Michelangelo is perhaps the greatest sculptor the world has ever known. “Every block of stone,” he once said, “has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo could see the statue inside the stone. His genius was to free that living work of art from the cold, dead marble.
In Ephesians two, verse ten, Paul says, “For we are what [God] has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” The translation, “what God has made us” is too tame.
Paul uses the Greek word, “poiema.” It’s the root of our words “poem” and “poetry.” The best translation says that we are God’s “work of art.” You are God’s work of art. That’s the main thought for today.
Last week Paul reminded us that all Christian power is Resurrection power. God’s love looks like a cross. God’s power looks like an empty tomb. God’s justice looks a mighty wind blowing through the Church and into the world. We live, as Paul says, “for the praise of [God’s] glory.”
God gives us Resurrection life with Jesus the Messiah. That new life is a free gift of pure love. “But God, who is rich in mercy,” Paul writes in verses four and five of chapter two, “out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
Through Jesus, God can see the beautiful work of art that you are. Out of the dead stone of sin, God makes you alive with the Messiah. You are God’s work of art.
Faith is the first gift of the Resurrection life. The Holy Spirit fills us with that gift. Faith is not just intellectual agreement that a doctrine is true. Faith is trust in God’s goodness, mercy and love in life and in death. Let me illustrate with a favorite sermon story.
One night a house caught fire. A young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” All the boy could see was flame, smoke, and blackness. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” The boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father replied, “I can see you and that’s all that matters.” The boy jumped and lived. The boy had faith in his father.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith,” Paul declares, “and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” We are created in the Messiah as God’s work of art. Faith is the first gift of the Holy Spirit. That gift empowers us to trust God in life and in death. That gift equips us to live for the praise of [God’s glory].
Faith is a gift with a purpose. We are made alive for good works. God has always meant for us to live this way. It’s what we’re made for! You are God’s work of art.
We are part of the “advance notice” of God’s New Creation. “So if anyone is in Christ,” Paul writes in Second Corinthians five, verse seventeen, “there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” My new life—and yours—shows that God’s New Creation has been launched among us, in us and through us.
You are God’s work of art. You are a sign that God intends this for all of Creation. This is why God made it all in the first place. God is an artist. All great art has love at its core. God made the cosmos as the great Divine work of art. Sin, death and evil deface this work of art. But God will not toss it out. God is remaking the cosmos, and we are part of that remaking!
God loves beauty. We don’t think about beauty often enough. We have wonderful painters, visual artists and graphic designers. We have poets and essayists. We have craftspeople who work in wood and metal. We have marvelous gardeners and florists. We have geniuses working with fabric and fiber. We have gifted and talented and passionate musicians. That’s only a partial list of the creative artists in this place.
Beauty does not feed the hungry or clothe the naked—not directly anyway. But it does make us more of what God intends us to be. When we experience real art, we become more fully and truly human. Art is a form of worship!
So, let’s have more of that beauty in our sanctuary. Let’s have more color in this space week in and week out. I know there are always complications about where to place things and how to hang them and what to do with them after a while. Let’s figure all that out so that more of God’s art work will be visible here.
You are God’s work of art. God has made you alive together with Christ and gifted you with the faith that sets you right with God. In the power of the Holy Spirit you are now freed and empowered to be the work of art God has always intended you to be. I invite you to live that way this week.
God is pulling the whole cosmos together in Jesus. God fills up that cosmos with the Holy Spirit of love. God uses that Spirit within us to point toward the beauty of God’s love in all of Creation. In all of this we live for the praise of [God’s] glory. You are God’s work of art.
Love always unites. Next time we will hear about the power of that love to break down walls of human division and to build up Christ’s body as the new temple of God. Our unity in the Messiah is a sign, instrument and foretaste of God’s greatest work of art. Let’s pray…
Pastor Lowell Hennigs