Artist: Johannes Sijbrant, Paraparaumu – January 2017
'ALL WHO LIVE AND BELIEVE IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE'
at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Sunday, 8th December 2016
The commission for an Icon for the newly build Our Lady Of Kapiti School was given to me by Martin Elms, Principal on the day the land for the school was blessed.
The presentation and blessing of the finished icon took place on Sunday, 11th December 2016 at Mass in St. Patrick’s. This introduction was presented at that Mass in abbreviated form.
Preparations and Border Texts
After several meetings with Martin we agreed to have 9 children contribute to the design of the icon. Over 3 afternoons I met with the children and we explored various ideas and issues they felt were important in an icon for their new school. Together we practised a number of creative activities that ultimately led to each child drawing an animal or person that I was to fit into the final design. The names of these children are seen at the left of the icon; Grace, Dominic, Alyssa, Kayla, Veroniqa, Unique, Kristina, Sienna, Meikah. On the right side we find the 7 fruits of the Holy Spirit taken from the New Testament; Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Humility, Self-control.
At the base is a text in Latin ; HIC DOMVS DEI EST ET PORTA COELI This translates in english as; THIS IS THE HOUSE OF THE LORD AND THE GATE TO HEAVEN, which text pertains to the Church which in this icon is represented by the Ark. This text is found in some of the early basilica in Rome and in later ages in churches throughout the world.
JHWH; GOD Who is LORD
Above the Ark, on left of the mast is a depiction of God; His Name appears in a gold leaf halo. The hebrew letters from right to left are; yud-hei-waw-hei ; JHWH, in english written as 'Jahweh'. He is having this name for example in Psalm 145-18; 'JHWH is close to all who call on Him, yes, to all who call on Him in truth'. We read in the Book of Genesis that God was 'moving over the waters ' of the earth. In the icon, His light touches the water, Maui and Noah. The distance between God and Maui and between God and Noah is the same; both witnessed the separation of earth and water and thus they each witnessed God at work in His created world, bringing habitat, life and hope to their people.
Maui and his Fish
In the collective unconscious and in the oral and documented tradition of Maori lives the memory of the primary separation of water and land and it's divine origin. Maui's waka is decorated as the decoration for a Chief's waka. His confidence and strength speaks of the power of the Creator acting in full command as He is bringing the earth into being.
Noah and his Dove
On the left side on the Ark we see the dove return to Noah with an olive branch in it's beak; salvation has come for him, his family, the animals. Now he knows that death has been overcome; he has been a man of peace, of truth, of faith and now a life beyond death awaits him. With his right hand he welcomes the returning dove, with his left hand he wards off the snake that attempts to board the Ark but is unable to enter. A crab has climbed on Noah's back but this is not distracting him from his focus on both the dove and the snake.
Noah witnesses the second separation of water and land that God has determined to provide for those He has saved.
The 9 children of the school have drawn most of the animals and people on board; the flying fish could not make up it's mind about flying or swimming and we needed it to fly and the shark in front of the Ark would have liked some animals coming over the side…….. but we decided that should not happen. The woodpecker with typical interest in sitting on the mast was ultimately replaced by a butterfly……much to Noah's pleasure.
In this icon as in many others the Ark is a metaphor of the Church and in and by means of it, God saves His people from sin and death. The snake represents Satan and the high waves indicate the challenges and dangers the Church faces.
Up from the Ark rises the mast. It shows the Maori weaving pattern, 'Stairway to Heaven'. It signifies human effort that's required for us to ascend.
The meaning of the colours: White stands for purity which God requires us to aim for. St. Patricks blue stands for teaching, both the teaching by church and school but also the teachings we receive directly from the H. Spirit, both individually and collectively as a people of faith. Brown stands for our human nature; it's needs, it's inclinations, it's challenges and it's need for God's redemptive work.
we move up along the Ark's mast, we need to be prepared to deal with what's required of us by God and be prepared to face ourselves and learn to trust God irrespective of our circumstances. In doing this we ascend along this vertical pathway towards Christ and end up IN HIM and by means of that, in his eternal Kingdom.
