I attended two events of interest to me over the weekend. First, I attended a Healing Prayer workshop at an LCMS church in far southwest Arlington (next to Pantego). Being as this was a true "hands-on" training session, it really underscored the LCMS church I recently visited where the congregational leaders voted to not touch each other for fear of spreading germs.
I also attended the opening of a old friend's art exhibition relating to a cover she did for the 2005 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog (this is a really big deal). Pauline is a friend of mine from university days, with whom I exhibited in art galleries in the 1980s. Very talented lady, but one whom I had pretty much lost contact with until recently. Her exhibition focused on the process involved in coming up with the final design for the Christmas Book, not so much the end product. Hence the show's name: "Process".
As God often does with me, He stitched these two events together as a narrative.
First the art. When I was an artist (if that may be said of me), my interest was drawing, but not in the way that people tend to think. Drawing is often seen as a preliminary step to the production of art through the use of studies. A drawing might be seen as preparing the way for the "art" which was to follow, and was of lesser importance. Subservient, perhaps, to the finished product. But for me, the drawing was itself the completion of the thought, almost a snapshot of the brain's activity. In a drawing, especially in the chaotic forms of a sketchpad with multiple compositions intertwined by the desire to save paper, I could see the artist's mind and soul at work. It was as if they had dug deep into their experience and held up large gobs of their life for my inspection.
Preliminary sketches, studies, roughs, thumbnails, and paper napkins all spoke to me in a way that a finished painting or sculpture (or a "finished" drawing) never could. Here was the living process of thinking, chewing, fighting, and loving that would give up its life for a finished product. In the pursuit of the final product, the real would be exchanged for an idol.
The Healing Prayer Workshop dealt with the aspects of living the Christian life "in the Spirit" as was described in the new Testament Book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles. There was no "church" as we think of one today... a place you dress up to go to on Sunday morning. In the first century, one didn't go to church, one was the church. As part of the Spirit of God Filled Life, miracles not only happened, they were expected (if not predicted). The whole point of being a follower of The Way was to have your spirit super-infused with God's spirit, like a sponge soaking up water to the point of leakage. One moved in a community of water-sloshing sponges, constantly being refilled. The idea was to make everything wet.
But as the church (the ecclesia) "matured", it became "Church". The Church became an entity apart from the sloshing-sponges. It became a place of memories and tales of the Sloshing Spirit, but a place where such outbursts might damage the man-made structure. The process of being filled with the Spirit of God gave way to the product of Church. Because God's sponge-filling could be (and usually was) messy, the Church needed to codify it, and make it part of ritual that the Church could control. So, as they focused on the final product of "Christianity", the process of becoming a "Christ-ian" was almost completely lost.
To quote myself...
Preliminary sketches, studies, roughs, thumbnails, and paper napkins all spoke to me in a way that a finished painting or sculpture (or a "finished" drawing) never could. Here was the living process of thinking, chewing, fighting, and loving that would give up its life for a finished product. The real would be exchanged for an idol.Here we now have the real exchanged for the unreal. The Spirit in Flesh exchanged for a lifeless idol.
"The Church welcomes you. Now sit down." No thanks. I must be on the Way now.