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  • REMBRANDT AND THE CROSS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy, Theology

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    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    Isaiah 53:4-6
    “Raising the Cross” Rembrandt
    “Raising the Cross” by Rembrandt

    ***

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
    so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    II Corinthians 5:21
    “The Descent from the Cross” by Rembrandt
    ***
    By means for our first [parents] (Adam and Eve), we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death.  So at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning were His disciples, having cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, can come to the life of God.
    -Irenaeus of Lyons
     

    “The Entombment of Christ” by Rembrandt

    Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood, naked.  He was beaten, had his beard torn off and was deserted by his followers.  Jesus was placed as a common criminal, a person on the side of the road strategically placed to show the strength of Rome.  The same person who created the world and fashioned the cosmos was now held to a tree.  He was looked upon as a subject of scorn, an object of derision.  He was placed there for the world.  And quite frankly, I was a cause of His pain.

    God, the source of beauty, was destroyed and disfigured beyond all recognition for the sake of humanity.
    So, come to Jesus, come to the cross where new life is found.  Now is the day of salvation. [1]

    (Repost from the archives)

  • WHEN PEOPLE CALL YOUR ART CRAP

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Story

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    It’s inevitable.  You will have at least one critic in your life.

    It could be that jerk in the art section of a newspaper, or that troll on Twitter, or perhaps it’s the crazy cousin twice removed.  

    Prepare for it.  If you want to try to add value to the world through writing, singing, creating, selling, or ____-ing you will be criticized.

    I was driving to a doctor’s appointment and the broadcaster came on the classical radio station (yes, I listen to classical music in my car) and told a story about some Russian dude.  This guy had image problems.   He had issues with love and artistic worth.  But this man, believe me, he was brilliant.  He composed a violin concerto with such beauty and grace that you can still hear certain themes explored in the piece in current movie scores.

    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s brilliant violin concerto was not well received though.  The critic called it long and pretentious.  Ouch!

    The critic thought the violin was beaten black and blue, instead of it being played in the right manner.  He also went on to say that it “brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear.”  Apparently the critic never lived long enough to hear Justin Bieber.

    But truth be told, everybody can be an artist.  If you don’t believe that, go read Seth Godin and let him convince you that you can be an artist in your work.  And all artists will be critiqued.  In those moments of despair though, keep producing your art.  Your art could be incredibly important to other people.

    However, with that being said, make sure to reflect on whether the critique is valid and make a course correction.  When you hear criticism, ask yourself first if it is true (maybe you do sing out of tune!).  Better to learn that you are not the next Michael Buble before you get in front of Simon Cowell.

    If the art is important to you like Tchaikovsky’s music, then keep going though.  Critics will always arise when you’re doing something of worth.  Keep plugging along and add beauty to this world, whether it is in a product, song, or friendship.

    How do you handle critics?

  • REMBRANDT AND GOOD FRIDAY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    As you read this, I hope you might take a few minutes this Good Friday to read and chew on the words below.  Place yourself at the sites of each biblical scene, and try to picture yourself there.  Here is a piece of music that I hope you turn on in the background as you do this, give it a shot and really get into the God’s story of redemption.  Be blessed my friends through the work of Edvard Grieg, Rembrandt, and most importantly Jesus, our crucified Lord.

     

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    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    Isaiah 53:4-6

    “Raising the Cross” Rembrandt

     

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
    so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    II Corinthians 5:21

    “The Descent from the Cross” Rembrandt

    By means for our first [parents] (Adam and Eve), we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death.  So at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning were His disciples, having cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, can come to the life of God.
    -Irenaeus of Lyons

    “The Entombment of Christ” by Rembrandt

     

    Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood, naked.  He was beaten, had his beard torn off and was deserted by his followers.  Jesus was placed as a common criminal, a person on the side of the road strategically placed to show the strength of Rome.  The same person who created the world and fashioned the cosmos was now held to a tree.  He was looked upon as a subject of scorn, an object of derision.  He was placed there for the world.  And quite frankly, I was a cause of His pain.

    God, the source of beauty, was destroyed and disfigured beyond all recognition for the sake of humanity.

