Friday, October 26, 2012

The color of context

As the view from my window displays for me this morning, Fall is solidly here in the Northwest.  The leaves are turning their muted shades of red and yellow while everything else has chosen its own form of brown.  Next week, Halloween makes its annual appearance with its own shades of color, much of which will certainly be borrowed by the impending death and hibernation of the season.  It occurred to me this morning on my commute across the street to my office, that looks down on this scene, there is a natural correlation for me between the seasonal colors and the holidays.  Right around the corner comes Thanksgiving, again with its reds, yellows, oranges, browns, all signs of harvest and the end or at least dormancy of another life cycle.  It has always been this way for me.  My life has always been lived across the northern reaches of our country.
When I first looked out my window on the scene below, with the colors before me and Halloween plans in the back of my mind, it occurred to me that Halloween would look very different to me if it occurred during another time on the calendar.  Just think about it for a minute.... What about July 4th?  Red, white, and blue, are just not Halloween colors.  Witches in long flowing robes and black pointy hats, riding brooms don't inspire firing up the BBQ while rolling out the dogs and burgers.  What about December 25 with all its red and green, or the Easter season that really has more random dating but a definite pastel bent when it comes to choosing colors?  Certainly not inspiring a zombie apocalypse.
After contemplating this for a bit, I realized what a small view that I really have of all this.  A good section of the country must not view these things in the same way at all.  What I mean is, Halloween without green palm trees, while never entering into my mind, is completely unthinkable in Southern California or Florida.  And consequently, a vision of Santa in a speedo is something that I would want surgically removed from my brain, it might be quite powerful and relatable imagery in Hawaii.
So is there something deeper in this thought process or is this just a reflection of the reality that I just spent 3 days on the couch dealing with some version of the flu?  It's one word really.  Not only is it one word, but its one of my favorite words.  The word is context.  This activity in my brain has reminded me that context is one of the most powerful words and powerful concepts that any of us deal with on a daily basis, especially when it comes to relationship.  It helps or hinders communication.  It can foster understanding.  It can build communion and community.  As a pastoral artist for the past 20 years in different contexts, I have come to a better understanding on the power of context and the dismal lack of appreciation that followers of Jesus have for it.  This is kind of irony for me because Jesus was a master of context, and people of my sort seem satisfied to paint him with the same brush...with the same color scheme.  In 20 years I have been in rural small town, sprawling suburbs and urban centers.  Each is different and into each context Jesus speaks differently.  Same message, different language.  In my reading of The Story, he entered into every context that he needed to enter into in order to build a relationship or to speak into one already established.  It's easier though to create one size fits all though isn't it.  However, if you have any fashion sense at all you understand that "one size fits all" really means" looks good on none".  The greatest tragedy to all of this is the idea that we would ever want to mute the incredible color palette that was provided for us into something that more fit our comfort level.   Frankly it makes us seem boring and rather uncreative.  That is criminal, in my opinion.  When I look out of my office, I am proud to say that I am looking down on a community of artists that I have had the privilege of leading for 6 years now, housed in one of our buildings.  These are some of the most creative people that I have ever had the honor of knowing and working with.  Many would not consider themselves followers of Jesus, but they all understand color, context, and creativity and, I believe that, until now, these are certainly not things that they would have ever associated with those of our kind.  Does anyone else see the irony in this?  We represent the Creator of creativity.  We represent the One who spoke color into existence.  We represent the master of context.  Our community of artists is known as "ginomai".  It's the Greek word taken from John 1 verse 3 meaning the creative process of God which reads " Through him all things were made (ginomai); without him nothing was made that has been made (ginomai)."   The Church used to be the major patron and influencer of art throughout the ages...but the palettes changed and it became uncomfortable and unfamiliar.   Instead of speaking into it, we wandered off to our own comfortable colors with artists we understood and waited for others to come over to our, frankly more boring, palettes.
So...to followers of Jesus,  I want to say, in the last words I have this morning, that if you have the courage to put down your pallete and your one size fits all faith, there is a whole new adventure awaiting you and along with that a whole new collection of relationships that god may be calling you to.  To those of you who don't necessarily consider yourselves followers, on behalf of all the monochrome and otherwise boring palletes whose lives you've been subject to, I apologize.  Jesus is not one size fits all or one brush paints all.  Don't take my word for it though.  Read his story.  Read about ginomai in the book of John.  And to all....Enjoy the season in whatever your context.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, the color of the leaves looks amazing, the green turns into reddish flavor. That's awesome view.
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