This generation has seen the rise of technology and the many ministry opportunities it provides. The last few years have hosted a surge of Christian expression, especially in the realm of visual arts. Preaching has moved from orality to text back to orality, from verbal illustration to classical artwork back to verbal illustration and finally to digital art and computer generated graphics. The internet gives a whole new forum and medium for artists and ministers alike and often the two collide in powerful visual cues related to eternally relevant biblical text.
A year or two ago I was playing around with a graphics program and produced a few home-made wallpapers which I hoped would impact my own walk with Jesus and help me memorize scripture (desktop wallpaper can be a remarkably effective memorization tool: see my early post on the beatitudes). These images have grown on me and though they are simple and hardly up to the standards of much of the work I so greatly enjoy from the world of Christian graphic arts, I thought they would make an apt addition to this blog's exploration of interacting with scripture. Art is a highly creative process and even the manipulation of simple text and textures can reflect the effect of truth on the heart.
Ezekiel 16:49 (KJV) declares a chilling prophetic word that cuts to the heart of a nation: and to the heart of our nation. Sodom's sin is so quickly identifiable because the very name Sodom has become part of our vocabulary for the wickedness of their practices. The entire city was consumed by a burning homosexual lust that ran so fiercely through the wickedness of their hearts that mass gang rape was a regular occurrence. The horror of even the Holy Bible's description of the event is only surpassed in scripture by the horror of Judges 19-21. This sin was so gross, so defiling, so much of an abomination in the sight of God that He reigned supernatural fire from heaven destroying the whole of the city in His righteous wrath and obliterating its existence. He allowed its memory to persist only as a reminder of His judgment.
But there's more to the story. The root of sin goes deeper. In an astounding revelation, God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel to reveal that Sodom's sin was far more insidious, far more rooted and far more domestic than the mass gang rape that so shocks us. The phrase "This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom" immediately brings thoughts of sexual immorality and yet what follows is a description that is frighteningly familiar. The primary iniquity, sin and transgression of Sodom was not really the horrific events we find so harrowing and so loathsome, but "pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness" compacted with an apathy towards the impoverished. In our American society today we would be fools to deny that we are a society enmeshed in pride in our resources, in our military prowess, in our democratic system, in our core values, in our status as a policing superpower, in our wealth and standard of living. We are bloated with pride. We are full of bread. We have no lack of food, no lack of even basic resources. The poverty line in the U.S. describes a wealthy lifestyle in many countries, and our leisure time and severe addiction to all forms of entertainment exhibits our idleness. In the midst of this we press on without individual concern for the poor or the needy. And I say these things to my own heart. I've lived with this verse in front of my eyes off and on for some time now. Its creation came out of the harrowing realization of how close my own comfortable life was to the root of gross immorality that plunged Sodom into utter destruction. I repent of the bloated fatness of my own heart.
I created this wallpaper after listening and re-listening to K.P. Yohannan's Christ's Call.
The Isenheim Altarpiece painted by Matthias Grunewald in 1505-1516 retains a reputation of being the most gruesome depiction of Christ on the cross. I found the piece because it was described in shocking context by Art Katz in his message God Crucified (transcript is also available). While I often shy away from visual depictions of the Messiah, Grunewald's unattractive, torture-wracked crucifixion scene makes a statement that brings the poetry of Isaiah 53 into painful focus. God valued us this much. This is His Son who was exchanged for us. The Father considered us worth His suffering. With the cross comes the heart cry of God and the call to glorify the risen Christ- May the lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering- the cry of Moravian missions.
1 Peter 2:21 (Amplified) remains for me the defining verse for Christ's call for how we should live in this world. It is a powerful, convicting, inspiring and empowering call of discipleship that holds up a supernatural standard beyond any human ability, forcing us to step out of ourselves and into the resurrection life of Christ by faith. There can be no waffling. There are no alternatives. There are no double standards. God's measure for our life in this world is the life of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He is the firstborn of many brothers and we are to follow in the footsteps of His miraculous life of sacrifice and power. His ministry in all its power is the pattern for ours. Because He has given His life for ours not only in death, but also today in life. His eternal exchange of His life in place of ours allows us to step into His footsteps and reign in life through grace Romans 5:17. His suffering becomes the price for our victorious walk and the standard for our own sacrifice and sanctification 1 Peter 4:1. O Victory in Jesus!
These images are hard reminders. They may not seem encouraging; they may seem over the top. I made them for my own accountability, and I share them as an afterthought. If we comfort and justify ourselves, Christ cannot comfort and justify us. The one who loves us the most will tell us the most truth, and I would rather be confronted with harsh, jarring reality than let myself slide into forgetfulness. I see these images as God's grace: a strong warning and a majestic calling.
You can click on these images to download the full size at 1280 x 1024