, look for the risen Christ.  Without doubt, he is here.  The Church continues to witness to the presence of the risen Christ.  Hear this blessing written by Chuck Wilhelm when he was a divinity student at Claremont.
"I pray that Christ may come to you early in the morning, as he came to Mary that morning in the garden. And I pray that you find Christ in the night when you need him as Nicodemus did.  May Christ come to you while you are a child, for when disciples tried to stop them, Jesus insisted that the children come to him.
"I pray that Christ may come to you when you are old, as he came to old Simeon's arms and made him cry: 'Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen.'
"And may Christ come to you in grief as he did for Mary and Martha when they lost their brother. May Christ come to you in joy as he did to the wedding in Cana.  And may Christ visit you when you are sick, as he did for the daughter of Jairus, and for so many who could not walk, nor stand straight, nor see, nor hear till he came.
"May the Lord Jesus come in answer to your questions as he once did for a lawyer and a rich young ruler. And in your madness may he stand before you in all his power as he stood among the graves that day before Legion.
"May Christ come to you in glory upon your dying day as he did to the thief hanging beside him that Good Friday. And though you seldom come to him, and though you often 'make your bed in hell,' as I do, may you find Christ descending there, where the apostles in their creed agreed he went -- so you would know there is no place he would not come for you."

Let us pray.

Gracious host, you set before us a table and invite us to be your guests.  Through your unfailing love, you set a place for us at your eternal banquet.  Give us the grace to set an abundant table and practice startling hospitality in your name so that all may come to recognize their home in your healing heart.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Déjà Vu

Psalm 33
John 21:1-19

         We have begun a tradition at the Easter sunrise service.  We use the gospel reading for this morning because we meet around a fire by the water in the early morning.  Since so much of the setting feels like this reading, we cook a salmon over the fire.  Water lapping, birds singing, the warmth of the fire and smell of salmon—our senses full at the first light of morning.  And, I tell you, I can feel Jesus’ presence.  It is a powerful experience.  When we leave that place, the smell of the wood fire lingers in our hair and our clothes.   This year I forgot which sweater I wore to the sunrise service and put it on the following Friday as I was walking out the door to catch a ferry.  It was heavy with the fragrance of the Easter fire.  There was no time to change, thank heavens, because all day long the memories of Easter clung to me.    
     The last chapter of John’s gospel reminds me of that lingering fragrance.  Some scholars believe that it is an addition to the original work.  It’s constructed of a series of images from the disciple’s life with Jesus: 
·      Jesus calls to them across the water, similar to the time he walked out across the water just before dawn.
·      He instructs them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat and their catch is almost too large for the nets to hold, just as he did once before when he first called the disciples to follow him.
·      The disciple whom Jesus loved recognizes Jesus by his voice, so similar to the story of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb.
·      Peter impulsively jumps into the water—like the time he tried to walk on the water.
·      Jesus has prepared a breakfast of bread and fish, the same food that fed 5,000 in the miracle of loaves and fishes.
·      Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them just as he did that night in the upper room.

And then this line, “None of them dared ask him ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord.”  Apparently it didn’t look like Jesus, but they recognized him through his actions.  That’s an interesting revelation following Jesus’ statement only a few verses back, “Do you believe because you have seen?  Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.”  These déjà vu moments of remembering together allow the disciples to experience Jesus’ presence in another way.  They used to experience the real presence of God through being with Jesus.  They, and all disciples who would come later, including you and me, would have to learn to recognize the presence of God through the ways that Jesus taught:  the abundance and cycles of nature, in the voice of one who loves us just the way we are, through table fellowship, and through actions that bring us closer to God.  This little chapter is like an album of snapshots that reminded the disciples of Jesus’s presence along the journey.  You and I share these snapshots from scripture, and we each have our own experiences of God’s palpable presence to add to them. 

     I think it works this way.  I can’t always say that I’ve felt God’s presence today or this week.  I may have been busy with my own agenda, or I may have felt overwhelmed by problems, or I may have felt alone and depressed.  And then the rain comes—in sheets and torrents, with hail, splattering the windows and making me pause in awe.  Someone I love speaks my name with tenderness.  I break bread with a friend or I come to God’s table with you and I feel God’s presence again.  Theresa said to me on the first Easter she was here, “A little boy with bunny ears served me communion.  That’s the Kingdom of God!”  I heard a seminary student say this week that she used to imagine herself working in a nice cozy non-profit and maybe occasionally leading a retreat, but after an internship working with street people she wonders if that will be enough for her now?  She has fallen in love with God.

