Matthew - Consider the Lillies
A week ago I drove to Hope College to the World Christian Lecture Series talk given by Makoto Fujimura. Mako and I have “known” each other for a number of years (I say “known” because we hardly ever see each other, but for every so often, still a friend and mentor from a distance) and so for him to be visiting so close to my home was a great delight.
He talked, of course, about the Four Holy Gospels project. The image here is from his Matthew piece. He quoted Emily Dickinson who said that Jesus’ command to “consider the lilies” was the only commandment she fully obeyed. Equally compelling came his words around his Gospel of John piece which reflected his engagement of that glorious verse which says, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35, perhaps my favorite verse).
Of particular interest to me as well is the work he’s doing in contemplating what he’s called a “visual theology.” His work is the epitome of that and yet the necessity at times for him to put words to it is a privilege, as much as I would like (in my ideal world) for visual art to speak solely or mostly through its own visual language, to hear a man of great kindness who is “gracefully convicted” about the place of beauty in the journey of the church. He spoke of the way in which beauty accompanies function and that ugliness is the ultimate in wastefulness. Citing the classic “Frederick the Mouse” book, he reminded us that, “Beauty may be the only thing that keeps us alive.”
I have been overwhelmed of late by the various debates and vitriol spewing out of the mouths and blogs of the world and Mako’s words and art breathed new life into my own work last week…he brought hope again. His gift to the world is beauty and grace, and not the wishy-washy kind, but the kind in which dwells the beautiful Word become flesh once again. He reminded us that extravagance good, that our worship is to be beautiful, and that we are in the planning stages for the cosmic wedding to come!
We are called to play! True theology is, then, incarnate in play through our media (mine is primarily paint) and engaged in the fullness of our imaginations.
While at the Hope College event, I did buy his book Refractions which includes essays which I’ve read before. One in particular is entitled Falling Towers and the Art of Tea which I read when if first came out shortly after the 9/11 events. Of any essay or book or work of literature I’ve ever read (and I am serious), that essay changed my life. It opened new world to me, and jarred my stagnant heart loose again, just as it did over a decade ago. I’ve had to remember the change of direction my life took shortly after 9/11, that my life is to be about true metanoia or turning back to the God I love and the things I’m called to do no matter where I am.
That said, I have been hesitant to begin writing again for folks to follow along on my journey (with writing comes the risk that others will read and respond, and this has led to some scars for me in doing so…thus my 3 year blogging absence). But I must write, just as I must make art, and I’m looking forward to sharing, with those who will follow, another journey of beauty and grace.