In other words, in order to grow spiritually, we need to come to terms with these requirements; to aim for purity of living; to confront our human nature and it's inclinations; and to enter a life long learning process about both ourselves and 'the things of God'.
The ark has no sails, rudders or anchors; this signifies that human skill is not essential in sailing the Ark because God is in charge of the Ark and of all who sail in her.
On the right some Hector dolphins are seen that remind us that animals are given to us to take care of and this is ordained by God. We are to take good care of the created world which is His.
The Boat of St Paul –
One of the children expressed concern for her friends who were not christians and not connected to the Church. We agreed to have this concern addressed in some form within the design for the icon; this is how this part of the Book of Acts entered the picture. We read there that this boat that transports Paul as a prisoner to Rome, became stuck on a sandbank off the coast of the island of Malta, which lays south of Sicily. The storm has the power to break up the boat and many inside look for ways to save their lives. When in prayer God shows Paul that both he and all who sail with him will survive the shipwreck. In the icon we see 7 attitudes towards disaster and death. The Persian man on the right has taken first place in the line-up towards the beach; he expects to be saved first as he is wealthy and carries a sense of entitlement. Consequently, he sports a large ego; he feels he deserves a premium chance to survival. The man above him is jewish and he has a sense of optimism. After all, he practices the Mosaic laws, is therefore a good man deserving good things to happen to him and has God on his side, so why worry? On his left we see a greek man in orators' robes being philosophical about the crisis; his psychological defense against fear and death is to subject his predicament to the power of reason and wisdom. By the time he is swept overboard he is still not quite finished with his deliberations. Below him we see a roman soldier given to denial. To assist him in this attitude he has closed his eyes and stopped speaking, not allowing his senses to pick up the frightening reality of the impending disaster. This helps him feel that the crisis is not his but of the people around him. On his left is another soldier who realizes that this time it is not a prisoner but him who faces death and he is terrified. His mouth and eyes are bringing out his fear and he is exceedingly white. Above him standing is the roman officer responsible for the securing of prisoners and of Paul whom he has identified as having unusual confidence and truthfulness. And he likes Paul for this. This officer has raised a golden model of the Egyptian sun god that he may have picked up when on a mission in Egypt, just to make sure to know what to do when in trouble. His prayer may have been something like: 'O Sun God of Egypt, when you rise in the morning, please, take me with you in your light of life'. He hides himself in this belief in the hope to be saved.
Paul also raises his arms and he stretches out his right hand to Jesus Whom he has met when he was a persecutor of christians and his other hand is raised in blessing over the men who are with him in the boat. He intercedes and communicates with Jesus and with these men. And he is strong and confident because he has heard God's reassurance that ALL will make it safely to the beach.
The various reactions depicted here are also OUR reactions. We would respond similarly, at least initially. Ultimately, we learn to respond on the basis of what we have learned on our spiritual journey and be more like Paul.
The colours of the sky in this icon show that it is evening. We do not know what the time is of Christ's return but we do know that we are no longer at the beginning of the history of humanity.
The dawn has passed and some of the signs that will precede Christ's return seem to be taking shape.
Kapiti Island and the Logo
The school's Logo with related colours and shamrock ( Holy Trinity ) is on the beach as the first object to be seen from afar.
Sr. Nano Nagle, school Model and the Two Children
Nano is depicted here as a visionary and a missionary; she has passed onto the older child the lighted lantern as a symbol of the Light that came into the world, Jesus Christ. The older child is holding this Light and is eagerly awaiting what can be seen by this illumination. The younger child is largely unaware of this but is having her hand in sister's hand. This symbolizes attachment and emotional nurture that is provided as part of catholic education alongside cognitive development and awareness of self. Nano is raising with her other hand a model of the new school as she envisages the future that lays beyond her lifetime but that she has recognized in her vision. She presents this vision and this school to Jesus through the Holy Spirit Who are both before her. And in her intercession today she still nurtures and guides the Board, teachers, all staff and supporters and all the children.