    So, come to Jesus, come to the cross where new life is found.  Now is the day of salvation. [1]

     

  • GRACE IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Culture

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    I remember growing up and becoming confused by the term “Christian Music.”  I always assumed that a Christian artist created this music and wrote only about God.  They could only sing about the love of Jesus or something of that nature.  It was often lamented when a formerly “Christian” band crossed over into the secular realm.  Their music no longer explored Christ but talked about something else.  In short, Christian art could only depict Biblical themes.  An artist was either in the camp of Christ or was in the realm of something more sinister.

    While this worldview can be applauded for its zeal, it simply is not ideal.  God has provided grace to the world and has fashioned humans to be creative.  He delights in the creative impulse of His children and appreciates the talent of those outside of Christ.  The Holy Spirit has gifted people to create culture regardless of their standing before Him.  We can enjoy their art, whether a painting or concert, and applaud their creation of beauty.

    At many points in history, Christians were at the forefront of artistic movements.  I can think of Bach, Handel and Tolkien as people who created excellent things and were also Christians.  The fact that we are people who proclaim that we are redeemed by Christ should be reason enough to do things well.  Additionally, we as Christians should not endorse mediocre art just because the person is a Christian.  We must create culture that is robust and worth sharing with the broader world.  It is not enough to stay in our little bubble and subculture.  We must not produce mediocre art, instead opting to enter into the mainstream to directly engage culture.  This engagement should be done with excellent culture, for in that we bring glory to God.

  • AVATAR AND STEWARDSHIP

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Culture

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    I watched Avatar again with my family and was impressed once more by the visuals (thanks to the glorious nature of Blu-Ray).  I was trying to interpret the movie second time around in light of the environmentalist movement and see if it was a radical tree-hugger movie.  While there certainly were themes of environmentalism, it could also be interpreted through the prism of stewardship.  If God created the planet and placed humanity in charge of it, then we have an immense load on our shoulders.  We are in charge of protecting and cultivating the land responsibly.  Perhaps this is something that people can walk away with from the movie.

    I am not discussing the possibility of pantheism or worshipping the Oak tree of Odin.  I am talking about becoming sensible about what we consume and use.  Recycling, reusing products and reducing our consumption are all important goals that,  as stewards, we should implement daily.  Christians should not fear these steps and goals, we can be in tune with the cosmos.  The creation declares the glories of God and they revel in His provision (see: Psalm 104).  The cosmos will be set to right one day, when the resurrection occurs and the re-creation of the glorious heavens take place.

    St Francis of Assisi provides a wonderful portrait of connecting with the creation.  Francis writes in his canticle that all of the created cosmos come together in beautiful symphony, from the fire to water and earth to wind.  Perhaps we too can join in that chorus of praise and take care of our planet in the name of the coming King.

  • THOUGHTS ON AVATAR

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Culture, Theology

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    As mentioned in many blogs, articles and Facebook status updates, ‘Avatar’ was a film that lived up to the hype on the technological side.  The visuals were stunning and the technology truly put you on the ground of the extraterrestrial planet called Pandora.  While there were certainly blatant and subtle political themes that were interwoven into the plot line, there was also one concept that I thought was very beautiful.  Racism, anti-military, anti-colonialism, and hyper-environmentalism have all been listed as possible themes for the film, but I would like to take a second look at the majestic planet in light of the Christian doctrine of the resurrection.
    To start off with, our planet is not too shabby.  While some moviegoers were depressed with the inability to live on the planet of Pandora, I do not find myself depressed, instead I am encouraged.  Encouraged because this planet is incredibly beautiful and is full of majesty in the most unlikely of places.  Encouraged because this planet is not operating at its peak level, since it is under the bondage of sin that humanity brought into this world.  Encouraged that the cosmos will be corrected when evil has been supplanted.  Paul writes in Romans 8 to give assurance,

    For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (8:20-22)

    It was the entrance of sin that subjected the universe into disarray.  It is through redemption that everything from a slug to an asteroid will be rectified.  The universe is not the only thing that has a promise.  Paul takes this idea another step further and writes,

    And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (8:23-25)

    I do not believe that Cameron attempted to portray this insight into the film, but it truly was a remarkable thing to think about.  To think that our planet will be righted.  And that is encouraging.