Saturday, July 21, 2012

Theological Reflection part 1 - The Artist in Residence

I hope that the poem can stand on its own, but for those who want to read it here is my own reflection on it in three parts.  The text of the poem is in bold italics.

The Artist in Residence: Aurora, Colorado, 2012

I’d heard the phrase “artist in residence” before and it felt important to lead with that.  To me it conveys that God is not one who comes and goes but who stays in the community, especially in the midst of hardship and tragedy when our pain makes God seem absent.  The overall witness of the Old Testament is of a God who stubbornly refuses to turn his back on his people and just walk away, no matter how they treat him.  One of the most beautiful metaphors in the New Testament, somewhat hidden in the English translations but clear in the Greek, is in John 1:14 where it says the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us.  That “dwelt among us” phrase comes with the image of “pitched his tent.”  Remember that while for us, pitching a tent is a very temporary stop, in ancient days and among semi-nomadic people, it’s an image of permanently joining the family/community. 

The Artist worked in glass, and blew a glorious gazing sphere.

Luminescent, layered, rainbow swirls of every color.  The object of delight reflected his face, his eyes, his smile.

He held it close.  It sang to him.

Creation was good, beautiful, a “reflection” of the goodness and beauty of the Creator, yet apparently quite fragile.  The object of delight was not just a “thing” but in relationship with the Creator: it sings to him.

It shattered
in his hands.

This is the core.  Creation is broken, humans are broken.  Not just flawed or “imperfect,” not just cracked or in need of some glue or a band-aid, but in a real sense shattered beyond repair.  Those who have thought deeply about the human condition, or looked deeply into their own hearts, I believe, recognize this truth. 

Why did it shatter?  Did it “leap” from God’s hands?  Did God hold the fragile sphere too tightly or drop it?  Did someone else play a role, or was there a flaw in the design?  These questions are not addressed, but the fact that the questions exist is acknowledged in the poem: it shattered in his hands.

Shards of glass
cut deeply in his flesh.  He bled, he wept.

The depth of God’s love for and delight in creation is matched by the depth of his pain and suffering over it’s brokenness, and matched by the depth of his commitment to caring for and redeeming it.  Any insight you gain into the depth of God in one of those areas illumines for you the depths of the other two.

Part 2.

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