expressing spiritual stuff through art. Art: it's not just the medium, the end result, the imagination or the skill or what people think of it that defines it, it is as much the human process of human re-creation that express the indefinable essence of what it means to be human. To engage and to try and appreciate art is a journey of embracing community; trying to see beyond yourself and your own world to the world somebody else experiences. It is intensely spiritual, it is the language of God. It embodies the mission of God and the human response.
Liverpool District Synod 8/09/2018
Text Mt 19:16-22
Key text that stood out to me: ‘What one thing must I do to get eternal life?’
DC Sheryl Anderson told a tale of a Holy woman who found a precious stone in a river but later gave it away to a man she encountered who asked for it. The man left and then returned to find out what it was that the holy woman had that she could freely give away a great treasure. This is the basis for the image but overlaid into it is something else that occurred to me from the text.
In the text I saw an impetus youth looking for the simple straightforward answer to know what guarantees eternal life. Jesus kept pointing him to a relationship with his God; the starting point and fulfilment of the ten commandments and the direct call to follow Christ. The cost was to give away his great treasure. Why? presumably because it was a burden to the journey to eternal life, a hindrance. However it might also be to demonstrate his rejection of the idea that wealth is God’s blessing upon the righteous.
The big question being asked by Methodism seems to be ‘What one thing must we do to see growth again?’ We are seeking the magic bullet that will solve our problems; the shortage of ministers, ageing congregations, the lack of people to take on the tasks of the church. This for me was the touching point with the text and I wonder if the answer Jesus gives is the same.
‘Oh yes we have done these things since our childhood’ (But is it working?)
What would it mean for us to cast aside those treasures we hold tightly to? What misconceptions of what makes for faithfulness in our stewardship, mission and worship of God are we rejecting when we do so that we might journey on with Christ to learn what is truly needed?
Based on Jonah ch 4
Was Jonah suicidal? Was he depressed? If so why?
Maybe God had disappointed him?
Maybe he felt that he was made to look a fool? Delivering a message of impending judgement which God then changed his mind and didn’t carry it out.
Perhaps he was just tired and exhausted after three days of confronting an entire city with their sinfulness and doing it alone.
Maybe his expectations were not met and he wondered if his reputation as a prophet was now trashed. Maybe he wondered if he had a future as a prophet.
Perhaps he was just confused by God.
Images from Notts and Derby Synod. My last one as I move out of the District at the end of July. Its a challenging time for me as I have not been stationed as yet and I am wondering what God has in store for me. The last image came to me as I reflected on the challenge.
The theme of the Synod presented a challenge to the Churches and circuits to explore what ‘Intentional Discipleship’ means for us today. It seemed as though God was speaking into my personal situation, and I wonder if there is some mutual cross-over and connection, a shared journey, a stepping out together.
This piece of music expresses the challenge and the only reasonable response. It gives voice to the desire to step out of the boat and conveys that sense of vulnerability.
I created this rather ghastly image a little while after the Grenfell Tower fire and I guess it was my prayer for those that suffered, and continue to suffer. It might seem a strange image and a strange response but sometimes we have to find a way to express our thoughts and prayers (a phrase that has come to be shorthand for ‘do nothing’). We can’t all rush to help and whilst sending money might be helpful, nothing and no one but God alone can sooth the suffering soul. To pray is to do something. My image is a prayer that says that God is present, and was present, in the suffering. Some might say that God would have been more useful to have stopped the suffering before it happened – but that was our task, our collective task, the task of all those empowered to make decisions about fire safety. We dropped the ball and others suffered but God is the one who gathers up the broken in his arms, both those lost to us and those who survived the disaster. So how can we help? How can we comfort those who live on? Thoughts and prayers, and perhaps an increased attention to the needs of others, especially those who are the most vulnerable and least able to secure their own well-being. I’m sure the inquiry will likely highlight other factors that could help prevent such a disaster occurring again. The survivors and witnesses of the fire may gain some comfort from that hope. My hope and prayer for them is that God by some divine power brings peace to their spirits and they can pick up the pieces of life and start over. May God grant them peace and strength to do so.
I have been having a clear out of my stuff and I checked through a box of old journals and stuff and found a few sketches that I had done a good few years back. No titles but it was surprising what I could see in the images that invoked a sense of a spirituality. The one above is of a tree without leaves and yet other trees have leaves. ‘Lifeless’ is how I would title the image and it perhaps reflects how I was feeling in August 2002. I had been redundant for about 6 months without work and finding the search for new work quite dispiriting. It would be another year before I would be working.
This second image created at the same time I’ve called ‘Pathway’ and there is a sense of a pathway leading out into an open space and I guess that reflects the sense of direction that I began to sense as it was about this time I considered that my future work lay in another direction, as indeed it turned out to be the case.
The last image I found has no date but it likely was created about the same time. It depicts an old fishing smack at anchor in still water with some nearby trees and a hill in the distance. ‘Stillness’ is the title I would give this one and it perhaps reflects the stillness of a working boat that is waiting for the tide before putting out to sea to catch fish. Interesting that this is perhaps a suitable metaphor for the work that I would soon be engaged in in working for the Church (reference to Jesus calling of the disciples, Simon and Andrew – Matthew 4:18-20 ), although at the time I had no idea where, when or how that would take shape.
Recently I have had the opportunity of a quite Day (Under 5s) and a guided retreat (MDO area group) and I have taken art materials along with the view that they may help. The result has been 4 different images (3 from the quite day and one from the retreat) and a bit of poetry.
The first three are from the quite Day
I thought about how knife-edge it can feel be to operate on the boundaries of your comfort competence (what you know you can do) and trust that the Holy Spirit can enable competence where you are beyond your experience.
The last image is from the MDO Area Group retreat
We are Deacon
This image started of as prayer bubbles of thankfulness in paint (play) and developed into relationships of Deacons, MDO, Methodist Church, Jesus, Father and Holy Spirit.
I wrote some Haiku to go with it (which I did as I went along) as this was something suggested as an option in exploring the issues of gratitude, Promises and Living truthfully in the context of the shared life of the Methodist Diaconal Order. My first attempts at Haiku.
I tried to think of gratitude in terms of rhythm of change as an antidote to grumbling. My initial thought was the natural rhythm of a boat and how a crew needs to develop a sympathetic movement to enhance the speed or risk slowing the boat down by trying to force the pace of maneuvers.
She has her rhythm
You cannot force change on her
You can move her flow
This then developed
To Move in God time
to measure the pace of life
is to be in peace
In terms of promises I thought about the importance of being at one with each other, committed to the relationship. These two poems try to cover this sense of interdependent commitment. I really like the first one. It conjurers up the image of a rope.
We Strands together
Take up the strain together
and hold together
and the second of the two
Others me complete
Others together complete
Others I complete
and finally on Living truthfully three more
Open Book I seek
Open Book I am not yet
Some Pages I share
Some pages I keep hidden
Some pages despair!
Christ rewrites each page
with mercy, grace and forgiveness
Jesus saves each page
For all the Victims. The abused. The abuser. The broken community. The Crucified Christ.
This music was part of my inspiration – the Lyrics just seem to fit so well with my prayer