The Holy Spirit
On the left of Sr Nano we see the gold leaf nimbus that surrounds the Holy Spirit Who appears as at Jesus' baptism in the form of a dove. The Spirit is placed between Christ and Sr Nano, signifying that His words, actions and counsel are applying all that Jesus has said and done for all those who believe. This Spirit is ever present to provide comfort and guidance to those who are actively applying their gifts and talents to their missions.
A visionary and missionary as Sr Nano, he brings the faith,represents and plants the Church in Ireland where many sisters, including Sr Nano and the many sisters who came after her came from.
Fully vested to signify the fulness of his priesthood he is seen here offering the sacramental Sacrifice of Jesus Body and Blood. By this sacrament St Patrick indicates that Jesus' death on the cross is no longer just another execution on Golgotha but a sacrifice that atones for sins, saves from death and thus reconciles believers with God. This sacrifice is our New Testament, no longer in the blood of sacraficial animals but in the blood of Christ.
St. Patrick practises what Jesus wanted him to do: 'Do this to remember Me'.
Our Lady of Kapiti
is depicted here as a young girl who is dressed as an engaged Israeli woman 2000 years ago. Her jewelry is three Egyptian blue glass beads, given to her by her fiancee. This suggests that and Joseph are preparing for marriage. She opens her cloak in a receptive gesture of motherly availability to us, that is, to all the brothers and sisters of her Son. As we as believers have become brothers and sisters of Jesus, His mother has become our Mother. The colour of her cloak is brown-red, which are the colours of the human heart. welcomes us with motherly warmth and acceptance, interceding for us from her open heart. That is how she loves us. As the Mother of the Church she is seen reaching out with one hand to her Son, with the other to the Church, represented by St Patrick. As a woman holds a unique place standing between her man and her child, so stands between Jesus and us as God's children. And that makes her special in the eyes of the Church.
Jesus Who Lives Forever
Jesus presents Himself here as the Lamb of God showing us that He has finished the work He came to do. In His hands and feet is the evidence of the wounds which signify His death and sacrifice that brought atonement for our sins and victory over death. God raised Him up from the grave and He is seated at the right hand of God where He lives forever. His undergarment is royal red in keeping with His divinity, His upper garment is white as described in the Book of Revelation. This Book also shows Him 'standing as the Lamb that was slain'. A gold leaf halo surrounds His head. His head is crowned by angels with His saying in Maori; 'RATOU E ORA TONU ANA E WHAKAPONO ANA KIA AU E KORE MATE' that translates in english; 'ALL WHO LIVE AND BELIEVE IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE' which is a quotation taken from the story of the raising of Lazarus in the New Testament. This text is the title of this icon.
This is an account of the PROCESS of the painting of this icon. The resources for this account are;
- Interview by Margaret Irvine for Pastoral Pages, 2016
- Edited audio recording by Martin Elms, 2016
- Conversations with 9 children who contributed to the paintings' themes, 2016
- Conversations with Fr. Michael, Sr. Breda, Whaea Margerite Osborne, 2016
- Conversations with and professional assistance from Grant Lodge, artist, 2016
- My diary notes on the process January to November 2016 starting
- My wife Bea has helped throughout the process of painting this icon with useful critique.
- Martin Elms has continuously provided overall support, material, ideas and critique for this commission that initially was presented to me by him on behalf of the school.
- Grant Lodge, Artist in Kapiti, came into my art room several times to provide supervision throughout 2016. His counsel was very helpful indeed. At the end of the year, Joseph Elms engineered metal brackets for placing the panel onto the wall.
- At the beginning of 2016, before starting to paint the Ark, Fr. Michael anointed me after Mass one Sunday and asked the Holy Spirit to equip me and to see this icon enlighten many people.
- Sr. Breda provided me with resource material re Sr. Nano Nagle.
- Whaea Margurite Osborne gave me of her time and expertise re Maori understanding of 'Maui and his Fish'.
