Ephesians 2:10 (New Living Translation)
“For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
I’ve heard it said that inspiration is often two-thirds perspiration. I believe it’s true.
One of the problems I see nowadays in area of Christian creative arts is that there is too little perspiration in what’s being “created” in the name of creativity. Most of what I see, read, or hear from these venues is shallow, rooted in a shallow understanding of who God is and also who their fellow man is.
Two reasons for this come readily to mind. First, too many Christians these days are self-absorbed. They look to little else other than themselves and their “needs.” It’s a kind of veiled humanism, with its nakedness covered like a fig leaf, then draped in the proper evangelical language. Second, few are willing to work at it. They want to be inspired, but they don’t want to put in the effort necessary to create the good things God wants.
There was a time when the world’s great art, literature, and music was born in the Church. Nancy and I have seen it over and over again in our visits to Europe. The architecture, the cathedrals, the painting, the music, the great works of literature born there were expressions of two things – man’s sense of God’s presence and his awareness of his neighbor.
I gave thought to these things this morning as I read the following words from Frederick Buechner:
“Literature, painting, music – the most basic lesson that art teaches us is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things.”
“Is it too much to say that Stop, Look, and Listen is also the most basic lesson that the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches us? Listen to the cry of the ancient prophets of Israel. Listen to social injustice, says Amos; to the head-in-the-sand religiosity, says Jeremiah; to international treacheries and power-plays, says Isaiah; because it is precisely through them that God speaks his word of judgment and command.”
“And when Jesus comes along saying that the greatest command of all is to love God and to love our neighbor, he too is asking us to pay attention. If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
“In a letter to a friend Emily Dickinson wrote that “Consider the lilies of the field” was the only commandment she never broke. She could have done a lot worse. Consider the lilies is the sine qua non of art and religion both.”
The crux of our modern problem is that we’re so preoccupied with ourselves that we very rarely see beyond the confines of our own wants or needs. The world beyond ourselves is very big indeed. God wants the Christian community to be a wellspring, society’s artists and creators, people who will risk losing themselves as they immerse themselves fully in the work of God. That work, which requires more perspiration than inspiration, is a full time occupation, not a preoccupation with self.
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