Restoration is the divine gospel. Art is the evidence.

In the beginning, there was nothing.

This is the process of an artwork I created through the observance of Easter 2019, beginning after sundown on Good Friday and proceeding through Easter Sunday morning.

The earth was tohu vavohu ( without form and void); darkness was upon the face of the deep and the Ruach Elohim (breath of God) was hovering upon the face of the waters. – Genesis 1:2

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God spent a time conceiving and executing a work of creation which formed all we know and experience out of the nothingness. When the work was enough, He viewed the creation and called it tov meod (very good). – Genesis 1:31

טוֹב מְאוֹד – tov meod – very good

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The pinnacle of God’s creation was humanity itself, created in His own tzelem (image). His motivation to create was not to make servants, but to create partners in this creation. Out of the fragility of humanity came brokenness. In our brokenness, we let go of trusting the story God is telling through creation and work tirelessly to write the story ourselves. An artist’s creation does not work to earn its value to the artist, it is valuable because the artist created it. To provide an example of how living internally owning and externally operating out of this integrated value, God created Yehoshua who is called Immanu-El (God with us) – Matthew 1:21-23

For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve – and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45

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Once the portrait of Jesus, exhausted and crowned with thorns, was complete, I filled the platter with a pool of lighter fluid. I chose lighter fluid because both the paint and acrylic ink I was about to use resist the liquid without smearing.

As a reference to Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, I used an eye dropper to drip crimson ink into the clear lighter fluid, as if his blood were dripping into the basin of water used to wash the disciples’ feet clean.

“His blood be on us and our children!” – Matthew 27: 25-26

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At this point in the art development, the corporate worship service entered a time of observing communion. After partaking of the bread and recalling how the Christ’s body was broken in sacrifice to restore us, I quietly carried the platter into the light and held it out art arms length over a white drop cloth on stage. The lighter fluid ran down my fingers, carrying the ink with it. The liquid felt smooth and warm, like freshly spilled blood. As gravity pulled it off my fingertips, it left a crimson stain on the bright white drop cloth.
As the warm crimson wept off the polished stoneware surface, the words of Mark 10:45 were recited once again and the breaking of Jesus’s body being an act of serving humanity was emphasized. My eyes passed over the people contained in the shadows beyond, drifting back to ‘tov meod’ and following a drop of red down to the stained white sheet, and my gaze fixed on the raised geometrical shape forcing the sheet’s surface to a different plane. Hidden from the observers’ view was a concrete stepping stone. I held my creation in my hands, with the medium used to create it dripping freely off my fingers, in front of the people who would not hear the message it carried without its sacrifice, staring at the imminent demise I knew was coming. My heart froze and, in my mind, I kept repeating these words, “this is good, this is very good” (not from the context of performance, but to remind myself that what was about to happen MUST be done).
As the words “broken for you” echoed off the solemn walls around us, I let go. The platter fell in a crisp and straight line, then broke the silence as it shattered on the concealed concrete.

I spent the rest of that night’s service collecting the pieces and placing them on my work table. (some chunks were not found until after this photo was taken)

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This was Friday. The artwork lay dormant until the third day dawned.

On Sunday, it awoke.

 

In the late 15th century, a failed effort to repair a broken bowl by its Chinese makers for Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa birthed a style of pottery which became a movement. The Chinese artisans used a staple method to reassemble the broken pieces of the bowl belonging to Yoshimasa. Less than pleased with the results, Japanese craftsman revised this method so that the cracks become filled with a liquid adhesive infused with a precious metal and the cracked defects become lines of gold, silver or platinum. This style is known today as Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi (golden repair). The addition of the precious metal effectively increases the value of the pottery, which is traditionally used for chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony).

At the start of our Easter morning worship services, I began reassembling the jagged shards of the platter in the Kintsugi style with gold-infused epoxy. The process took through both of our services that morning to complete, but all the pieces came together and restored the platter to its original form, just as the completion of the Christ’s sacrifice for humanity restored us with our Creator.

 

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Nishlam! (It is fininshed!) – John 19:30

 

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Easter 2014

I received the privilege of joining our worship team to add some percussive elements to the music set during our Easter worship services at North Ridge. I chose to take this opportunity to get back to playing music but to also push myself artistically, producing a unique drawing for all three services. This was an exercise in creativity as much as it was time management, since my drawing time was framed in by time on stage with the band!

Here’s what showed up:

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8:30 service

Being Easter Sunday, the message directed our focus to an empty tomb, Jesus’s resurrection and our responsibility in light of the many eye witness accounts to this being a real event and not a fairy tale.

I went surreal for the first service. The human race is given earth, nature, raw existence in creation. Jesus gives us our example for operating in this crazy train of life. We make the most of this life by following that example; liberally loving and caring for all of creation, starting with each other.

 

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10:00 service

I went literal with a twist of surreal during our second service (which I normally attend).