I have known that God has been with me and my painting continuously and His guidance has answered many questions and dilemmas.
On the day the land for the new school was blessed, Martin asked me if I would consider painting an icon for the school's foyer. I said that I was honored to be asked and accepted 5 minutes later…..
At night the panic started; WHAT had I just agreed to ? Meanwhile, after having determined the seize of the wooden panel, 1.20 by 1.20 m., Adam Laker constructed a very fine example for me to start on. There was agreement that we should use only quality materials both for the panel as well as for the underpaint, paints, oils and varnishes to be used.
There was also agreement that the Venetian technique of working with thin layers of paint and related treatment of the colours should be used to ensure luminosity in it's final result.
Great excitement when the panel arrived early 2016. It was placed in my art room on the large easel and I applied 3 layers of special primer paint. Fine sandpaper ensured the surface was smooth as glass. The panel had been wood coloured; now it was stark white and scary……..
From Martin I collected some early ideas what the school was interested in seeing included in the icon. On an A4 sheet of paper an initial composition was drawn and presented to Martin for comments. From here a detailed and final design was prepared on paper 1.20 by 1.20 m. This was shown to Fr. Michael and subsequently presented for approval to Martin. The moment I drew the first lines of the final layout on the panel the actual work had began.
The Nature Of An Icon
Briefly 'writing' an icon is really presenting theology in formal, thematic and symbol structures, composition, line and colour. In every icon it are these pervasive components that, together, have the power to proclaim and teach matters regarding our faith; it's people, events and mysteries. Every icon is designed to draw the observer into the world of faith. The central features of our faith are to enter our psyche; the unconscious (the unknown part of ourselves), the subconscious ( accessible by dreams, memories, deja-vu, etc) and conscious (known parts of self) dimensions of that psyche. This takes place whenever we allow ourselves to become receptive in spirit and to engage on that basis in visual and spiritual contemplation. In and by means of this contemplative relating to the icons' content, the icon becomes a meeting place between God and us. The structures and persons the icon shows us are symbolically representative of the Trinity, the saints and Biblical events And these representations have us experience the reality that they stand for….
This experience is available in all of the Catholic and Orthodox churches of the East and worldwide, in many Catholic churches in the West and worldwide and in some of the Protestant churches worldwide.
In the Orthodox churches any icon painter is appointed and blessed for this work as anyone would be appointed and blessed for a ministry within the church.
Icons are never intended to draw attention to the painter. He made them only by the grace of God's guidance which is the main factor permeating and shaping the final result.
Icons are not works of art.
Icons are not works of religious art either.
They are not intended to be aesthetically appealing or meant to be pleasing to the senses.
They are never intended to be or to become museum pieces, or collectables, or objects of trade. They can only be made AND qualified by believers and by the Church. They belong wherever the believers are; in a church, monastery, convent, seminary, religious houses, schools or organizations, homes where believers live, work or travel. Yet, there are those who have been touched by the 'language' of icons by seeing them in auctions, museum and in private homes. They can and have been shown beyond their intimate places of belonging. And there they have made an impact !
They are ultimately intended to carry believers and those who allow themselves to become receptive to their message into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, Martin had identified 9 children who were interested in artistic activities. I met them for 3 afternoons at St Patrick's school to explore the kind of contribution they wished to make.
From the start they were so keen to imagine and explore what they actually thought or wanted about this icon. We practiced a Florence Cane projective technique and gained access to fantasy and the images of the subconscious. We had brainstorms by contrast. We explored what they did NOT want in the icon. We discussed our faith. We recognized themes and events that seemed right for this icon. Drawings were made and soon we had plenty of material to begin to collate.
