Give Us Clean Hands – First Wednesday Feb 5, 2014

 

Took a risk tonight and set up an easel with some mounting board, spreading out mine and the kids’ gear over two tables in the coffee lounge to create a live interpretation of the first First Wednesday service of 2014, we celebrated baptism tonight.

Baptism – a ceremonial washing, the public action proclaiming personal faith, spiritual cleansing, the start of new life

Give Us Clean Hands

Who can stand on the mountain of God? Who can scale the holy north-face? Only the clean-handed, only the pure-hearted;

men who won’t cheat, women who won’t seduce  – Psalm 24:3-4

Give us clean hands

Give us pure hearts

Let us not lift our souls to another

The representation in this piece is obvious, hands dripping in clear, clean water. When do we wash or hands? Before we eat. After we’ve been working hard. During flu season, because we don’t want to get sick. Why do we wash our hands? It prevents harmful bacteria and viruses from entering our body or transferring to another’s. It is not respectful to have dirt, grease, paint (whatever your grime of choice) caked into the grooves of your skin and fingernails when you interact with the public. It’s just plain feels good to be clean! Water does that for our skin, baptism does that for our soul.

This image hit me on Sunday afternoon, while I was posting this week’s drawing entry. I knew the plan was a baptism service, so I wanted to properly represent the most visual and personal act in the Christian faith. My art has been on a ‘hand’ kick lately, a lot of messages that have used hands in the image. I chose to stick with that theme to translate ‘baptism’ and the old worship song “Give Us Clean Hands” came to mind. Originally written by King David, the song is an ancient Psalm set to modern music.

The process of creating this piece is as representative of baptism as the piece itself. My 7 and 4 year old covered a piece of mounting board with bright hues of wax crayons and oil pastels. I strategically had them color the bottom third of the panel white, where the image would be water. With the color done, I covered the board with a thick coat of black Tempra paint and the prep work was complete. As the service began, I opened up my pocket knife and began scraping away the black paint, using an Exacto knife to create finer details of the fingers. As I scraped away the dirty facade, the beauty of the panel’s true colors shone through. As the Holy Spirit wiped the slate clean on faithful souls, freeing their colors to shine, I was freeing this image from its Tempra prison.

I finished the piece using a glossy acrylic varnish. I covered the bottom third with a solid coat, then painted the palms full. The movement of the image was completed by splattering drips of varnish below the hands, simulating the phenomena of liquid running through your fingers as you splash a handful of water on your face.

I recall my own baptism, how I knew what I was doing but didn’t entirely grasp why I was doing it. Understanding the spiritual magnitude of taking public step to, not only profess, but to present your faith in Jesus to the world brought new visions of God’s reaction. It is a misrepresentation of righteousness to suggest God sits on an extravagant throne and says “Well done, good and faithful servant.” while looking down His nose at the moment of baptism. I propose a different response. At the moment you are baptized and your heart is purified; imagine Jesus on his knees, a tear of joy trickling down his cheek as he whispers, “Child, your hands are clean.”

My boys get into creating artwork with me on First Wednesdays. They get excited the morning of the service and start talking about what they’ll draw and what they’ll use. Here is my 7-year-old’s creation for tonight. He’s learned about the history of baptism in his break-out group on Sunday mornings, how one of the original methods involved pouring water over the head of the one being baptized, this method is the subject of his drawing. He explained to me this is Jesus baptizing someone this way with the sun setting behind. I must be honest, my first thought was Jesus baptizing someone using a water balloon! Either way, this is awesome and he made me proud.

DSCN3245

Advertisements

Reactivate

Re-activate; our re- word for week 2 of the series RE:. Last week we revealed the missio di, the mission of God. This week we are delving into reactivating ourselves and the church in light of God’s mission. The ultimate mission of God, and the reason He created us, is to glorify Himself. God’s Word is easily and often contorted into applying directly to us individually, as if it were written specifically about us. Don’t get me wrong, God is all about you; but at the same time, it’s not about you. God is for your joy, but He is for it so that He is glorified through it. So, how do we receive this joy? By obeying the commands we’re given by God for living. In an ironic twist, what we have in the Bible that the world judges as life and joy-restricting rules is actually life’s instruction manual for happiness.

Wait, what? Did I just say following the Bible is the means to our happiness, not the guidelines that, if followed closely enough, appease an angry God? Yes I did. Pulling from Dean’s beach observations, God is just as pleased when the sea gull He created soars over the waves as when it poops on the unsuspecting sunbather. Both processes utilize the biological mechanics He designed, but our limited perception values seeing the gull soar and is disgusted by any manner of defecation!

If the mission of God is to make much of Himself, then what is the mission of the church?

Discipleship. Not just convincing someone to say some ultra-spiritual magic words or winning a theological debate, the kind of discipleship that walks people through positive life change. Discipleship as a lifestyle.

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came to the and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Jesus’ parting words to his closest friends, go make disciples by teaching them what I’ve taught you and the command them to go and teach more.  We are the current members of the “all nations” Jesus refers to; the ones who should observe all that Jesus commanded to the eleven (including his final command to disciple the world).

How does this pertain to you today? The church today modifies its programming and embraces traditions by popular vote to keep up numbers. You don’t need another Bible study, you need to observe what you’ve already learned.

Translating today’s message visually, I pulled from several sources. Chasing UFOs is a show I’ve gotten into watching recently, purely for the entertainment value. The last episode we watched researched videos, eyewitnesses, and even a proclaimed alien fetus. None of the video or witness stories could be conclusively confirmed or busted (of course) but the preserved “alien fetus” was obviously the body of a small marmoset, a popular central American pet. The body in today’s drawing mimics the marmoset.

The gospel is referred to as “living water” in the recount of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well (John4:10). The first step of following Jesus in discipleship is public baptism, a ceremonial washing that displays your commitment to following Jesus’ commandments in front of your closest friends. A stream of living water flows down from the top of the page onto the dry human carcass. As this water hits the body, it brings life back to the decaying shell, regenerating the muscle and skin that once animated those dry bones.

The point where the water hits the body, light is most concentrated, symbolizing life. The light splashes outward, reaching out to other dry bones through the reactivated body. This is God revealing himself through us, reactivating us in order to reactivate others through us.

Below is the digital interpretation of today’s drawing, living water reactivating ashes.

(Prints and original drawing available upon request)