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Engaging Lent Through Art

Engaging Lent Through Art

For centuries, the church has observed a season called Lent.

Lent is a period of reflection and imitation. It’s a season of spiritual preparation in which Jesus’ followers embrace intentional self-denial, just as Jesus embraced His cross.

This year, Christ Community is commemorating Lent in a variety of ways.

Our celebration of Lent began on Ash Wednesday, with services at both our Leawood and Brookside Campuses. And next Friday, March 29, we’re honored to be hosting The Gologotha Experience at our Brookside Campus.

We’ve also chosen to engage Lent through stunning visual art on display in our Four Chapter Gallery at the Downtown Campus. This March and April, Four Chapter Gallery is presenting Cross & Resurrection, a collection of artwork created by Christos Collective that focuses on Christ’s sacrifice for us.

As these pieces have hung in our space for the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by how many congregants have stopped at each piece, taking in their beauty and exploring what they communicate about Jesus’s death for the sin of the world.

But it’s not just our congregants who are finding themselves challenged and inspired by the work. I’ve likewise found myself particularly drawn to a pair of of paintings that hang behind our stage.

The first image in the pair presents the crowd’s derision of Christ as He made His way to Golgotha. Angry accusers hound Him, while others offer to speak on His behalf, leveraging His suffering for their own 15 minutes of fame. Some seem to ignore His suffering, focusing instead on lesser distractions, while others look on with mild pity. No one in the image seems to recognize the gravity of the work that is being accomplished in front of their eyes. They’re blind to the fact that they’re witnessing the Son of Man give His life to redeem the world He made.

The second image builds upon the message of the first. It depicts Christ resurrected. In this image, indifference towards Christ continues but takes a different form. The crowd remains distracted. Some are glued to their screens, while others continue to leverage Christ to build their own platforms. Those who derided Him at His death now deride one another. They’re caught in a cycle of scorn and condemnation. Yet again, those who have witnessed a remarkable miracle—Christ’s resurrection—seem oblivious to its implications.

Art is a visual language. And it speaks to the human soul in ways that words cannot.

This is what I love about art. This is why I’m so thankful that our church is committed to the arts.

Just as Lent invites us to embrace a particular, embodied spiritual discipline (i.e., fasting) so that we might learn more about what it means to follow Jesus in all of life, viewing art grants us the ability to slow down and engage the gospel story in an entirely unique way. Art speaks to us on a cognitive and emotional level. And it can cause us to understand our discipleship to Jesus more fully, when we take time to reflect on its message.

Seeing Jesus as He truly is is key for Christian discipleship. If we want to follow Jesus, we need a fully orbed portrait of who He was, and what He prioritized, and how we are to respond to Him.

While He walked among us, Jesus was perceived in many ways. The desperate saw Him as their only hope. The religious leaders saw Him as an intolerable threat. Peter saw Jesus as a political revolutionary—a militant leader, who would overthrow their oppressors and establish a Jewish kingdom. (This is why Peter wanted to sit at Jesus’ right hand, and why he drew his sword at Jesus’ arrest.)

Put more plainly: Peter thought Jesus would cross out the Roman Empire, not wind up on a Roman cross.

But Jesus’ death and resurrection changed all that. After Jesus rose and spent time with Peter, Peter saw more clearly what discipleship to Jesus required.

This Lenten season, we need our vision adjusted. We must see Jesus as the Son of Man sent to die. And the powerful collection of paintings in our Four Chapter Gallery helps us do just that.

If you haven’t seen this work yet, I invite you to join us at the Four Chapter Gallery for April’s First Friday. The Gallery will be open from 5:30-9:00pm on Friday, April 5. Come at any point during that period to engage this thoughtful collection. Allow the art to speak to you. And see if God might use these powerful images to give you greater insight into how you might follow Him in the various roles and responsibilities He’s prepared for you.

Real Partnership for Real Change

Real Partnership for Real Change

In December of 2016, one Christ Community member took a bold step. She was convicted. And this conviction found its deepest pang not in how broken she saw the world but rather in how clearly she understood her calling.

She believed:

  1. Urban and underprivileged children should have opportunities to explore and experience music and the arts.
  2. God is the ultimate Creator, who originally created a good and beautiful world for us to live in. As His image-bearers, we are also called to create beauty in our world.
  3. Christians are called to seek the common good of our city.

And so Sara Forsythe gathered a team of Christ Community folks in collaboration with Mission Adelante staff to birth a weeklong Arts Camp.

For the past two years, this week-long camp has been a catalyst for discipling children in knowing our creative God and honing their creative gifts as image-bearers. Check out her recap of this last year’s camp here. It’s beautiful to see Christ Community volunteers and financial support leveraged in this common-good initiative.

Not only is the Arts Camp a beautiful picture of our robust partnership with Mission Adelante, but it keeps growing in impact. Now, throughout the year, children are growing in the arts, developing leadership skills, and finding their place to serve others in their community.

Gissell Vasquez is an associate ministry director at Mission Adelante. She leads the Adelante Arts Community year round, and one child who has been impacted through Adelante Arts is Prishmila. Gissell writes:

“When she began attending Arts Community, you could tell that she was one of those charming and shy girls that would not answer a question if not asked directly. Not only did she never miss a class, she was the first to arrive.” 

But over time, something happened:

“…As I was helping the students one by one to remember the names of the guitar strings and naming the new chords we were practicing, this girl stepped in and said to me, ‘Do you want me to help you? I can work with my partner while you are doing it with the rest.’ It was a surprise and a joy for me having her offer to help. Immediately I said, ‘Yes, of course, go for it!’ That night and for the rest of the trimester she became not only a student but a helper. She is becoming an artist with a potential to be developed beyond our program and she is turning into a young leader with the most important leadership skill: a servant heart.

I’m blessed to have such an amazing group of students that come every Monday night to enjoy the arts, to share life together, and to learn about Jesus.”

It’s one of our great joys as a church to partner with such excellent organizations like Mission Adelante, influencing our community and world for Jesus Christ. If you aren’t familiar with their work, Mission Adelante longs to see “a growing multicultural community of disciples making disciples, where immigrants and others are thriving and using our gifts together to transform our neighborhood and the world for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

Whether helping immigrants and refugees sharpen their English speaking skills, cultivating the arts with emerging artists, cultivating a space for community support, sharing the gospel, or providing jobs through Adelante Thrift, Kansas City is better for it and Jesus is glorified in it.

Partnership is always more than just a relationship, but never less. And every relationship has to start somewhere. If you are curious about how you too can get engaged with the amazing work at Mission Adelante but you don’t have a ton of time, try this. One good first step would be to coordinate a time for you or a group to serve at Adelante Thrift. If you would like to schedule an opportunity to serve, you can go here.

If you’re looking for more robust engagement, whether in mentoring or teaching in ESL, check out those opportunities here. And if you have artistic gifts and hearing the story of Prishmila inspired you, Gissell is always looking for teachers and mentors in the arts. Reach out for information here.

Think about it. Can you imagine if a whole generation of immigrants and refugees were affirmed in their dignity as image-bearers? Imagine if the most vulnerable in KC were empowered to cultivate their God-given capacity to create where God has them today? It would make for a better city. A better tomorrow for us all.

May we not just be broken by what we see but convicted by who we’re called to be.

All it takes is one big step.

Take it today.