Ark of Noah was the first theme that was chosen. The nature of the animals was explored. snake was deemed unfit for residence in the Ark and relationships amongst those on board and the animals were specified. Martin had mentioned the idea of Hector dolphins to be somewhere and the children decided where they would be placed. snake was proclaimed evil and the shark viewed as potentially violent. Safety for everyone became important. One child drew the flying fish indicating that this animal could not make up his or her mind if it was a bird or a fish…. We thought that was okay; not everyone is ready to be two-in-one…... Noah was thought to have a monkey on his back because someone thought that when you do the right thing there is always something that comes to annoy you………. It's hard work to do two things at the same time; to welcome one thing and to reject another….. And nothing is easy or makes much sense to Noah as God 's plans are mysterious and as wide as the world…….., BUT, Noah has a future and he survives because he has heard from God that there is hope. Hope for his whole family AND for all the animals that God cares about, too. Later on, the monkey becomes a crab because 'a crab would annoy Noah more'….. When talking about the 'stairway to heaven' pattern for the mast we spoke once more about the ways of God and how to grow in doing right and refusing to play games with evil. white steps that are about purity came about when someone said that purity comes after the 'dirt' has been taken of. We talked about how 'dirt' needs to be removed first before there can be white, just like when you're doing the dishes…….. We said that God has the power to clean our heads, hearts and behaviour when we want to be free of 'dirt' and become clean. Doing the dishes or having a shower does not do THAT…….. How God does that within us is a matter of learning bit by bit, some children thought. Learning about the things of God, they felt, was something you did at home, in the school or at church. God was like a special Dad they thought and Jesus like a big and kind Brother. All knew that another person who's there to help you too has the name of…..Mary ! And that she is like a Mother.
Some children thought, when someone falls overboard, the others would throw out a line so that one can get back on board instead of left to die. They thought that Noah would have some rope in case that happened. AND that he had medicine for those who fell ill while on board. Some animals or people are not to be trusted and you should tell others so they can not hurt people. Some thought that getting angry was okay as long as you did not take it out on someone who had nothing to do with it. It was felt that God could help and understand everybody so nobody would be all alone. One girl said that she herself felt alone sometimes as her friends in her street did not believe in God and did not belong to the Church. I asked her if she felt sad about that and she said she did. I responded by saying that we certainly would take her concerns into the icon. At that point the story of the boat of St Paul and the storm came to mind and this was discussed in a further session.
God and St. Paul felt sorry for the people in the boat because they were in a terrible storm and about to die. God promised Paul that the boat would break up but all of the people would make it to the beach...
people in the boat were scared, or angry, or get off the boat first, or said it was really not much of a storm, or prayed to a little god they found in their pocket. But Paul who had faith for those on board, talked to God about it and then to the people. We concluded that God can do very special things for those whom we love and care about, if they're believers or not. And that we should not think that God does not care about our family or friends because He actually does and always will. And it does not matter if someone has another religion like the roman officer because God understands everything about other religions, officers and little pocket gods and He loves everyone……….. We agreed that God can do amazing things that nobody else can do for us and for our friends. We also agreed that sometimes we pray and nothing happens. That's hard. But we need to go on trusting God, especially when you don't understand why nothing has happened YET. It means, God is still working on it.
The school's logo on Kapiti Island was decided upon in less then a minute. It's the right place; 'because it's high, higher than the beach; it's closer to God'.
The Holy Spirit and the Gifts were mentioned and we talked about how these gifts are there because God has these things inside of Himself, so has Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That's what God is like all the time. And it was felt there was no 'dirt' to be removed first. Some children felt that the 'dirt' was not such a problem; sometimes a little bit of dirt was not too bad. If it was bad, you could have God help you or forgive you and than it was okay. Someone mentioned that everybody has things that are not good but good things might come along and make up for it……. We agreed that God the Holy Spirit knows all about it so there's no point hiding something or lying about it; He's there and he loves you always and He can help you if you like Him to…….
He's always going to be your Big Dad……
And your Guide…...
Sr. Nagle was discussed next and the children thought she was great because she loved kids and was a really good teacher AND a friend of God. Both her teaching and her friendliness were thought to be most important. Someone said; 'And she is tall' Someone said that if there was no teacher the class would not know what to do and the school would get closed and than you would not have a new school either…….
