Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent 1: Light and Metaphor and Extinction Events

Our Worship Together service tries to provide a variety of ways for people to interact with the Biblical text for the day:  small group discussion, sermon-like presentation, a piece of art for people to consider and discuss, a song, signing some of the song, puppet shows, and small-group discussion.  Some days, we do an additional small group exercise; a few weeks, we did a haiku exercise that I wrote about here.

Our Bible reading for yesterday, the first day of Advent, was John 1:1-3, an excellent introduction to metaphor.  God as word:  certainly I can relate to that.  But if I was a painter, would I want God to be described as paint on a canvas?  We talked about this a bit in our small groups as we completed yesterday's art exercise.

We had a big sheet of paper on which we wrote all the things in our world which give light:  flashlights, the sun, light bulbs, things like that.  We were allowed to write and/or to draw.

Then we had two pieces of paper, one white, one black.  On that paper, we drew an image that represents Christ.  We were allowed to go with something traditional, like a manger or a cross.  Or we could be more metaphorical.

My group was composed of 2 English major types, 1 scientist, and 3 teenagers (actually, one may be in his early 20's).  We had no trouble coming up with a variety of possibilities.  My contribution?  I said that Jesus is like an asteroid.

My group asked me how I came up with that idea.  I talked about Apocalyptic Planet, the book by Craig Childs that I'd been reading which talks about a variety of extinctions that the planet has experienced.  I talked about the asteroid that crashed into the earth and how that asteroid is thought to be responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.  The extinction of the dinosaurs made it possible for smaller mammals, like humans, to find a foothold and achieve prominence.

We agreed that the violence of that event was problematic.  Jesus wipes out the big animals, like the dinosaurs?  I said, "Jesus comes to wipe out the dinosaurs of hate to make room for the animals of love to take hold."  We had fun discussing it, along with other possibilities.

In the end, our group artist drew a lamb standing on an asteroid.  We cut out the image and did a shadowbox kind of thing with the two colors of paper.

Why white and black?  We talked about colors that reflect light and colors that absorb light and what that has to do with Jesus and the way we respond to him along with the way he responds to us.

I must confess, it's the art exercise in which we participate that I remember most vividly.  Putting together a drama that demonstrates a Bible story (the house built on sand, the house built on rock) or writing a haiku or drawing an image--that stays with me longer than a sermon, longer than a song, longer than the discussions that led up to the finished project. 

My brain is not alone in responding that way, but I'm not going to explore the neuroscience here, simply make the observation.  It's worth thinking about, though, as we craft our worship services, our Sunday Schools, and our Confirmation classes.  Vacation Bible School seems to be already on board with this idea of a text that we learn about from different directions in a given module. 

Why has it taken so long to transfer these lessons to other ways that we hope to shape Christians into better disciples?

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