Have you ever looked a medieval still life and looked at the objects which make up the composition? Have you ever noticed that the same objects seem to appear in loads of paintings?
Well, you'll just have to take my word for it!
If you look across the breadth of these ancient paintings you will start to notice reoccurrences of pairs of birds, globes, candles, fruit with peel hanging off, books, glasses of wine, butterflies, and a range of other familiar images. The interesting things is these aren't there by chance. They actually start to tell a story. When we learn the language of the still life we become able to read these stories. For example books represent knowledge, butterflies represent death and resurrection, fruit with peel hanging off talks of the excesses of hedonistic lives, skulls tell a story of death, feathers speak of hope, even mice points towards lechery. (I'm not sure why mice are seen as sleazy but they play that role in these painted stories.) There is a whole language being spoken which we are deaf to when we look at these masterpieces as just pretty pictures.
And, sometimes we are deaf to the language of "God."
We are familiar with the word God. It is probably not a new word to you but it is not the original word which the Bible writers used. The various authors of these ancient books which make up our Bible used all sorts of words which have been represented, through translation into English, by these three letters..G...O...D. The original writers called the divine being all sorts of different names...Elohim, El Shaddai, Yahweh, Jehovah-Sabbaoth, El Olam, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Maccaddeshcem (10 points if you can say that correctly on your first attempt!)
God is multifaceted. He cannot be condensed neatly into a single character trait. Each of these words we translate as "God" talk of a different bit of His character and yet every name in the Bible doesn't do Him full justice. He is bigger and more expansively dazzling than our constructs of language can ever talk of. I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase a picture can say a thousand words. Maybe art can add something to this conversation on who God is.
It got those of us in the Rock Salt Collective talking. Rock Salt Collective is a group of folk who meet fortnightly to explore faith and art. We've been talking about these ancient words used to describe God and also modern words we would use to talk about Him. This led us to think about what images we might start to use to tell the stories of these different characteristics of God. None of us are quite at the level of the medieval masters when it comes to picking up a paintbrush...however, we fancy ourselves as more proficient than them with an SLR or a cameraphone!!!
We've been busy piecing together some photographic still lives to talk about God...and we thought we'd share them with you over a few blog posts. So keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks for more blog posts where we share some of these works of art. You're in for a treat.
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
This blog post was brought to you by....Oli Higham
Oli Higham is part of the leadership team at the Rock Community Church. He finds it hard to sum himself up in a few sentences. However he loves Jesus and is also rather fond of his family, films, coffee, rugby, Arsenal FC, poetry, spray paint, beards, cooking and laughing.