Surprised by God in ART

Surprised by God in ART


Call to Worship      Yearning for the Breath of God. Joyce Rupp

A small wooden flute,

an empty, hollow reed,

rests in her silent hand.

it awaits the breath

of one who creates song

through its open form.

my often-empty life

rests in the hand of God;

like the hollowed flute,

it yearns for the melody

which only Breath can give.

the small wooden flute and I,

we need the One who breathes,

we await One who makes melody.

and the One whose touch creates,

awaits our empty, ordinary firms,

so that the song-starved world

may be fed with golden melodies.

Votum:   Ps 121:1

I lift up my eyes to the hills—

   from where will my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

   who made heaven and earth.

Salutation:  Num 6:24-26

May the Lord bless you and keep you

May the Lord make his face shine upon you

            And be gracious to you.

May the Lord turn his face towards you

            And give you his peace. Amen.


Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being,

your face is hidden from us by our absence,

and we forget your mercy in the blindness of our hearts.

Cleanse us from all our ignorance,

and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires.

With humbleness and meekness

may we draw near to you,

confessing our faults,

confiding in your grace,

and finding in you our refuge and strength;

through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.

Pardon.   Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Summary of the Law          Matt. 22:37-40

Psalter:   Metaphors of God’s sheltering presence.

In the shadow of your wings I take refuge, until the destruction is past (Ps 57:1).

Pause to see yourself as one who is sheltered under God’s wings.

For you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me stay in your tent for ever … (Ps 61:3-4).

Pause to see yourself safe from the storms of life, sheltered in God’s presence.

In God alone there is rest for my soul,

. . . my rock, my safety, my stronghold so that I stand unshaken (Ps 62:1-2).

Pause to see yourself hidden and protected behind God, our Rock,

. . . for you have always been my help; in the shadow of your wings I rejoice;

my heart clings to you, your right hand supports me (Ps 63:7-8).

Pause to see God‘s hand helping and supporting you.

And so I will sing of your strength, in the morning acclaim your faithful love;

you have been a stronghold for me, a refuge when I was in trouble (Ps 59:16).

Pause to see yourself receiving God’s strengthening love day by day.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,

where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts,

my King and my God. Ps 84: 3

Pause to come home in the presence of God as a bird in a nest.


OT     Ex 31:1-3 & Ex 35:30-35

NT     Acts 17:22-28

Gospels   Matthew 13:10-17

INTRODUCTION : Albrecht Durer

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg lived a family with eighteen children. Yes, eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder’s children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy. After many long discussions in their crowded bed at night, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would work in the nearby mines and support his brother with his earnings while attending the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time have graduated, he was earning considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, ” And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you. “

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while have sobbed and repeated. Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. Holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It’s too late for me. Look … look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately, I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand. I will not be able to make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me, it is too late.”

More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in museums around the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, to pay Albert homage for all he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together, and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.” The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let the love, empathy, gratitude and beauty in the imperfection speak to your soul.

In the 1960s, Tomas Merton recorded a series of lectures on the poetry of Rainer Maria RILKE under the title “God Speaks to Each of Us.”  He shows how God meets us through poetry.

Have you ever considered or experienced the Gods’ touch through the outstretched finger of God through art? Have you ever been surprised by God in a painting, piece of music, a poem, a movie, a book, or food art? Even in just the beautiful design of a cup or pattern in your clothes? Not just an experience of beauty, but being surprised by God’s presence, touch, or divine inspiration.

T Merton:  God uses beauty as bait to lure us to Him! Music, art, and poetry attune the soul to God because they induce … secret gravitation that draws all things to God as to their center..


The first attribute of God in the Bible, that we articulate in our Creeds, is  GOD AS THE CREATOR!  In a wonderfully creative way, God created heaven and earth – the whole universe in its infinite macro greatness down to the finest micro-detail, and the pinnacle of it all humankind!

The word “create”; barahin Hebrew, occurs 86 times and is associated with God’s work. It is usually associated with word new or new (kadash). The novelty of the act of creation is something unprecedented and surprising. (Isa. 43: 15-21) It is something that man could not foresee (Num. 16:30). It is the creation of something valuable ( Gen 29: Isa 41: 17-20) that, for example, solves a problem, or fulfills function with beauty and efficiency. But it is also transforming creative power (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:15)

A theologian explained that GOD ALMIGHTY is the Creative Idea, God, the SON;  the Creative Energy, God the SPIRIT; the Creative Communication.

