A lawyer, scientist and engineer sit talking about God. “I’m telling you, God’s a scientist–he cloned Eve from Adam,” says the scientist. “No, he’s an engineer–he constructed the heavens and the earth before he made humans,” says the engineer. Both of them look at the lawyer, who seems stumped. Then the lawyer speaks up, “No, you’re both wrong. Before the heavens and the earth were created there was chaos–now just who do you think created that?” Well, at any rate, God is a creator. My question today: what does it mean to be created in the image of a creator?
It’s not exactly commonplace to say God is an artist. The person on the street might agree God is artistic, but an artist? They can picture him with a long beard, but not a goatee. An engineer, a scientist, or even a lawyer, but not … Jackson Pollock. Well, I say, consider the lilies of the field. Although scientists suggest their beauty is not unnecessary, it sure seems that way to me–I see an artist at work as they neither toil nor spin, standing beautifully arrayed, like Solomon in all his glory. Likewise, when Jesus tells a parable, I’m impressed with his verbal skill, his wit, his imagination. He likens prayer to the pesky man who wakes his neighbor up in the middle of the night knocking on the door asking for bread, and the man gives him some bread just to get rid of him. It’s a bit of hyperbole, a little tongue-in-cheek, but warm, memorable, realized, creative. I give it two thumbs up. Artistic acts are a part of divinity.
The urge to create is universal, an inherited trait from God. I find creating art often approaches worship, perhaps a prayer, a hymn, a sacrament. It’s akin to discipleship. I feel closer to God when I write, like I’m following my creator. And this is bigger than a piece of paper or a canvas. Our very surroundings, our words, our deeds can all become works of art, our relationships a ballet, our world a stage. “There is beauty all around, when there’s love at home.” Maudlin, yes, but still true.
Of course, evil can be creative too. I’m reminded of a scene from Schindler’s List when a Nazi soldier skillfully plays Mozart, I believe, on a piano while his comrades butcher the family who owned it.
When you try to explain how art makes you closer to God, do you ever feel short changed? Ever feel, at best, your efforts are viewed as a nice hobby, at worst, an extravagant luxury, time wasted. What do you think? Could they be right? Is art a mere luxury, ultimately a waste? Something impractical? I’ll finish with this episode from Matthew 26: 6-13, a story of a wasteful act that is remembered merely for its beauty.
6: Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,
7: a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table.
8: But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?
9: For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.”
10: But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.
13: Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”