These are three images I made during the Advent season in 2016. Here’s what I wrote about the images….
I love Christmas. I love the lights. The music (non-stop til the 25th!). I love any reason to party.
But this year it just feels empty. The world has always been chaotic…. but after a divisive and exhausting election, images of innocent carnage in Aleppo, the overwhelming stream of information that mostly tells us that we’re all doomed…. lights, tinsel, and Starbucks cups just don’t seem to matter. The aesthetics of safe shepherds, safe stables, safe and secure stars, angels, wise men, etc…. just don’t make sense.
They don’t make sense in this world on the brink of fear and despair.
Vulnerability is scary. It’s a risk and it costs.
Everything about the coming of Yahweh in the form of a fragile baby is vulnerable. The powerlessness. The chaos of not having a sanitized place to birth. The shocking biology of it all. I’ve witnessed two births and both brought me to tears. It’s a beautiful experience… but not in any safe way. The water, the blood, the body fluids.
So much comes out when a baby is born. Sometimes the mother poops when a baby is born. Nobody puts that in their baby books.
Jesus was born just like us. In all of goopy humanity. There is something overwhelming sacred this year for me to meditate on that. That he was born of blood… like we are. That he partook in the powerless vulnerability of coming into the world… like we feel. That he was born into the shit…. which we never seem to get out of.
Go Santa. Go presents. Go eggnog. Go all of it.
But for me the magic of Christmas this year is knowing that He’s always been in the shit with us. And still is. And always will be. .
Many of you have asked for the opportunity to purchase these prints. You can click the photo and you will be directed the place where that can happen!!!
Honestly. I went to this horrible church service recently. It was awful. It was awful because it was churchy for church sake. Layers and layers upon activities and statements that didn’t sound like they had anything to with life outside of this building. They only made sense in this particular practice. And my biggest beef is that the word worship has been taken and defined to mean a very particular activity. So I decided to and my two cents in this video…..
And as always…. I made some art about it.
You should get one of these. : )
I’m excited to release this limited run of prints of “The Fulfillment of Prophecy.” The prints are 16″x 20″, black and gold printed on a cream colored paper. Right now I’m selling them for a sale price of $20. GET THE PRINT.
Lately, I’ve struggled with the symbol of the cross and it’s seemingly irrelevance in our culture currently. Its not that I don’t think it’s important theologically. I just think symbolically in our culture now it’s an ambiguous symbol. It’s ambiguous because of over use.Read More»
Here’s some thoughts…
These images come from Jesus’s fulfillment of prophecy in the scriptures:
bird with fire – psalm 2:7 – declared the beloved son – matt 3:17
spear/blood – psalm 22:14 – pierced with spear – john 19:34
pierced hands/feet – psalm 22:16 – pierced hands and feet – john 19:34
shepherd staff – psalm 23:1 – the good shepherd – john 10:11
coffin – psalm 40:2-5 – resurrection from death – john 20:20
crown – psalm 89:27 – king of kings – luke 1:32
flower – psalm 89:35-37 – david’s seed, kingdom endure forever – luke 1:32,33
hexagon/triangle – psalm 118:22,23 – the rejected stone is the cornerstone – matthew 21:42,43
branch – isaiah 11:1 – called a nazarene-the-branch, netzer – matthew 2:23
infinity symbol – isaiah 9:7 – to end to his government, throne, and peace – luke 1:32-33
bolt – isaiah 42:7 – blind eyes opened – john 9:25-38
lamb – isaiah 53:7 – sacrificial lamb – john 1:29
world – isaiah 53:8 – died for the sins of the world – 1 john 2:2
cup of blood – leviticus 17:11 – the blood of atonement – john 7:37
INRI – psalm 22:8 – mocked, “king of the jews” – matthew 27:43
shoot from stump – isaiah 11:1-2 – shoot from jesse’s stump – mark 12:35-37
whale – jonah 2 – sign of jonah – matthew 12:39-41
alpha and omega – psalm 90:2 – he is from everlasting – john 1:1
There’s a lot to be said about #GoodFriday… and I don’t claim to speak to all of that in this video… but I put together some thoughts that I’ve had about GF that constantly give me joy. It’s a song that truly saves people.