We could use MORE NAMES to describe God’s creative nature, his creativity :

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 ESV

• He is the Heavenly Artist who created the earth with colorful variety: land and sea; mountains and gorges; rivers and more; rock and stone; trees, plants, leaves, flowers – an incredibly creative work of art! With this in mind, we could also call Him the Divine Gardener and Landscape Architect (Gen.2: 8,9)

• We could also speak of the Creator Lord as Divine Sculptor: he formed man in his image into a living work of art – Gen.2: 7

The universe is God’s art. Our planet is God’s best art form.
Nature is God’s best artwork. And humans are God’s magnus opus.
  Len Sweet

Look at God’s beauty and creativity in nature! Mountains, plains, oceans, trees, flowers, and sunsets … painted with creativity from its palette of light and color. God creates diversity: at least 350,000 species of bugs alone! 230,000 species of flowers, 10, 000 bird species, and 4,629 species of mammals. Not to mention the size of the universe with over 200 billion suns to the smallest neutrino. This is staggering!

God is the Creative Artist.

In Matthew 13 we see how Jesus purposely used metaphors and parables, engaging the imagination, not just the intellect.  

Mat 13:13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” … 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

The imagination works through suggestion, not description. Description is always direct and frequently closes off what it names. Suggestion respects the mystery and richness of a thing. All it offers are clues to its nature. Suggestion keeps the mystery open and extends us the courtesy of inviting us to see the thing for ourselves. It offers us the hospitality and freedom to trust the integrity of our own encounter with a thing. This is how a work of art can allow itself to be seen in so many different and often conflicting ways. It does not foreclose on the adventure of revelation. —John O’Donohue

That is why God uses Beauty as Artist: is it beyond intellect!

Psalm 27:4 Behold the Beauty of the Lord!

Divine Beauty enlightens your soul, awakens your deepest being!

Your eyes open up to see the beauty in thousands of places.

But God creates a different kind of beauty: Divine Beauty! Greek beauty sought perfection in form and harmony. God’s beauty emerges from the scourged Christ, crowned with thorns, crucified with the expression of pain and suffering!

Therefore, Paul could find beauty in the weakness of the Crucified God! God embraces our brokenness, and it becomes beautiful!

Beauty is not perfection but a relationship! A piece of music can be performed with technical perfection, but without a heart, it does not communicate.

Beauty outside confirms and creates beauty in our inner world. This is what happens in art: Something on the outside is picked up by senses and ingested, then it resonates with what is inside. The beautiful outside resonates with the beautiful inside.


In ACTS 17:28  Paul refers to a poem from a heathen (heeeth-in) poet in Athens! For as even some of your own poets have said, “In him we live and move and have our being, for we too are his offspring.

Paul explains that God is the Creator of all.

> v 25 : God lives in All things

> v 27 : God is not far from each one of us

> v 28 : In Him we live, move, and have our being!

True art makes us aware of the tremendous mystery of being, in which we ourselves, together with all other living and existing things, come forth from the depths of God and return again to God. We are already one, but we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity … What we have to be is what we are. Art can help us do that. Thomas Merton

Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way: The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity.”

In the book Chasing Francis, Ian Morgan Cron writes (p.108) ‘I am always moved to tears when I hear a marvelous performance followed by a standing ovation,’ he said. ‘I feel that at the climax of our cheering, we cross a boundary and unwittingly begin applauding some other reality who cannot be seen. We want to thank Beauty itself. Is it possible that during the performance we consciously sensed Someone standing behind the beautiful? Someone who is it’s source, and we are moved to praise Him as well?’ 

Paul Gauguin says in 1888 that creating art for our Divine Master causes us to come closer to God.



Humankind is created as an image of God … “Imago Dei”.  As the image of God we have the ability, character, potential, and the call to continue the creative work of God. Adam and Eve must give the animals names, cultivate and protect the garden, the animals, fish, and birds.

Our divine DNA carries the creative impulse of the Creator. Even if you don’t consider

yourself creative or artistic, it is an inherent part of your being. 

The same Spirit of God that was active in creation (Gen.1:2) inspired people to create art!

 Ex 35:30 – 36See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 he(GOD) has filled him with divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, 32 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft.

34 And he(SPIRIT) has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He(SPIRIT) has filled them with skill to do every kind of work done by an artisan or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and in fine linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of artisan or skilled designer.”

Of course, we do not create in the same manner as God created. God has created out of nothing, but God gives us the gifts and skills to unlock the potential from what we received. Then we are part of God’s creative plan.

Dorothy Sayers wrote a theology of creativity. She says: humankind is also fundamentally a creator, with lower case “c”. God is the Creator with a capital letter.

If you are made in the image of a creative God, and it is one of the core characteristics of your being human that you live creatively … how can you do otherwise?

Nelus Niemandt says: Being creative and using your imagination is nothing less than continuing God’s creative work.”

Definition of Art: narrow and broad

BUT art and creativity are not just about being able to paint, draw, compose and perform music or write the most beautiful poems, that too, but it’s about living creativity.

Everyone’s clay is different: the mother, doctor, teacher, mathematician, engineer, scientist, facilitator, student, child, or pensioner … Everyone needs creativity. This is your calling and how we were created.

Art can be defined as all forms of creative expression of imagination. So, all people are practicing art in different degrees and in various forms.

