This morning Pastor Mark kicked off a new sermon series on Art and Worship. He showed a video of Diet Wiegman doing crazy, unbelievable, "Shadow Art" and connected it with John 3: 18-20 about exposing dark things to the light. He mentioned his own trip to the Guggenheim where he witnessed a large piece of nasty trash, and then walked to the right spot where a light shining on the trash revealed the shocking shadow: A delicate woman with a parasol.
He asked us to watch a short video of the art and then sit quietly and reflect. He said we could take notes, and that they wouldn't be judged or graded.
Here are mine:
Contrasts. Light and Dark. Drastic differences unfold the unique, the unusual, the beautiful. Things exposed and observed in a different way than we originally assume, a different vantage point, or from the "correct angle," reveal a clear reality and purpose that likely would have been missed. Chaos suddenly has a purpose, and once you see it, you can't go back to ignoring it, spiting it, scoffing at it, or skeptically analyzing it.
Light from the correct angle makes everything clear, clearer than it ever was. And not a slow "Oh ya, I saw that coming" change, but rather a "Oh shit, I had no idea that was coming" change. Light redeems the ugly.
Then, there's our own darkness, the ugliness in our own lives that can prevent us from doing, creating, being... The darkness that we often work so hard to hide in the most ironic of places, the Church. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that reigns supreme in many of our communities (and Churches) while it cripples: "Clearly, X has a drinking problem, but don't confront or ask"... "Obviously, X is suffering, but don't ask, she's a drama queen"... "Yes, X is cheating on X, but let them deal with it and figure it out"... "Obviously X is gay, but don't you dare mention it."
Not that confrontation is what Lightness does. In fact, the artistic images communicated a welcome brilliance, not a hostile takeover. Sometimes we expose ourselves (not in the illegal way...) when we finally let go of a dark part of ourselves by confession to those we've hurt. Ready for the consequences, but freed by the relief of hiding, holding back... Sometimes, yes, we are confronted with someone else "pulling us over" and exposing what we didn't have the courage to do ourselves. And then it may take some time to come to terms, to admit our guilt, possibly before we're ready. But I wonder if the pulling over perhaps saves us from worse damage that may have occurred at a later time...
But no doubt, the exposure creates suffering. For all involved. For the confessor and the confess-ee. I do believe that God takes extremely special care of people in these circumstances: He cradles them, and gives them an irrational dose of grace and peace and comfort. And glimpses of hope: Glimpses of the final beauty that is only revealed from that exact angle, with the light in just the right spot. The picture. The shadow. The final product. The purpose of it all. Seeing that rare glimpse (the one I think we only get to see when we are in deep suffering) gives us the strength and endurance we need to get through the difficulty of exposure.
Hallelujah. Finally that word makes some sense and has a purpose.