Portraying Jesus differently

A little later on today I shall embark on a day of preacher training with people from all over London. Some are experienced preachers, some are occasional preachers, and some are putative preachers, yet to discover their gifts and calling. Along the way we shall draw inspiration from sources as diverse as Pixar, Bonhoeffer, Walt Whitman and Michael Bentine! Often on such occasions I turn to Theodor Galle, and his etching below. Galle was living in Belgium in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.  I never tire of looking at his  picture below: Christ carrying the cross as a model for painters. (1603)

Look carefully and you will see that every artist has depicted Christ differently. Each one has a view of him as close as anybody else – and yet all of them are seeing him in different ways. Their finished paintings will be as different as the artists who produced them. Each will carry something of their personality, with every brush stroke conveying both subject and artist.

If training preachers were about reproducing them after particular mould, then I would never do it again. Rather, I see it as a means to help them discover their gifts and then use them to the hilt to portray Jesus in the pulpit. If, like Paul to the Galatians, they can say that they have ‘clearly portrayed’ Christ to those who listen to them, then they will have discharged their duty- even if each one does it differently.

Years ago I used to attend a pastel painting class on my day off. The class consisted largely of elderly ladies and me. When the teacher offered a life class my elderly companions all jumped at the chance, whilst I quailed within. When the day came the attractive young Italian model in question kept her clothes on – which was probably a good thing. When the time came to compare our finished paintings at the end of the class I was keenly aware of how little relation mine bore to its subject. She smiled and found something positive to say about it, although I am sure its not something she would have hung on her wall! Trainee artists, like trainee preachers, need to make some mistakes along the way. In the process, however, something new is born in them – which is why I look forward to my day in the  preaching ‘studio’ today.

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