The first two parts of this series:
If I told you I was on Earth would you know exactly where I am?
How about if I said that I was on Earth, in the western hempishpere – would you know? If I told you I was on Earth, in the Western Hemispher, somewhere in North America – does that help you know exactly where I am?
How about this: I am hanging out on Earth, in its Western Hemisphere, located in North America, in The United States of America. Do you know now?
NO?! Are you even listening? Lemme try this:
I am on Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, USA!, in the second best republic in the Republic – California. Now do you know? No?
I’m on Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, USA!, California, in the southern…
Earth, West Hemisphere, North America, USA!, CA, SoCal, San Diego County!
Warm but not quite hot. We’re getting close though.
Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, USA!, CA, SoCal, San Diego, Fallbrook.
Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, USA!, CA, SoCal, San Diego, Fallbrook, The Esspresso Lounge on Main Avenue.
THERE WE GO! Now you know where I’m hiding.
(If you skipped the video you’re a Cold War Era communist.
Go back. Watch it.)
God has told us exactly where He could be found:
In the dust with us.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1.14
In the dust with us God can be found in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Anybody who has seen the Son has seen the Father.
And we hung him up on a tree to die. But Death couldn’t keep him down and the same Spirit who raised him up from the dead now resides in us. He has ascended and is sitting at the right hand of his Father and he will come again to judge the quick and the dead.
God pre-existed in a community of love and care; the Father loving the Son loving the Spirit loving the… dancing in such a blur that the Three Persons are the One True God. Tim Keller in his book “The Reason for God” writes:
The Trinity means that God is, in essence, relational.
And in an outpouring of that love God the Son joined us on Earth. And he has joined us in death. And the Holy Ghost has joined us to Him in everlasting life. In the end, once and for all, we’ll be joined with God in the New City on the New Earth.
This is sovereign empathy.
God no longer calls us servants in his Kingdom. He calls us friend and beckons us to join the Circle Dance.
There’s a temptation for us to fall into that old lie: Gnosticism.
Gnosticism being the philosophy that the Unknowable God is far too good and pure to have anything to do with this evil, fallen world and that this transcendent Being can only be known through special knowledge. You may be thinking, “Naw, that ain’t me.”
But I’d argue that Gnosticism is more common than we think. You can see the devaluing of the material world accross a broad spectrum.
One end is a fear-fueled asceticism – we must abstain from the things of this world (e.g. sex, food, entertainment) because our bodies are just doughy flesh bags for our glorious souls so don’t smoke, drink, or chew, or go with girls that do!
On the other end there’s a devaluing of the material world as evidenced by our abuses. Try turning on your tv and finding something you’d be comfortable watching with your mom; turn on your music and see if there’s music you’d share with a toddler. And that’s the appropriate stuff.
Weirder yet there’s a bizarre abstinent middle ground where all we do is talk about is how we abstain. Did you hear the joke about the vegan, the guy who doesn’t own a tv, and the one who thinks the world’s about to end?
God came and dwelt among us. Jesus had skin and marrow, a complexion, emotions, he was hungry, he wore clothes. In the Incarnation of God – in his life, death, and resurrection – we see God redeeming, restoring, and reaffirming what He saw when through the Word, His only son, God spoke creation into being: “It is good.” It is the ordinary things of this world – water, bread, wine – that God offers and gives for the life of the world.
All things are being made new, not Left Behind.
Art begins in care. The Artist practices incarnation. With their brush the Artist declares, “It is good.” Using ordinary materials they film, sing, sculpt what the world is and could be. And the consumption of art is a practice in empathy. When I consume art I put myself in someone else’s shoes. I practice what the made up, fictional character from the classic book and movie, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Atticus Finch meant when he said,
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.
Eugene Peterson writes:
Like the sacramental use of water and bread and wine, friendship takes what’s common in human experience and turns it into something holy.
Art is a practice in incarnation, community, and empathy. Art takes the ordinary materials of this world and turns them into something holy.