Scripture: John 16:13
Art has been an important part of human life from the very beginning. While the earliest piece of art, a cave painting, dates back to 37,900 BCE, there is some evidence that the preference for aesthetic emerged even before that. Art has played an important role throughout religious history, as well. In our own scriptures, we have many examples of how art was a regular part of the lives of our faith ancestors. I think of the book of Psalms, a songbook which helped the people recall the goodness and faithfulness of God, and the craftsmanship of the Temple, with all its fine, exquisite details, crafted to bring glory to God. I think of the women who dance for joy when God saves God’s people and of the many instruments played to glorify God: trumpets, timbrels, lyres, bells, harps. Today, art remains important for our faith. Our churches have stained glass, carved crosses, organs, and other kinds of art. In other Christian traditions, icons, images, or statues of Christ and of the saints help people connect with God.
Art is important for our faith and our lives because it speaks truth to us in ways that other things can’t. It speaks directly to our hearts. When we see or hear a beautiful work of art, it evokes our emotions and helps us to make meaning. It even causes beneficial physiological and mental responses, like lowering stress, decreasing negative emotions, and increasing memory and empathy. When we experience it with others, art has the ability to draw us together, connect us in meaningful ways, and even move us to action or resolution.
Art is powerful. Like our scriptures and like prayer, it is a tool that God uses to move us, speak to us, and teach us. When have you experienced the Divine through a work of art?