         Perhaps the conversation between Jesus and Peter will explain it better.  Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed during Jesus’ trial.  In this déjà vu moment, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him more than these.  Remember that the disciple who is described in John’s gospel as the one that Jesus loved is present.  “Do you love me, more than these, Peter?”  In the Greek, the word that Jesus uses is agape.  In Greek there are three words that we translate as love: eros, which is romantic love; agape, which is familial love or the love of God for humanity, a deep, self-sacrificing love; and philia, friendship.  Jesus uses the word agape.  Peter answers with the word philia, “Yes, Lord, you know that I am friends with you.”  Again Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” using the word agape.  Again Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I’m your buddy.”  Finally Jesus meets Peter where he is and uses the word philia, “Peter, do you love me as a friend.”  There is real sorrow for Peter here.  Perhaps it is in remembering his denial, perhaps it is in hearing the change in Jesus’ question.  I wonder if Peter was having trouble traveling the distance between his head and his heart.  Each time Peter responds to Jesus, Jesus gives him the task of feeding his sheep.  Jesus passes the role of shepherd to Peter.  Peter is called to the work of God’s Kingdom before he’s ready. 

         I know that I don’t answer Jesus’ question honestly everyday with the word agape.  I wish that I could.  But I get in my way.  My sense of inadequacy, my intellectualizations, my selfishness, my spiritual laziness are all signs that I love me way more than I love God.  That’s why I’m here.  That’s not the way I want it to be.  Too often, like Peter, I want to just go back to the comfort of my other life.  But the deepest part of me wants to be able to say “Yes” to God with my whole heart every day.  I yearn to learn to see God in every person and to feel God’s presence in a powerful way most of the time, if not all the time.  The Church learned through the years how to practice the presence of God through spiritual disciplines.  Those spiritual disciplines help each of us create our own snapshots of God’s presence as reminders to keep us on the journey of agape love. 

     Jesus asks each of us, “Do you love me?”  How will you answer from your heart?


     

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Jesus the Artist

Umberto Boccioni, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
Guest Preacher: Theresa Henson

Psalm 111
John 20:19-31


PRAYER

God of divine imagination,
Your are so brilliant.
You create beautiful beings 
that then go create beauty upon beauty.
Guide us together this morning.
Let our time together be a work of art.
Deepen us in our awe and wonder —
our ability to be utterly struck by beauty
and deeply inspired to follow 
your never-ending inspiration.

Amen.


What is an artist? I don’t believe an artist is someone who just paints or sculpts. Artists aren’t simply making objects. I believe an artist is someone who is bringing a message and uses a variety of media to convey that message. I think it is a divine message. Michelangelo had a unique vision of Jesus’ death and his mother Mary’s sorrow that he shared with the world through marble in his piece the Pietà. Monet invited us to see with more feeling, diffusion, and enchantment. The sculpture on the front of your bulletins by Umberto Boccioni, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space is an exciting interpretation of movement. As an art student I looked at that sculpture and was amazed at how a static object could convey so much movement. It made me want to be a sculptor. It helped me realize I had a call to art. Even more, there is something about the movement in that piece that also shows me how I want to move through life. 

Artists take life to the next level, entirely new.

In college I double majored in English and Art — yet for some reason I ended up in seminary for graduate work rather than in a master’s program in fine art. It turned out my professors were always encouraging me to creative responses to our assignments, and to ministry in general. Learning how to be a better ministry leader is also making me a more creative person. My Christian formation, my formation as a human being, and my formation as an artist often feel the same. It is a humble path, full of adventure, ups and downs, fear and courage, and great, great beauty.

Some of you may be wondering how I intend to connect art with Jesus. We do not have any accounts of him painting or sculpting — yet, like artists, he is a creator of beauty. Wherever he goes, he transforms whatever he encounters into beauty. Just as artists do, Jesus is always taking life to a whole new level, entirely new:  Sick and wounded are healed, the grieving are comforted, the agitated receive peace, the misguided receive leadership, the disempowered understand themselves as God’s children, relationships deepen, lack of understanding is replaced with wisdom, desolation is filled with love, despair is replaced with hope and new possibility.

Jesus’ artistic tool is his presence, his radical and extraordinary identification with the creativity of God. He knows his creativity is God’s creativity and he does not shy away from radically transforming the world. Jesus’ artistic tools are his words that he uses to teach, tell stories, and comfort and correct. Jesus’ medium are human beings. He reaches deeply into people and brings transformation in extraordinary ways.

Have you ever noticed how Jesus is always using the imperative tone? Grammatically, this is known as the command. “Follow me." "Feed them." "Be still!” With words, this is the most direct way possible to get people to move. You are literally telling them what to do. I feel like every command and teaching of Jesus has the same deliberate and precise intention as the swing of Michelangelo’s mallet at the tool to carve the marble that became the Pietà. Jesus is trying to transform this reality. He is trying to create something beautiful.

