artistry of confession

At the study conference – “Confessing Jesus in a Pluralistic World” – Thomas Yoder Neufeld, the main speaker, discussed the nature of God’s wisdom and peace as exemplified in Jesus. Jesus is the “personification of wisdom,” Yoder Neufeld proclaimed. Followers of Jesus “seek to find evidence of wisdom in places they may not expect” just as Jesus did in his interactions with others. And in the context of “a world where divisions ran deep,” Yoder Neufeld described how Jesus initiated a “giant recycling project” of which everyone is a part. Barriers of ‘us’ and ‘them’ are shattered through the “tenacity of God’s embrace” as all people are invited to experience the peace that Jesus brought. The implication for all Christians is to seek the wisdom of Jesus and represent his peace in all our relationships.

Now, several times in his presentations Yoder Neufeld highlighted the artistic aspect of confessing Jesus. In the New Testament we see several examples of confessing Jesus through hymns and psalms (Jn. 1:1-14, Col. 1:15-20, Phil. 2:5-11). These are artistic expressions of God’s “manifold wisdom” (Eph. 3:10). We see an intentional creativity in the fundamental creeds and confessions of the early church.

What does it mean, then, for us to echo this artistry in our own confession of Jesus? Or perhaps more appropriate, how do we creatively confess Jesus beyond the sources of the CCLI website? (I don’t mean to offend worship leaders and song writers, but there needs to be more to Christian art than contemporary worship music)

In his presentation, Yoder Neufeld directed us to the work of the Holy Spirit. He suggested that we pray the Holy Spirit would “enliven our imaginations” to God’s wisdom, helping us creatively express to the world who Jesus is. As Stanley Hauerwas reflects, “creativity exhibits the peculiar way Christians are trained and encouraged to remember their story” (Performing the Faith).

For anyone tired of the “same-old same-old” in our churches, the call for creativity is invigorating, freeing us to explore the breadth in confessing Jesus, particularly relevant in our complex pluralistic world. And so I pray we don’t limit ourselves in exploring the artistry of confession as a fundamental part of being a follower of Jesus.

2 comments:

Dora Dueck said...

I've been thinking about TYN's encouragements to creativity too -- how I/we in the church can do that differently, or better. It seems to me that maybe before "saying" more creatively, we need to "see" more creatively. After TYN's own encounter with God before going to Harvard, he saw God in "every drawer [he] opened."
TYN gave us another example of seeing -- by pointing out the chain gang image from the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou." It became an compelling metaphor that ran through the rest of the conference. This may not be exactly what he meant by creativity, but it helps me -- to begin my quest with seeing. Then expressing.

David Warkentin said...

I definitely agree Dora. And I think the encouragement for creativity extends to all aspects of what it means to be the people of God. The chain-gang image, then, is excellent. We aren't just creative in our worship services, but in our love for one another and the world. And in being creative, while definitely encouraging a contribution from the arts, I want to explore what it means for all people, not just those typically seen as creatively inclined.

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