From the Artist:
Earlier in March I was very moved by the 3rd Wineskins podcast where David and Joyce were reflecting on Discernment and Calling.
Where David spoke about the verse in 1 John 3:8, which says: “The son of man (Jesus) appeared to “destroy” the works of evil / the devil”. David pointed out that the greek word translated as ‘destroy’ is actually the word ‘Unloose, untie, untangle’. Where evil has had its way, has taken root, where things feel stuck - Jesus comes to unloose the knots... A powerful image.
And in the same podcast Joyce spoke about Ephesians 4:12, which is Apostle Paul’s call for leaders to “equip” the saints for the work of service. And they noted the word for equip is not training, but is the word ‘to mend.’ (This word is often used to describe a broken fish net, or setting a broken bone. It is about healing and restoration, bringing things back into the right place)
As an artist I just found both of those images striking:
● God doing the working of Untangling, Mending.
● Calling us, the church, to participate in the work of untangling and mending.
It felt like it was both a personal and corporate invitation. So for weeks I let that theme roll around in my head, asking God:
● what does this look like visually?
● What are you untangling?
● What is being mended?
And slowly a picture began to form, and I began to sketch it out: A church(representing the structure and the gathered people of God). Not grasping for power, fame, prestige. Not holding on to its hard exterior shell of having it all pulled together. But being transparent, vulnerable, and in humility and vulnerability, turning itself upside down. A surrender, a voluntary exposure. Holding up its own foundations and inner workings for examination... And being met with the gentle, and compassionate gaze and care of the trinity.
The Creator, Son, and Spirit.
Who slowly begins the work of untangling. Pulling apart the knots, the places where evil has found root - in the inner parts, even in the foundations.... and smoothing them out...
And the trinity then turning to the work of Mending, renewal, re-creation.
I saw the hands of the trinity carefully and tenderly knitting the church into a more cruciform shape. The church being conformed into the image of Jesus. The way of Jesus. The way of the cross. Love spilled out.
I sketched it out and recognized that this image is both beautiful and also very jarring. It is a picture of a church being dismantled. Taken apart. It might feel alarming, unsettling.
Yet - I was struck by the posture in this image. What is happening to the church is not out of angst, rebellion, or a demand to tear it all down, but it is the church voluntarily laying itself bare in a posture of humility and surrender.
It is not a diminishment, but a re-forming and a raising up.
It is not an act of resistance to the work of God, or resistance to the people of faith or the ancient traditions, but it is a leaning towards the work of God and taking up the posture of the ancient psalmists, prophets, and disciples. Echoing their repeated personal and communal calls to:
Create in us a clean heart. Refine us. Mold us. Prune us. Shape us.
To represent how this posture is leaning on our ancient traditions and call to humility and surrender I felt drawn to create the elements of the church, the strings of yarn and the cross out of a collage of songs, scripture and common liturgical prayers that demonstrate a posture of surrender, humility, confession, and hope.
Here are some of the words woven in..
● Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, Christ to comfort and restore me.
● Have mercy on us oh Lord, in your great compassion wipe out our offense. Wash us from guilt. Cleanse us from sin. Have mercy on us.
● Into your hands I commend my spirit; I put my life in your hands
● We take up our cross.
● The upside down kingdom.
● The beatitudes.
● The Christ hymn of Philippians 2: "Who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with Godas something to be grasped, but emptied himself... he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.... Therefore God exalted him even more highly (raised him up).
● transfigure us, O Lord,
● Lead us on the path of righteousness for your name sake
I decided to title this painting “Form us to Your Image”. For me this painting felt like an exercise in imagination. What would it look like if we, as the Vineyard churches across Canada, really leaned into this posture of humility? Of surrender? Not clinging to nostalgia of past forms or structures or programs or successes, not holding on to appearances of outward strength and stability or pride, but being open and transparent around how God is untangling us, becoming people of confession and repentance, and yet still being hopeful and anticipating the mending and re-forming that God is faithfully doing to prepare us for what is next. Forming us into the image of Christ. Being confident that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion.
● What would this look like in our communities?
● What would this do for the depth of our own faith?
● What would this open up in our witness to the world?
Could we give ourselves space to imagine this? To lean into this?
This was where my heart and mind and creative spirit have been reflecting on the past few weeks.
Then this morning I opened up my Vineyard Canada monthly email newsletter and I read David’s reflection. Which feels deeply connected to this theme. This is what he writes this:
Is it possible for us to commit to a cruciform shaped dialogue that results in vulnerability? Can we cultivate the meekness that fosters the patience and restraint required to listen well? Will we lean into the finished work of the cross of Christ which frees us all to come into the open? How do we foster the humility that makes room for a depth of confession that actually results in true and lasting healing?
Alignment of themes and heart. It feels like the rain of the spirit. Similar threads popping up across the country.. I am sure more of that will continue to happen throughout this prayer summit and beyond.
Can we lean in?