Updates from HopeArts.

Art Topic: “Art and Worship”

In the course of a discussion with an arts pastor friend of mine the claim was made that all Art leads to worship, and it is a question really only of that to which we are lead to worship — God, or other.

The thought bears a great deal of chewing for any artist. Through the ensuing discussion other questions were raised: can Art itself be worship; does worship ever lead to Art? The discussion stopped at this point to delve into the definitions of “Art” and “Worship.”

At the risk of appearing to needlessly ask tired questions, either through rhetorical device or for which we have little practical need to ask, Today’s Art Topic would initially want to consider the questions of those definitions, what are Art and Worship? It is arguably safe to say we as artists never actually leave off  from answering this question. More saliently, it could be said that never leaving off from answering (from being within or doing the activity of answering) those questions is in part what it means to be an artist, and notably a Christian artist.

Abraham, in a moment, was asked to sacrifice his only son, the son of promise, and that a moment of believing in God (to be able to raise Issac from the grave if necessary to honor the promise) was credited to Abraham as righteousness. In the Christian scriptures we are told to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, this is [our] holy and pleasing spiritual act of worship”. Elsewhere we are told to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our strength, with all our mind, and Christ himself said that was the greatest commandment, the second unto it being to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Unlike with Abraham’s singular act (which occurred over the course of a few hours), our spiritual act(s) of worship (as believers) seem to be ongoing, continual even, albeit perhaps continual across numerous instances specifically (as, in general, as we seek life, and Life). Put differently, submitting our bodies as living sacrifices is a continual act. Experience tells us that, as parents trying to follow the Lord and to raise our children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord we are repeatedly “offering our children” (back) to the Lord, or, rather, are seeking His direction continually with what He would leads us in doing with His children He has entrusted to us. Again, continual action.

Putting a fine point on it, worship thus understood never stops. Worship is not (merely) singing songs, hymns, and praises on Sunday. And singing songs and praising are but one manner of worshiping (whereby notably we are submitting our bodies in a traditionally artistic way).

If worship is a continual, ongoing act, then what is “art-ing”? Can “art” be a continual act, as worship is a continual act — could “art” ever be a verb? We use the term “creating,” and we are arguably creating just as continually as we are worshiping when we create (or worship, respectively).

So, let me just make the personal claim here (and stop pedagogically seeding the flower bed for that claim) which I want to make. L’Engle brings up the young virgin Mary, asked to bear the seed and bring to life the person of Christ. L’Engle goes on to draw the similarity of the artist to Mary, saying that the Story we tell as a writer (or visual artist, or sculptor, or weaver, ect.) comes to us, asking us to perform artistic midwifery and give it “incarnation.” And like with Mary, we artists have the choice to serve it or not. We never stop being parents / artists, and we repeatedly as parents / artists are giving the children with whom we are entrusted back to the Lord. And, sometimes we are asked, as Anne Lamott is found of saying, “to sacrifice our darlings”.  Earlier before this reference to Mary, L’Engle discloses how everything she does flows out of her nature as a Christian and as a writer, and verily speaking, we Christian artists are adopted children of God and new creations in Christ, invested with the Holy Spirit causing us to will and to desire (thus to create) according to His good pleasure (if it is to the spiritual nature submit).

So I ask again, what is the relationship of Art to Worship? What is the profound calling to which we are called as artists? As worshipers and as the redeemed?

Afterthought: {and, also, a digression from the above}

In the truest philosophical senses, an “argument” can easily be made for the case that, as God’s creation we are His art, creating ever continually within an ever continually creative creation (which is that of Creation), ergo, we are art and are always creating, always “art-ing”. Art, in this philosophical argument, is a state of being, just as worship is a state of being, that is, when we participate in being (according to the spiritual nature), and when we don’t (according to the flesh).