Aside from some of my favorite times during the Christian year, such as Pentecost and Advent, we here at my church practice another event that has become a favorite: Christival. Every October for as long as Trinity has been in existence, Christival–a combination of “Christ” and “festival”–is a time to celebrate faith and the arts.
Every year, art from local artists adorn the sanctuary, the worship committee weaves together services that incorporate dramas and other creative elements, and guest musicians gift us with their amazing talents. The season never gets routine or stale, and it has a way of reminding me that the One whom we serve is indeed “Creator God, creating still.”
The celebration of faith and the arts was always an intentional decision on the church’s part because art, in so many ways, has become a touchy subject for Christians. Art is sometimes risky, sometimes questionable. At other times, art is secular rather than sacred. Many times art is viewed as being on the margins rather than in the mainstream of society.
Yet, for all its nuance and diversity, art is, as author Leland Ryken states, “A window or lens through which we see ourselves and our world” (“The Liberated Imagination”). Art, therefore, serves as iconography: It can bolster our perspective of God and our relationship to God.
More significantly, art can remind us of just how redeemed–or depraved–we humans really are. Of course, I’m not promoting all art because not all art is wholesome or even spiritually beneficial art. Beauty is–and always will be–in the eye of the beholder.
But, art, whether good or bad, reminds us that we are mere co-creators with God. It is not surprising that the first story in sacred scripture is that of God creating. It seems to be a part of God’s nature, and it is inevitably a part of our nature to create and invent, dabble and weave. We are, after all, made in this Creator’s image, knit together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13).
The earliest story in scripture also tells us that humans can be so creative that they can sin creatively too. This reminds us that all of us have gifts, but that we must choose to use those gifts for God’s kingdom and glory rather than our own. We follow in Adam and Eve’s search for good and evil, so we must always strive for that which is good.
Paul encourages us “to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12). So, God intends for gifts, whether artistic or otherwise, to be used in the service of His people. Art always has a public impact, and it works best when it helps others experience the Creator and creation in fresh ways. When we do art for our own sake, it threatens to be self-absorbed and pretentious.
I am also reminded that we Christians, and all artists for that matter, are called to be people of vision. Artists see through things as they really are and see things that have yet to be; artists weave meaning into the mundane and can picture the implications that our actions have yet to generate. Art critics keep artists accountable to the craft, but artists can keep us accountable to our actions, beliefs, and worldview in the public spaces of our lives.
Not everyone can paint a great picture or write a captivating poem, but all of us have something to offer God’s people that requires some creativity. It may be as simple as a knitted pot holder or as routine as telling an action-packed bedtime story to your grandchild. Let us always use those gifts to inspire new ways of seeing the world, of seeing God, and of seeing one another.
Let us join the “Restless Weaver, still conceiving new life –now and yet to be–binding all your vast creation in one living tapestry” (from the hymn, “Restless Weaver”).