During the summer break on a trip to Worcester, we visited the cathedral (you might want to call that a busman’s holiday). A choir were practicing and it sounded lovely, as did the sense of space. As I looked around the cathedral and in particular the sculptures, I was slightly disturbed as I looked at all these marvellous monuments to Bishops, Lords, ladies and sirs. Why did that disturb me?
Only seven days beforehand we were in another church in Malta and the sculpture and artwork were not monuments, but representations of Saints, Jesus or accounts on the life of Jesus. I remember looking at part of the stone column where Paul had rested his head before it was cut off! The art was not that cool, slightly detached English style, it was passionate, visceral and very much over the top. However, unlike the monuments in Worcester Cathedral, these were monuments that connected you to the reality of the Divine. I have to confess that I found the imagery in that Maltese church unappealing and alien, but I could sense the devotion and faith behind them.
At the start of his letter to the Colossian church Paul describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God”. We can know what God is like by looking at Jesus, it is Jesus who connects us to the divine. What is unknown and unseen is now visible. This is no monument, but like the Maltese artwork, Jesus is passionate, visceral and over the top!
There is the story of a missionary who amongst many things taught the African village he was serving in, how to tell the time using the Sun. Before he left he built a Sundial for them. The village elders gathered in order to honour and remember the missionary they would make a monument to him. So they built a hut around the sundial!
So what do we do with Jesus, the image of God? Do we turn him into a monument, shrouding him the beauty of art and music? Or do we allow him to live and love by our devotion and service?