By Joe LaGuardia
Aside from some favorite times during the Christian year, such as Pentecost and Advent, we here at my church practice another event that has become a favorite: Christival. Every October for the past thirty years, Trinity has observed Christival–a combination of “Christ” and “festival”–to celebrate faith and the arts.
Each year, local art adorns the sanctuary, worship services incorporate dramas and other creative elements, and guest musicians gift us with amazing talents. The season never gets routine or stale, and it has a way of reminding me that the One whom we serve is indeed “Creator God, creating still.”
The celebration of faith and the arts was always an intentional decision on the church’s part because art, in so many ways, has become a touchy subject for Christians.
Art is sometimes risky, sometimes questionable. At other times, art is secular rather than sacred. Many times art is viewed as being on the margins rather than in the mainstream of society.
Yet, for all its nuance and diversity, art is, as author Leland Ryken states, “A window or lens through which we see ourselves and our world” (“The Liberated Imagination”). Art, therefore, serves as iconography: It can bolster our perspective of God and our relationship to God.
More significantly, art can remind us of just how redeemed–or depraved–we humans really are. Of course, I’m not promoting all art because not all art is wholesome or even spiritually beneficial art. Beauty is–and always will be–in the eye of the beholder.
But, art, whether good or bad, reminds us that we are mere co-creators with God.
In fact, the first story in the Bible is of God creating, painting creation into existence with a palate of light, dark, water, earth, and Spirit. It seems to be a part of God’s nature, and it is inevitably a part of our nature, to create and invent, dabble and weave.
We are, after all, made in this Creator’s image, knit together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13).
The earliest story in scripture also tells us that humans can be so creative that they can sin creatively too. This reminds us that all of us have gifts, but we must use those gifts for God’s kingdom and glory rather than our own. We have inherited Adam and Eve’s exploration of good and evil, so we must always strive for that which is good.
Paul also encourages us “to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12). God intends for gifts, whether artistic or otherwise, to serve His Church and His people. Art always has a public impact, but it works best when it helps others experience the Creator and creation in fresh ways. When we do art for our own sake, it threatens to be self-absorbed and pretentious.
I am also reminded that we Christians, like all artists, are called to be people of vision. Artists see things as they really are and see things that have yet to be; artists weave meaning into the mundane and can picture the implications that our actions have yet to generate.
Art critics keep artists accountable to the craft, but artists can keep us accountable to our actions, beliefs, and worldview in the public spaces of our lives.
Not everyone can paint a great picture or write a captivating poem, but all of us have something to offer God that is a product of inspiration and creativity. It may be as simple as a knitted pot holder, or it may be as routine as telling your grandchild an action-packed bedtime story about your youth.
Let us always use those gifts to inspire others to see the world–and God–in new ways. And, for those of you who do not have a church home, we hope to see you at worship at Trinity Baptist on October 5th at 10:30 AM for our first Christival service of the season.