Connecting with Culture
It’s been said that culture is ‘what we make of the world’, but what does that look like as Christians? How can we begin conversations about what’s goin...
I live in a house filled with art and every piece tells me a story.
What story does this picture of a young woman tell you? Take a moment to look and meditate before you read on.
This is a painting from the Chaiya Art Awards Exhibition 2021 at the Gallery@OXO, London. Something about it caused people to stop, to enter the gallery, and ask questions. Painted by a young woman following her best friend’s healing from MS, it movingly expresses the power and presence of God. Visitors walked into the exhibition intensely curious about it. The work inspired many conversations and occasionally prayers.
In a not too dissimilar way, Jesus, embodying the heart of his Father, intrigued and moved people through parable, imaginatively outlining the multifaceted kingdom of God. The biblical literature, on a salvation trajectory, culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, takes my breath away. Each time I interrogate it, I find myself awestruck by how perfectly God made himself known, in the flesh, to humankind.
The crux, that God, through his son Jesus, chose to express his kingship not through force but self-giving love, made him irresistible to me. Despite the vagaries and difficulties of life, I still weep at times with thankfulness. Such a God is trustworthy beyond measure; someone in whom to live, and move and have my being; a person worthy of unbridled worship…
Such fullness begs the question of how it might spill out into the patch of earth we inhabit. Our place of employment, our clubs, our pubs, our neighbourhood, our friends, our communities, our council, our government, and so much more.
The cultures we populate, like the wheat and the tares, express beauty and majesty alongside weeds that strangle and destroy. Our opened eyes observe, and our hearts long to pray with, and for, our neighbour’s pain, invoking the Comforter’s power.
The transforming power of the Holy Spirit creates and recreates continually. He speaks in a multitude of imaginative ways. Artists, like Sinead, need our prayer and support as they make inspirational spiritual images that glorify God in the challenging contemporary arts arena. Given encouragement, what opportunities for God to speak into our cultures, could they create?
‘For wonder waits to kiss the space with tenderness.’
This year’s Chaiya Art Awards Exhibition is titled ‘AWE+WONDER’. It runs 7–16 April 2023 at Gallery@OXO, London. The accompanying exhibition book, edited by Ann Clifford, is published in April 2023 by Instant Apostle.
Image: Unseen, Sinead Atewell, oil. Submitted for the Chaiya Art Awards 2021.