basis and focus

There are two divisions about which the preacher must be wary.

One is dividing Spirit from Word. 'In biblical thought the Spirit of God is as closely connected to the Word of God as breath is connected to speech' (John Woodhouse). They belong together. Don't elevate one above the other. God's speech cannot be separated from God's breath - much like the case is for us.

The other is dividing the Christ from the Bible. Knowing them as Written Word and Living Word suggests something - surely?! They belong together. And yet I've worked in settings were there is a palpable fear that the consequence of honouring the Bible is the diminishing of Christ. No. It ain't necessarily so. It is possible for the Bible to be the basis and Jesus to be the focus of our lives and ministries.

My Langham colleague, Stephen Williams, recently visited Wittenberg in Germany. During a skype last night he mentioned to me a painting by Lucas Cranach in a church in Wittenberg. All he said to me was: 'Luther has one hand on the Bible, the other hand is pointing to Christ - with all the congregation looking at Christ and not at Luther'. Ahh - perfect. As soon as the skype was finished, it was off to google to find this painting. Here it is:

I did a bit more research and found that the painting is part of what is called the Reformation Altar (see below). It is a way of describing the church visually. The three paintings across the top are the three sacraments, widely accepted in the Protestant church: baptism, eucharist, confession. Underneath this threesome lives our painting, depicting a kind of foundation for the church - the crucified Christ as revealed in the written Word.

nice chatting


PS: Stephen wrote to me to ask whether I had seen "the little girl - possibly Luther's daughter - who is the only one not looking at Christ. She is looking out at us and inviting us into the painting, as if to say - 'this is for you, too.'" No, I hadn't noticed - and that is very, very cool. Love it. Can't get enough of it. An evangelistic painting.


Ken Keyte said…
I appreciate all that Lucas Cranach's painting represents about the Written Word being our basis and the Living Word being our focus. But isn't it lacking any representation of the joy of the Risen Living Word??? (With the possible exception of Luther's daughter who looks like she has a smile on her face :)
Paul said…
Yes, I kinda agree with you, Ken. I grew up believing that the cross should be empty because Christ has risen (and this is the source of our joy, as the opening salvos in 1 Peter make so clear). But then I also want to let artists be artists and appreciate them for what they are trying to say, rather than what they are not trying to say. The Apostle was pretty adamant that his message was 'Christ crucified' and so, on balance, I think I'll let Lucas portray that too.

And yes, I think there is a hint of a smile on the little girl's face and the way her look draws us into the situation is so compelling.

Hope all is well with you and your tribe.


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