Lord Jesus. Everyone felt He was to be placed 'high up'. Because He 'died for us'. He is 'in white clothes' and 'He has gone to heaven for always'. Has He finished His 'dying for us'? Yes, He had. And the heavens are 'light and golden and white and warm' 'It's never cold up there and nobody needs a heater because it is heaven'. (loud laughter ensues)
Jesus died for our sins. God brought Him back to life again. I asked some children if they would just die or would God also bring them to heaven to live forever? They thought that was a silly question because going to heaven was the whole idea…. (Point taken…..)
Jesus needs to be painted……..because it is He Who has the power to give us His wonderful promise of eternal life for everyone who believes.
St Patrick. There was agreement that St Patrick had to move to the new school; some children felt he needed to come with them 'because he has always been in the school because he started it'…….
Some children felt that he was with them 'because he's a priest and they are in the school'.
‘They are like teachers but they're not teachers with a class'. ''They know things about God and they like to talk about that'. 'And they like to ask questions'. I wondered if St Patrick had been such a priest… 'Yes', some children thought…. 'But he had snakes but in NZ are no snakes'.
'He stands on them and kicks them in the guts'. ( loud laughter ensues ) We finish with the emphasis that St Patrick was a very brave priest for standing on them because his snakes were carriers of evil. We agree that St Patrick certainly can come along with us to the new school but we won't ask the snakes…..
The Virgin Mary was viewed by most children as 'our Mother' who 'prays for us always'.
'You have 2 mothers; one at home and one just everywhere'…..
The Virgin Mary needs to be painted………
Once I started painting Mary it came to me that Mary did not just open her cloak to us as a gesture of loving, motherly care but that she opened to us her heart……. And so it came about that I painted the inside of her cloak red-brown, which is the colour of the human heart. And her dress is like the dress of an engaged Israeli woman 2000 years ago. The part of Mary that is most deeply involved in the work of her Son is her heart…. And she is an intermediary person; a woman always stands between her man and her child. In this icon Mary stands between Jesus and St Patrick who represents the Church. She was and remains God's gift to the Church; to the Ark and everyone inside….
The painting of Christ was not easy at all; it took a long time to determine not WHERE he stood but HOW. Acting, blessing, praying, speaking? It came to me that the essence of Christ's work lies in Him 'giving Himself'. I thought that to be quite a difficult reality to paint, but it seemed possible for me to paint Him 'giving things OF Himself'. From there His place in the Book of Revelations came to mind. .…. So in this icon Christ is showing us His wounds, making the point that He has finished the work He came to do. And because His work of sacrifice and obtaining salvation is finished, He can truly state that what is written on the scroll that crowns His head; 'All who believe in Me shall never die'…….
When it came to painting His head, I hesitated and felt unable to even start; I felt nervous and delayed the preparatory work. One evening I confronted myself and decided to first make a quick sketch in light brown paint to at least have an outline of His head. It took me 2 minutes to quickly sketch the contours and face. I walked away from what I had done and turned around. And what I saw was EXACTLY what I had been looking for ! The only things to be added were the shadows and the highlights. All in all; 1 hour of painting only……...
God the Holy Spirit was present in my painting room that evening…...
For me, the reaction of the children when the icon was unveiled was a blessing; they were so happy to see first their names and than the pictures they recognized they'd made almost a year ago. Without their discussions, decisions and engaging art work this icon would have looked completely different from what we now have…..They have been creative, engaged, 'spot-on' and, at times, hilarious !
I also have to say that painting this icon has taught me to turn to God time after time.
Painting an icon causes the painting to speak and ask questions of the painter. Some of the questions an icon asks can not be answered by the painter because he does not know the answer. What the painter does know though is, WHO it is that can answer the question.
antithesis --------------- solidarity
Antithesis and Solidarity
Genesis 7 v. 1,7,15,16 inclusion
Acts 27 v. 14 – 26; 39-44 diagram: the reconciliation IN JESUS
With reference to the above readings, could I draw your attention to two verses taken from each of these accounts;
1) 'and the Lord shut the door of the Ark'
ad 2) 'and behold, God has given you all those who sail with you'
The differences that are suggested here raises questions about the two very different ways in which God deals with crisis situations that involve both believers and non-believers. In the Genesis account the believers are appearing as protected by God and secure in their futures, the unbelievers are facing a very different prospect. The ones in Genesis face death, the unbelievers in the Book of Acts however are spared death and instead face survival, life and a future.
