A Wonderful Strangeness: Reflections on the Church’s imagination

My grandmother was an artist in the truest sense of the word. Throughout the course of her life, I observed her hard at work in her studio— painting, sketching, writing calligraphy, and fidgeting with an endless stream of creative ideas. As a child, I always looked  forward to visiting her and my grandfather at their home in Florida. The whole house possessed an aesthetic that was strange, yet wonderful to me, and the wonderful strangeness of the place flowed out of my grandmother’s vibrant creativity. 

As I grew older, I began to notice that she never had professional training as an artist, she didn’t study art in school, and you wouldn’t find any of her works hanging in the local art gallery. She created art because she loved it and because she loved us enough to offer her imaginative spirit to us in her work. I say this not to ignore the years of hard work she put into honing her craft, but rather to emphasize that the ability to create art is not reserved for those pursuing an artistic vocation. Rather, the capacity to create art flows from the mundane realities of our everyday existences which are rooted in love. 

For many of us, the prospect of vulnerably releasing the art we cultivate for the upbuilding of the Church can feel painfully daunting. It is easy to get lost in comparison— we aren’t professional painters, photographers, poets, or authors. Yet, as Christians, we confess that we are made in the image of God. One of the truths we confess every Sunday is that we believe in “One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” This confession suggests that in some way, we too possess a creative nature. Yet, for us it looks slightly different, for God creates out of nothing, but we re-create out of what the Lord has given us. Creating art, in the end, is an opportunity to offer back to God what He has already given to us, and in so doing, discover something new about ourselves and about the Lord. 

In her famous work, The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy Sayers explains, “​​The business of the creator is not to escape from her material medium or to bully it, but to serve it; but to serve it, she must love it. If she does so, she will realize that its service is perfect freedom…” Creative expression that honors the image of Christ in us must be motivated by love. Jesus Christ stepped into the world he created not to escape it or to bully it, but to redeem and restore what was corrupted by sin. He came to make a new creation, and his creative work overflowed from His perfect love. We, as Christ’s Body, the Church, participate in this creative activity— for we are that new creation. 

When my mom was a child, my grandmother started designing and stitching dresses for my mom and her sister, and from this act her artistry began to bloom. My grandmother’s creativity expressed itself in lovingly dressing her children and her home such that those who entered it could tangibly feel her love for others.

Similarly, I believe our purpose for creating should not be hindered by comparison to masterpieces, rather, it should strive to lovingly invite others into the “wonderful strangeness” of life in Christ’s Body, the Church. Artwork that flows from meditating on Scripture has the unique opportunity to illuminate Christ’s creative act of love for us and for the world.

Whether you’re 5 or 95, learn how you can participate in Christ’s creative work with the Church in the RezArts Festival.

Caleb Karnosh is currently serving as the RezYouth Middle School Manager.  In his spare time, he loves searching the shelves of used bookstores and going on walks with his wife Makenna and son Luca.

Resources on Art and Theology:
A Letter to A Young Artist” by Makoto Fujimura
On Unnecessarily Owning Art” by Karen Stiller

Christians in the Visual Arts

Faith and Art: A theology of making by Makoto Fujimura
Placemaking and the Arts: Cultivating the Christian Life by Jennier Allen Craft
The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann
Walking on Water: Reflections on faith and art by Madeleine L’Engle
Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on community, calling and the mystery of making by Andrew Peterson
The Mind of the Maker by Dorthy Sayers 

You’re Included- Music & Theology by Jeremy Begbie

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