Several messages have come together to inspire my latest piece which also happens to represent my word for the year; bold. Last week, North Ridge started a new series titled Bold. In the first message, we discussed the experiences of Peter and John at the hands of the Sanhedrin in Acts 4. After publicly proclaiming the gospel and healing a lame beggar, Peter and John were jailed and abused by the governing authorities. In a political move to avoid public chaos, the Sanhedrin chose to release them with the strict warning to stop talking about Jesus and his recent resurrection. After receiving word of their release, the believers close to Peter and John prayed for their journey back; not for safe travel, but asking the Holy Spirit to instill the boldness to continue healing, sharing, and proclaiming to the public, despite the severe punishment for doing so that the Sanhedrin assured. This inspired me to create an image of what that kind of boldness must look like.
Step one to creating this piece was applying a crackled background texture using varying tones of India ink wash and newspaper. Adding an ironic twist of modern social issues to this creation, the paper I used to create this texture included a front page article reporting an increase in childhood poverty in my county. I applied the darkest hue of ink wash with a wide brush using diagonal upward strokes, creating a sense of movement from the bottom of the page toward the words representing culture.
In the next layer of the background, I wanted to represent surrounding culture; not necessarily as it is, but as it is perceived by many. This led me to choose the words ‘people’, ‘heathen’ and ‘the world’. Linking this reference to culture to that of 2000 years ago, so I wrote my selected words in Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic; the original languages of the Bible and its Middle-Eastern setting.
Painted across the center of the mounting board is a single word. The word is written in Greek, pronounced ‘laos’ and translated ‘people’. Next came ‘the world’ and ‘heathen’ written in Hebrew and Arabic over top of laos. I finished this layer of the background with one English word, ‘UNCLEAN’. I added this word to mirror the gut reflex of facing anything we do not comprehend. At face value alone, the mere presence of foreign text can conjure up emotions of fear, anxiety, and possibly even contempt without ever translating it into one’s native language. Once translated, the words heathen, people, and the world are often used in the context of competing with Christianity and the church. As the layers show, those we perceive as unclean or heathens are still people.
In my first post for 2012, I laid out the differences in the words that defined the original group of followers (ekklesia) and the modern transformation of that word into a site and not an influential movement. From the kirche perspective on culture in my piece, the church would act as our safe haven, a clean environment that protects us from the sick and dying world outside. The caution tape stretched across the world, the heathen, the unclean, and outside people in general, warning us from getting too close. For added protection, the surgical mask prevents any airborne transfer of “the world’s” contagion. Like another catastrophic viral outbreak movie, the kirche operates inside boundaries of yellow tape and clean-suits, avoiding contact with any “infected” people and taking necessary precautions when interacting with each other.
Ekklesia is the opposite. Ekklesia tosses its mask on the ground, breaks through the caution tape barrier to risk immersing itself into a capricious culture, carrying the vaccine with it. The figure walking into the unclean is purple, the color of royalty in which it is divinely vaccinated and opposite to the yellow hue of the caution tape. ‘Ekklesia’ forms the spine of this figure, creating the back bone required to risk testing one’s spiritual vaccination against the elements of the outside realm.
Boldness is an adventure that takes risks, invites injury, sustains losses and experiences victories. Being bold is not safe or comfortable, but hiding in self-imposed quarantine feeds the virus Christ came to eradicate. My prayer is for boldness.