Your life lies in front of you as a white canvas ready to be panted.  CREATE your Life Art Now!!!! Paint your canvas with passion and creativity, using the unique brushes and paint colors that God has given you …

LIFE STORY:  – Robert McKay

Write every day

Line by line

Page by page

Hour by hour

Do this dispite fear

For above all else

Beyond all imagination and skill

What the world asks of you

Is courage

Courage to risk rejection, ridicule, and failure

As you follow the quest for stories

Told with meaning and beauty

Study thoughtfully

But write boldly

Then like the hero of the fable

Your dance will dazzle the world

With great stories.

Let’s take the next step into our lives…

Over the ages, there was a well-known spiritual discipline called Lection Divina (Divine/Sacred Reading). Today, I want to invite you to practice another spiritual discipline: VISIO DIVINA

Visio Divina (Divine Seeing or sacred seeing) It establishes a relationship with an image or subject. Whether it is cup, painting, sculpture, or a poem…. patiently being with it, receptive in mind and heart, perhaps even in dialogue with it. …. first on the level of what is seen with the eyes of your rational mind, the literal details of the image. When you are ready, allow those sights and thoughts to pass by, making space for the inner eye of the heart to open and interact with the image. In stillness, allow the image to reach beyond the intellect and into the unconscious level of our being, a place that can’t be accessed directly. Take the time to gaze at an image and allow it to speak to you In wonder, we are invited to look at every aspect of an image with faith and discernment and ponder it as an encounter with God. God will surprise you in unexpected places!

Be patient. Stay with your experience. Settle in and rest in the presence of the subject. Allow the image to speak its truth to you. How does this image inform or illume your relationship with God? How does it speak to you of your spiritual journey now? How does this experience support your willingness to be opened, to be healed?– Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler

Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.”The famous words of FREDERICK LANGBRIDGE express how important it is how we perceive things. Different people may look at the same object but interpret it totally differently.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!!! The object then becomes alive with personal meaning meant just for us.

VISIO DIVINA affects everything around us: how you look at people around you, how you look at a tree, look at a painting, how you look at an ordinary object and so everything around you …

ART amplifies the Sacredness of the ordinary.


Your great mistake is to act the drama

as if you were alone. As if life

were a progressive and cunning crime

with no witness to the tiny hidden

transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny

the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,

even you, at times, have felt the grand array;

the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding

out your solo voice. You must note

the way the soap dish enables you,

or the window latch grants you freedom.

Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.(2X)

The stairs are your mentor of things

to come, the doors have always been there

to frighten you and invite you,

and the tiny speaker in the phone

is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into

the conversation. The kettle is singing

even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots

have left their arrogant aloofness and

seen the good in you at last. All the birds

and creatures of the world are unutterably

themselves. Everything is waiting for you.(2X)

By DAVID WHYTE. From Everything is Waiting for You. ©2003 Many Rivers Press

Confession:            First United Pres. Plymouth MI                     From E. Campbell

We believe that God created and is still creating and that we are called to join in this creation.  We believe that God does not love us because  Christ died for us, but that Christ died for us because God loves us. 

We believe  that God’s Holy Spirit of love still sets people free and that God calls us to help in this task of liberation.  We believe that the church is a chosen people, not chosen for its own  sake, but to be a servant of Him for the sake of the world.  We believe that God’s love is unfailing, and so we approach the future with confidence.  Amen.


May the beauty of God

amaze us with joy.

May the oneness of God

Keep us balanced and free.

May the Goodness of God

Give us courage and strength.

May God’s coming in Christ

Hold us in Light and in dark.

May the dying of Christ

Lead us in Light

May the Rising of Christ

Remake us in Light

May the Wisdom of the Word

Make us supple and kind.

May the truth of God’s Spirit

Tend the place of our hearts.

May the Mystery of Gods dream

Draw us to DO and to BE.

And mat the Blessing of God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Shape our lives now

And in all times to come.


Creativity Prayer by Kent Henry

“God shine Your light on the most gifted areas of my life…

Give me understanding of how to utilize these gifts effectively

so that I can fulfill my calling and destiny.

It is my joy and satisfaction to be a helper of humanity,

exuding all kindness and humility

to lift and improve the lives of others for the betterment of people.

Lord, I ask You to release in me in Your Creative Spirit,

including clever and witty inventions

along with significant, life changing ideas…

 Release all the creativity You put in me,

so that people might be drawn to You through my life.” AMEN

Howard Thurman (1900-1981)

Lord, open unto me

Open unto me—light for my darkness.

Open unto me—courage for my fear.

Open unto me—hope for my despair.

Open unto me—peace for my turmoil.

Open unto me—joy for my sorrow.

Open unto me—strength for my weakness.

Open unto me—wisdom for my confusion.

Open unto me—forgiveness for my sins.

Open unto me—love for my hates.

Open unto me—thy Self for my self.

Lord, Lord, open unto me! Amen. [24]