What does Jesus do after he heals someone? I’ll tell you, not much. He doesn’t put a bandaid on it, chitchat about further recovery modalities, or check in on your mother. After he heals someone, the two most common things Jesus says is “Get up!” and Go!” …go to the temple and give thanks, go home to your family, take up your mat and go…when Jesus raises a boy from the dead the scripture says Jesus “returns him to his mother.” 

Jesus doesn’t waste words. He tells stories of beauty, truth, and mystery that are always enlightening us in new ways and that we are still trying to figure out — and it takes up about two inches of space on a page in the bible.

Jesus is always, and with urgency, trying to return people to life, restoring the balance in a whole new way. Get back to life! Life is a cycle of being hurt/sick/out of balance and then finding healing or a new peace and balance wherever you are and engaging with life at a whole new level. Of course, he demonstrates this to us ultimately by he, himself, passing through death to a life and love that now happens to be expanding through all space and time. Here I am, 2,000 years later, talking to you about the creativity of Jesus with a heart that is soaring. I tell you, this unique life and love is expanding. Jesus never promised it would be a smooth ride. Stars collide and explode. How we may organize ourselves as churches and communities around the expanding wisdom and love of Christ may transform, but like our universe, it is expanding.

Throughout time, artists have had the role of opening our hearts. We look at a beautiful painting and we can feel it. Our hearts open to greater wonder and tenderness.

Jesus is an advocate for the heart. He comes into a society full of violence, classism, sexism, racism, legalism, imperialism — all the things that would make any human heart want to shut down. A society so contorted it makes people go insane with heartbrokenness and heartlessness. Death is everywhere and even in his own impending future. Jesus comes reconnecting the heart to the mind and with an artist’s touch, he puts the heart back in the body. I believe this is what Jesus was doing in his healing ministry and in casting out demons. He was taking all the broken parts and, in absolute artistry, creating something new. Jesus is so fully identified with the God of absolute imagination he can see life where nobody else can.

And he says, he insists, don’t shut down your heart! He tells stories, he listens, he welcomes the children and everyone else. He says: Let your heart feel the beauty of God’s grace, let you heart receive healing, let your heart feel loved, let your heart expand in love for God, others, the world. Let your heart feel empowered as a creative agent of life’s, of God’s, pure imagination. Just as in this morning’s Gospel reading, we are invited to believe again. Believe that our beloved teacher is alive, believe in beauty, believe that it’s okay to open our hearts again after so much violence and terror.

One of my favorite artists is Agnes Martin. She concluded her long life a few years ago with all the things considered success: fame and wealth. In my twenties I went to a show of hers in San Francisco and each 12” x 12” drawing was priced at a million dollars. Yet she lived like a monk and refused awards because she claimed she wasn’t the one responsible for the beauty in her work. Over the course of her artistic formation, she had made herself completely a servant of beauty. And you know what her work consists of? Freehand drawn grids, usually in pencil with a wash of some light color. She confounded critics who were always trying to put more into her work than was there — but she wouldn’t let them. Sister Wendy (remember her? ...of PBS' Sister Wendy's Story of Painting show), who had so much to say about art, echoed many critics dismay when she stood in front an Agnes Martin painting and could not tell you why she felt so drawn to it. I believe Agnes Martin’s paintings, in their own unique, simple way are full of devotion to the mystery of life, to God. And people feel it. What we are each called to create could be that simple, and that full of magic and mystery.

The 20th century mystic and interfaith leader, Chiara Lubich, wrote this while meditating upon Michelangelo's Pietà, “the content of art is beauty, beauty is harmony, and harmony is the highest unity…who knows how to compose in harmony the colors and shapes of a picture if not the soul of an artist who is one in the image of God who created it?”

Artists create something from nothing. They bring something into existence that often has no precedence, that simply did not exist before. It can sometimes be lonely as there sometimes is nothing in the external realm that reflects the vision you have inside to bring forth. You don’t know if what you are seeing with your heart’s eye will be received. Perhaps each of us can relate to that somehow in the work we are called to do, relationships we are called to heal, or a just a new way we are called to be. But remember we are called to be a light even if we are the only light shining in the room. Jesus’ vision was God’s vision and Jesus trusts it and he trusts God. He dares to imagine a world of love, justice, and healing in a world where this did not exist. Activists and advocates dare to imagine the same. Artists dare to bring new beauty in the world. Jesus dares to imagine a world of beauty where people understand themselves as sons and daughters of God and who feel empowered to be expressions of this beauty themselves.

Like you and me. No matter what we are called to do, we are called to be creators of beauty — the kind of beauty that takes life to a whole new level.