‘Once we see God as an artist, everything changes’ (John O’Donohue). For God’s work is like an artist, shaping life’s raw materials into new forms of beauty, truth and justice, through love. Sometimes we think of God too much as a law-giver or police officer, a mechanic or an engineer. All those occupations can also speak of God. Yet they can distance us from God’s intimate, costly and creative involvement with us, and from the invitation to share that love in similar ways with others. Art can thus reopen our eyes and ears and touch our souls and world afresh.
At St Luke’s Toowoomba, we see the community we call ‘church’ as a kind of ‘art-school of divine majesty’. Our building itself is indeed an artistic expression of God’s love. Recently we therefore installed art hanging rails better to share God’s love and creativity through art in the city’s heart. Beginning in Holy Week, and linked to the Streets and Lanes Festival on the Saturday before Easter, we have our first exhibition, with local artists reflecting visually on the Easter story. We hope it will inspire others to see God’s art among us and to grow as artists of God’s grace.
Sheer drama is one of the most significant aspects of historic Christianity's marking of Holy Week. To share in it is to share in a mighty eternal stage-play. This is no mere re-enactment of events long ago, as if the Church were an ecclesiastical form of the Sealed Knot. Instead, appropriately engaged with, it is a re-membering and re-imagining of love's ultimacy in the face of the forces of human abuse, deceit and betrayal. Theologically speaking, as a drama to enter into, Holy Week is a powerful confirmation that it is not us who find or save ourselves and our world. Rather it is God, the ultimate power of love, who does the work and turns the world upside down. The call and challenge to the Church in any age is to help make this drama live in any context.
This year, Holy Week in the parish of St Luke Toowoomba began with a wonderful celebration of Palm Sunday, with a delightful blessing of palms around our soon-to-be-completed labyrinth, a lively procession, dancers from our Living Dance school partners, a loving celebration of communion, and joyful singing from one of The Glennie School's choirs. Perhaps the most powerful part of our gathering however was the dramatic presentation at the heart of our Ministry of the Word. Instead of a reading of the lengthy Passion Gospel, and a brief address, several parish members each took a key role (money-changer, Simon Peter, Pilate, Mary Magdalene etc) and told their own story of what they had seen, felt and experienced in Jesus last days. This spoke wonderfully to everyone as it brought the story, and the whole liturgy of Holy Week, alive in new ways. It was an encouragement to us all to continue to look at how we stage, dramatise, and enflesh the Gospel at all times, as well as a beautiful journey into the great tragi-comedy (in the deepest sense) of Holy Week.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.