Calling all artists…
On the day of Pentecost the coming of the Holy Spirit heralded a new prophetic age – an age in which men and women, young and old would, together, carry a prophetic mantle. In that moment God was anointing an entire people movement to speak to the world with God’s prophetic voice. From that day to this coming into Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit puts us in a place where we can expect to dream dreams, see visions, hear the voice of God and speak the words of God. God is a speaking God. And the testimony of the Church throughout history flows with that reality.
A quick survey of the prophetic ministry that had gone before that pivotal day shows that to wear the prophetic mantle means more than just bringing words from God to one another within the Church – wonderful and vital though that is. The stories of the OT prophets show us that being a prophet sets you in a different relationship with power, may set you at odds with civic and religious authorities. The prophetic call will distance you from the status quo and will set you on the side of the poor, the dispossessed, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the refugee. Your whole relationship with the world is shifted by aligning with Jesus and anointing by his prophetic Spirit!
An undeniably prophetic voice of the 20th century
But just consider how creative the OT prophets were in their methods; wearing camel hair wild man desert wear? Lying naked in a public space for a year before rolling to face the other way? Going about with a yoke tied to your shoulders? Parading a rotten pair of underpants through the street while shouting out your message to the crowds? What’s that about?
Picture this from Jeremiah 19: The prophet Jeremiah stages an invitation-only event, for a select audience of elders and priests; an exclusive one-night-only event at the Potsherd Gate in the valley of Ben Hinnon. Imagine a stage, empty except for a table; the table empty except for a large clay jar. The audience assembles. At 3pm Jeremiah steps onto the stage and begins his speech. Projecting so that everybody could hear in this open space:
HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD, YOU KINGS OF JUDAH AND THE PEOPLE OF JERUSALEM:
THIS IS WHAT THE LORD ALMIGHTY, THE GOD OF ISRAEL SAYS; LISTEN!!!
This is a performance!
I AM GOING TO BRING A DISASTER ON THIS PLACE THAT WILL MAKE THE EARS OF EVERYONE WHO HEARS IT TINGLE!!!
Can you sense the theatre in what the prophet is doing? Can you imagine the awkard silence; this baffled audience wondering what’s going to happen next? Then after a few more words Jeremiah steps up to the table, picks up the jar and hurls it to the ground, shattering it into a thousand pieces:
“GOD SAYS I WILL SMASH THIS NATION AND THIS CITY JUST LIKE THIS POTTER’S JAR, SUCH THAT IT CAN NEVER BE REPAIRED!!!”
Prophets like Jeremiah didn’t speak their messages quietly in a corner. They performed them. Their orations were public performances. They were staged. They were demonstrations. They were dramatised and acted out. They were theatre. From those days to this it often the creative, the comedian, the jester, the artist, the songer-songwriter, the public performer who gives public expression to God’s propetic words to society.
Comedian/commentator Eddie Izzard (left)
Matt Tommey, director of The Worship Studio (right)
At Yarra Valley Vineyard we were recently blessed with a visit from Matt Tommey a sculptor and basket-weaver from North Carolina (director of The Worship Studio) who pointed out that when Nebuchadnezzar looted Jerusalem he took care to exile all the “craftsmen and smiths”. We are told that because a culture without those doesn’t have anything left. II Kings 24 says that only the poorest of the land were left after that. To impoverish art is to impoverish the culture.
Some confronting voices speak in the theatre and some in public spaces!
(Wallace Shawn (left) and Andre Gregory (right))
Some wrtie songs and sing to us. (Fela Kuti (left), Milton Nascimento (right))
For us to speak with the all the voices God has given us, our culture needs its artists, playwrights, comedians, performers, singer-songwriters, theatre and film, its public art installations – purely for humanity’s sake but also because it is often through such media that God’s prophetic voices speak. For that reason we need to bless the arts. We need to affirm our artists. And as prophets we need to move confidently inall these public arenas. Only when we do these things are we sporting the mantle of a prophetic people, alive with all the colour and life-giving power of God’s prophetic voice! Calling all artists!!