Since I posted Why The Church Needs Art – Part Four… which speaks to the stations of the cross tattoo show I did years ago… I’ve had a few people contact me about a biblical basis for tattoos. Back then we were getting the same questions… and one of our elders, David Capes, a biblical scholar, wrote this letter to those who asked. I think it’s great… and I share it with you now.
We’ve had many questions concerning Leviticus 19:28: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” Although the verse before says “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” and most everyone no longer thinks that command applies to our modern cultural context, many believe that verse 28 is still something we our bound by. Our good friend, church elder, and biblical scholar Dr. David Capes wrote a letter to such a question and we think it’s a good response if you had such a query:
“For the record I won’t be getting a tattoo—for lots of reasons—but I understand how some want to and others find it strange. People over 45 often associate tattoos with bad behavior. When they were growing up the only people to get tattoos were those who went off, got drunk and came back all inked up. Even Scott last week in his sermon talked about being afraid of a rough fellow who was “all tatted up”. Today though I imagine most Ecclesians under 35 have at least one tattoo. It is understood like a rite of passage into adulthood, a way of expressing their individuality and yet ironically going along with the crowd (since most their age have them). It is an interesting cultural phenomenon.
Now specifically to your question about the Old Testament Scripture. It is true and undeniable that Leviticus instructs the people of God not to cut their bodies or get tattoos. But we must ask what function those laws had. There are 613 laws in the Old Testament that make up—and this is key—God’s covenant-agreement with the people known as Israel. Some laws are universal (no murder, no stealing, no adultery), but the majority are specific to that people. Christians today, for example, don’t remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy by doing no work on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the 7th day of the week, Saturday, not Sunday. Christian women today don’t follow the laws of what to do during their menstrual cycles. The majority of Christians eat pork, shrimp and catfish despite God’s clear instruction to Israel not to eat these things (Leviticus 11). Christians today don’t celebrate Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Now why don’t Christians follow these laws? They are part of the Bible. True, they are, but these are laws God gave to establish the people we know today as Israel. These laws set them apart from their pagan neighbors. They are written, according to Paul, for our instruction but they do not apply to us. Paul, you remember, did not insist that Gentile men be circumcised in order to follow Christ even though circumcision was central to the Abrahamic covenant. Circumcision is the mark/cutting of the body that set the men of Israel apart from their pagan neighbors. Today many Jews still follow these laws and practices.
Informed by the Old Testament, Christians are to be formed by a different set of teachings (the Sermon on the Mount, law of Christ—Galatians 6), practices (Sunday worship, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, hospitality), and beliefs (incarnation, trinity, resurrection, etc).
Now to the question of our bodies as the temple of God. This is true and a central part of the church’s teaching. However, temples were not blank buildings. If you read the description of the tabernacle in Exodus and Leviticus you will see that the temple was an ornate, decorated, beautiful place. It was probably the most ornate building they would ever see. The walls were covered with tapestries that had images of angels on them. The columns were covered with images and designs. The furnishings were of gold and silver. This was, after all, God’s house and it was meant to be grand. You could not look in any direction in the temple and not see some image crafted by an artist on the walls and columns.
For centuries, the church has struggled to tell the story of the Gospel well. They mined culture around them to do so. The halo around the heads of saints on paintings and icons is an image of the sun drawn from pagan culture and stories of Apollo. The catacomb paintings are not unlike paintings in pagan burial chambers (they just tell part of the Christian story). When Martin Luther wrote hymns, his hymn tunes were inspired by folk songs he heard in his day. Contemporary Christian music is drawn on the various art forms you can hear on the radio. The stations of the cross tattoos are probably most like the stain glass windows of churches. For most of Christian history, the majority of Christians could not read. So church leaders put art work in their churches to tell the story. Stained glass windows are a celebrated art form which depict key moments in the drama of redemption. Even today we are fascinated and instructed by their images. I suspect that this tattoo project is a moment when we have the opportunity to tell the story again to a different group of people. For these people tattoos are a manner of self-impression mixed with a bit of social conformity.
I hope this helps. I suspect it will for some, not for others. People often have a visceral response to tattoo culture. If I can help in any way, please let me know.”
David B. Capes
Thomas Nelson Research Professor
School of Theology
Houston Baptist University