Sermon Ideas For Matthew 3:13-17 Part 3
The baptism of Jesus is a remarkable event and a significant point in Christ's ministry. There appear to be similarities between this moment of God descending upon Jesus Christ and the Christian artist at work. The heavens open, and Jesus sees the spirit of God descending like a dove and hears the voice of God say, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." I picture Jesus with his arms open wide fully accepting this gift, this blessing. He stands in front of the inquisitive crowd fully welcoming God's blessing upon him. I believe Jesus Christ gave his baptism his full attention, disregarding the incredulous looks from the people around him. Given the magnitude of the event it is unimaginable that Jesus could have been nonchalant or even surprised with the whole experience. Christ did not regard his baptism as one of the experiences to be checked off his "To Do" list of tasks he needed to complete while he spent time on Earth. I believe he was open, attentive and accepting. He was open to receive the Spirit of God, attentive to God's claim on him, and accepting of what lay ahead in his ministry. This image of open attentiveness makes a nice metaphor for a Christian artist at work.
I tend to agree with Madeline L'Engle, who claims that for one to be a Christian artist, one must be open and accepting to God and willing to step aside and allow God to do the creating. An artist chooses the medium she wants to employ. If she selects painting then she explores the tools of the painter: brushes, canvas and paint. What kind of effects will this brush stroke make? What paint works best on which canvas? The artist, once adept with her technique, then begins to paint. Setting the brush to canvas she begins adding form and color. The Christian artist allows images, inspired by God, to flow from her brush. She is open to the creation. She is attentive to the creation, accepting of the images that form before her. Christian artists can proclaim God's word to us all as they stay true to the creation God wills them to compose. When the artist becomes servant to the work, then the mission God has for a piece of art can be realized.
Jesus exemplifies his servitude at his baptism. He demonstrates how what he is called to do and what he is are one in the same. He is a servant of God. Jesus served the crowd around him by being present to God at his own baptism. The Christian artist offers to us a tangible result of how one can be a servant of God. Although, we may not be called to create great works of art, we are all called to serve God fully. The painter steps up to the canvas with pallet and brush and waits for the vision to come to life. With the image in place the painter begins to paint. As the formation of a concept becomes concrete, the work begins to paint itself, calling for color here and empty stillness there. The Holy Spirit calls to the artist where the next brush stroke should take place until it speaks no more and the work is finished.
We are called to follow this example in our own lives through our own calling. As children of God we are to step up to our vocation with the tools of that trade in hand and wait for God to place an image in our minds. The image can be a person, such as someone who has lost a loved one. It can be a project, like the local feeding program, where people as well as materials are needed. It can be a charity, where financial support may be required. For each of us as individuals it is important to be attentive to the vision God is placing before our eyes. In our hurried lives this waiting may be difficult. We often want the spirit of God to descend and the voice to call out when we are ready to accept God's vision. Instead, God often speaks to us at our busiest and our most conflicted moments when we have work at the office, or house cleaning, or sick children. How often God speaks to us in moments like these.
I find that with the impulse to place the brush on the canvas goes a tentativeness or anxiety that needs to be broken in order to begin. The stepping forward and making a commitment to the vision often seems to be the most difficult part for us to do. Many see the vision and hear God calling but will not begin. We will not walk up and invite our new colleague to church. The threat of lawsuits prevents us from stopping a violent act from happening such as a mugging or a car theft. The fact that there is so much abuse and neglect in the world today demonstrates that we do not step up often enough to the canvas and place our brush upon it and serve God as a servant to the visions of the world that God gives us.
We can be artists for God. We must simply have the courage to place our brush on the canvas and to get involved in the vision God has given to you. Once we begin, God is with us guiding our brush, showing what steps to take to accomplish the task given to us. Remember Jesus at his baptism, those open accepting arms. Open yourself and listen to God. The vision will come.
Jodi B. Martin Knoxville, TN
Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980).