On my son’s 22nd birthday he requested a trip to the Detroit Institute of Art to view the Samurai exhibit. It was a really interesting exhibit telling the history of the Samurai, with beautiful art and displays of intricate armor, knives, and tea sets for the Japanese tea ceremony.
For some people art is decorative, something we hang on our walls or place on coffee tables to adorn our homes.
Other people consider art to be a commentary on our lives and the world. This is true of the work of Picasso and Dali and other great artists.
Pablo Picasso, the famous 20th century artist,was deeply impacted by the Spanish Civil War. Picasso’s paintings of that era expressed the devastation of the war through images that were abstract and distorted. This genre became known as “cubism.” Some suggest this technique depicted the world as if there were no God. Without God, without the divine vision, everything was wrong, abstract, and distorted.
Salvador Dali’s work is part of the Dada movement, also known as the Surrealists. Dali’s images depict the atrocities of WWI, conveying a world gone mad as the result of human behavior and absentee God.
Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to the challenges that knock us down, things just happen. Life is fragile and precious. As a people of faith, we believe that God remains with us through every crisis and time of chaos, striving to work in and through us, sustaining us with grace and restoring us with love. However, seeing God’s presence during times of chaos is a challenge. Prayer is one way we know God’s presence.
An icon, unlike art, is not intended to comment on the world we live in. Nor is the icon intended to be just an adornment on the wall. Rather icons are intended to express something of the divine, of the nature of God. The spirituality of iconography is to help us see beyond the world to a place where God resides. The icon is not a picture of God. Rather, the icon is intended to draw us into prayer, and through prayer we come to know something of the essence of God. Here are a variety of icons, some of them written by Maryjane, some of them copies of famous icons.
In your bulletin is an icon of the Trinity called the Oaks of Mamre. It’s from an Old Testament story of three travelers who visited Abraham and Sarah. This icon was written by Andre Rublev in the 15th century in Russia. Rublev reinterpreted the travelers as angels who represent the Trinity.
In this icon the angels are gathered around a table beneath an oak tree. The middle angel is robed in purple with a blue cloak. Another angel is robed in gold. And the third angel is watching them. The wings of each angel is touching the wings of the others - they are all connected, one to the other.
Color is an important element in iconography. For example purple represents divinity, it was the color of royalty in the ancient world. Blue represents human nature and the world. Green represents new life, and gold represents the ultimate ideal - that which is holy and good.
The angel in the middle represents Jesus. His garment is purple and blue representing his divine and human nature.
The angel in gold represents God, holy and good. God is also wearing blue symbolizing that humans are made in God’s image.
The angel on the left is the Holy Spirit. The outer garment is green, a light green, like new leaves, representing life. The Spirit brings about new life, breathes new life. Human beings are created by God and given life by the Holy Spirit.
Today the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday. It always falls on the Sunday after Pentecost. This day considers how God is present in our lives and our world. True, we never have the complete picture of who God is because ultimately God is mystery. But a mystery doesn’t give us much to work with, so Christianity understands God as a Being who is both mysterious and present. In particular God is a Being in relationship with creation; having a specific kind of relationship with human beings. We are made in God’s image and reveal God’s nature through our lives.
The Christian faith describes God as a being in relationship - God the Father who creates, God the Son who redeems us and who is with us always, and God the Holy Spirit who works in and through us to help us live life fully.
God comes to us as a Being who desires to be in relationship with us. We know God most fully in and through our relationships with others. This means our relationships with family and friends, but also our relationships outside our immediate family and community. God comes to us as one who seeks to work in and through us, enabling us to use the gifts we were born with, so that we can become the best version of ourselves possible. Moreover, God is a being of love. We were made by God through love and we were made by God to love. Love is our purpose, the reason we were created. God who created us loves us to the very core of our being.
Soon we will go outside and bless our beautiful community garden. And we’ll conclude this morning with a great outdoor celebration of good food, music, dancing, fun and games. God calls to have fun, to take delight in the life God has given us, and to celebrate all our blessings.
Here at Christ Church God has revealed God’s self in and through us and in and through our many ministries. For example, God is very present in this building and this property. God is working through us, leading us in creative ways to develop the property further. We might say that the property is our canvas, a work of art revealing what God is doing in and through us. The property is like an icon, through which we come to see God, calling forth the fullness of our identity as a Community Centered Church.