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Leaving Space for the Imagination

Not sure if you noticed, but there has been a two-week break in the blog.

This is not because I ran out of ideas or merely forgot; I have been on holiday. This has been my longest holiday since starting to work for the School of Preachers. Sometimes it is good to take a break from the need to do anything other than have a change.

It is very welcome that at last there is freedom to visit places that have been inaccessible due to restrictions. Somewhere I have been wanting to go for some time is the Spanish city of Bilbao, and in particular one of its main attractions, the Guggenheim Museum.

It is a special treat at the moment because one whole floor is devoted to the design and development of the motor car. The cars on show, including the actual Aston Martin used by Sean Connery in the James Bond film Goldfinger, are a combination of creative design and innovative technology; they are almost like poetry in motion.

It was fascinating to observe the creative process of moving from an idea of what a car could look like, to its actual production. Early car designers needed to adopt Apple founder’s mantra, ‘Think Different’, in order to create cars that were both beautiful and functional.

The rest of the exhibitions contained a range of modern art works. Art, particularly, modern art can divide opinions. Some people look at modern art and feel that their three-year-old could have done that. Others welcome the ability to see the world through a different lens.

One of the artists, Jean Dubuffet, whose works dominated a whole gallery said that:

“Art should always make us laugh a little, and frighten us a little, but never bore us.”

Dubuffet was an artist of the Art Brut style that emerged after the First World War. This movement rejected traditional views of beauty as it sought to reflect the shock and horror of post-war Europe.

With classic cars and modern art there is a certain ‘wow’ factor. We might like what has been created or hate it, but we cannot ignore it. These are high impact creations that are supposed to draw out a response from us.

Preachers can learn something from this approach. In my basic preaching classes I use the questions I learned from Tom Long:

What is the text saying?

What is the text doing?

How is my sermon going to say and do the same things?

Such questions help the preacher prepare sermons that have an impact on the hearers.

Scripture is designed to do something in the life of the hearer.

Things like discovering something we didn’t know before, being reminded of something important we have forgotten, or being suddenly gripped by something that had not captured our imagination before.

Scripture like art can startle and surprise. It can leave us breathless with wonder.

This morning in church we looked at the story of the call of Abram in Genesis 12. What the passage did for me was remind me that God speaks to people with a power that can change the whole course of human history.


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