Saturday, January 7, 2012

Reflections on Rembrandt

Today I had the awesome opportunity to see a whole lot of work by Rembrandt, and much of it was focused on portraits of Jesus and drawings or paintings of Jesus in action as described in the narratives of Scripture.  It's hard to express how moving it was for me to spend some time with his work. 

This was my favorite drawing that I saw (in person!) today.  There were a lot of paintings and drawings that were much more clear and much more detailed.  But this one captured some of the emotion and ambiance that I imagined when I wrote about that story for my storying group.

As I wandered from drawing to painting to drawing, I was struck by the fact that my desire to write these stories for today's audiences is not a new thing.  I think people have been doing similar things for years and years and years... sometimes in words, like the plays I recently read by Dorothy Sayers about the life of Christ.  But sometimes in paintings like Rembrandt's or other artists.  Almost since the time Jesus died and rose again, people have been trying to figure out ways to communicate the meaning of Jesus's life and death on earth.  The act of painting (for Rembrandt) and the act of writing (for me) are like slow and reflective meditations that are trying to grasp the depth and height and breadth of who Jesus is and how his life and death on earth impacted the world and those around him.

I think it gave me a sense of belonging.  I belong to a community of faith that goes so, so far back and that will continue long after I am gone.  Sometimes for me it seems like I am doing something that is not normal with retelling these stories from Scripture.  Even though I feel like everything I've written is well-grounded in research, I have taken a lot of poetic license that springs from my own imagination of how things might have been.  After today, I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one who has taken the time and effort to imagine these things.

In reality, I never really regretted taking that license because the act of meditation through imagination has changed me.  The stories in Scripture have the power to challenge and encourage and push me to grow in a way that straightforward words of doctrine or truth never will.  But I am very happy to know that, in addition to being meaningful to me, it puts me in company with people like Rembrandt.

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