In this drawing, my goal is to twist your minds’ paradigm of death and the grave. The drawing depicts an ancient stone crypt with a stone slab to block the door thrown aside. As you notice your surroundings on the outside of the tomb, you feel cold and isolated. Death lies outside of the grave.

Looking through the open door into the burial chamber is like gazing into C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe. Life is abundant and inviting inside the grave. I am not suggesting physical death be our ultimate prize by this drawing, nor do I believe that’s what Jesus encouraged us to look toward. I suggest that sacrificing our selves for the sake of others should be our focus. The drawing is designed to lure you in to dying to selfishness (something Jesus repeatedly encouraged in his life). By letting go of the stress created by clawing  to fulfill yourself, you are free to breathe and then fulfill others.

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11:30 service

Finishing out the morning, I went minimalist in the last drawing. This simple phrase is a theme that started echoing in my mind during the first drawing and sums up our reason for celebrating Easter.

Chosen by love – brown and red to represent flesh and blood

Proven through love – black and blue to imply a weight of sorrow. Love is proven through sacrifice. For Jesus this meant his physical torture and execution

In order to love – yellow and purple to bring a refreshing lightness to the image. Yellow brings warmth, just like love. Purple represents royalty, referencing the position obtained by Jesus’s physical and spiritual resurrection.

This is what Easter means to Christians.

Not about bunnies and chicks, not about brightly colored eggs concealing treasures of processed sugar

(though there’s nothing wrong with having fun with that side of the holiday)

It’s only love. Unfiltered, unbiased, uninhibited, relentless, love.

His appearance was like lightning

Death in His Grave

by John Mark McMillan

Though the Earth Cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls on men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with the keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throes of death
And over turn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent
When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with the keys
To Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all

His appearance was like lightning

Matthew 28:3

His appearance was like lightning and His clothes were white as snow.

Celebrate the victory.

A Lamb to Slaughter

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Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Passover. The chatter of young children is heard in the foyers of churches all over the country as they anxiously await the sanctuary doors to open. Once the path is open, they proudly walk down the aisles and litter the floor with the branches of artificial palm trees. Is that really what today is all about?

The first Passover did not carry with it the same kind of anticipation associated with the events leading up to Easter as we know it today. The preparation Moses and Aaron led for Passover did not include stripping greenery off local foliage, delegating menu items for the following week’s Easter dinner, or counting out just the right number of eggs to make sure every child would leave with equal spoils from the egg hunt that week. Their instructions were simple, each family was to offer a lamb sacrifice to God. After the sacrifice, the front door of their home had to be painted with the lamb’s blood. On the night of Passover, a plague would hit the nation, ending the lives of the first born child in every household; unless the home was marked with the blood of a sacrificed lamb (Exodus 12). Homes marked as God directed would be passed over, hence the day we remember, Passover. As a result of this plague and those spared, God’s people were released from generations of slavery and free to follow the God who freed them. Stealing a line from Dean’s message, the Passover celebration became equivalent to America’s Independence Day.

By the time Jesus came along, the Jewish community had once again become slaves in their own land. The people were looking for their Messiah to free them from their oppressors. Jesus and his followers joined the crowds of thousands traveling to Jerusalem to observe Passover. While they were in the suburbs of Jerusalem, Jesus sent a couple of his disciples ahead on a specific mission, to untie a colt and bring it back for him to ride on (Luke 19: 29-34). Seems like an odd request, but I’m sure his feet were tired. But wait. Passover celebrates the freedom of God’s people and they are now in a situation to need that kind of redemption again. The people are looking for the Messiah to bring that redemption. There has to be more significance to hitching a ride on a colt than just Jesus resting his legs. In doing this, he is fulfilling yet another Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9), and in front of the entire crowd. Jesus mounting this colt to ride into the city was tantamount to William Wallace mounting his stallion and leading his band of Scotsmen at Stirling Bridge, or George Washington stepping the boat to cross the Delaware. The entire Jewish crowd knew what Jesus riding in on this colt meant; it meant their time had come, this is our Messiah. The people threw down their coats on the dirt road for Jesus to travel on and began tearing off palm branches to pave the way when they ran out of coats; all the time shouting ” Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Mark 11:8-10) The word ‘Hosanna’ is a single word to say ‘save us now’. The people recognized who Jesus was and what he was doing, they were ready for him to step in and overthrow the iron fist hanging over them and they were ready now.

As they drew close to the city, Jesus saw the people in their brokenness and was overcome with sadness (Luke 19:41). He knew his role in the coming days, he remembered the criteria for his people’s freedom from their oppression at the first Passover (the lamb’s blood), he knew the same voices he heard shouting ‘Hosanna’ today would be heard shouting ‘Crucify’. He knew he was the lamb being led into slaughter.

This is Palm Sunday, the beginning of salvation marked by the savior being lead into a city turned slaughterhouse, by the hands of the very people he came to free.