A first view is based on the theological idea that the Ark represents a special definition or metaphor of the Church. God closes it's door after he let everyone in whom He allows to enter because of their righteousness. Consequently, this takes place at the exclusion of those who by their behaviour and lifestyle have practised lawlessness and may have implicitly er explicitly rejected God's law or revelation of His will at that time. Living without divine law may have led to a lifestyle of acting-out human nature without accepting or seeking human or divine modification. Ultimately, they ended mocking Noah. And than, God had enough…….
God closes the door of the Ark so in addition to distinction there is now also a separation between the ones that have responded in obedience to divine law, the believers, and those who have rejected this and have violated His law.
This looks at first sight like a black and white approach; all or nothing.
From the Genesis text it is clear that there are no gradated solutions on offer that would qualify specified 'unlawful' behaviours and/or disobedience in degrees that had offended divine law requirements.
Levels of severity of forms of unlawfulness are not mentioned either.
For those on the outside, lost and facing death there does not appear;
A second Ark with limited survival prospects that provides more liberal entry criteria for those who present with only medium troublesome behaviour or
A seriously leaking third Ark with even lower survival prospects for those who see no reason to cease their violence, greed and selfish behaviours or
An already heavily listing fourth Ark about to founder before new land has consolidated with its' roof missing to be boarded by those who foolishly feel that the things God is AGAINST are far more attractive than the things that God is FOR…….
One would think that these options could have provided some justice for all……...
There is pluriformity enough, mind you, within Noah's Ark, especially evidenced by the animals. This nauseating pluriformity is likely to spill over into some fierce fights, animals eating each other's food, eating each other, squabbling over territory. Here we might recognize a parallel with the catfights as well as bloody fights that we have seen over the ages within the Ark of the universal church. The snakes trying to assassinate the bunnies would draw opinionated reactions as they do today. The powerful still find it hard to share the power and resources they received from God for the sake of justice and peace.
Meanwhile, Noah's Ark remaines safe and secure; the snakes do not find a back door and the roof proves itself watertight. And any other Arks collecting those sporting various degrees of lawlessness are not turning up in the Biblical text……..
this Genesis account the God of all creation performs like a church warden; he closes the place securely and those who are in, are in. The waves outside and challenges inside can not change anything either. Neither does Noah nor any of the believers inside let anyone take away from them that they are 'in'. They would have talked about those they know and who are now 'outside'.
And, Noah and his tribe and animals are unable to know or to decide who were and who were not fit to enter; who will live and who will die……….
God closes, but Noah and his families pray for those 'outside'. Is that a prayer after God's heart?
Apart from sailing in the Ark, we are sailing in the boat of St Paul. That is the boat in which 'the world' is also sailing. We are finding Paul standing confidently alongside the anxious, the privileged and proud, the self-righteous, the wise in their own mind, the ones in denial, the ones who have made a god after their own image and likeness, the indifferent, the ones with ego's the seize of a small planet, the dodgy ones, the bewildered ones, the ones given to lies and deceit, the ones who lost having a heart a long time ago, the ones who try hard to find the truth, the ones who are lovers of peace, the selfish ones, the ones who are humble and kind, the ones who are hurt, the ones with the money, the ones without hope, the reasonable ones, the opportunists, the sick ones, the lonely ones , the ones who have a lot to hide, the ones who do not know who they are, the dishonest ones, the desperate ones, the ones who watch Paul and listen to what he says. And Paul stands confidently alongside all these 276 people whom God loves and he is representing yet another metaphor of the church.
In this sinking boat he represents the minority of believers in God so that, at first, people do not take notice of what he says: what would HE know? This prisoner, this criminal?
We will remember the similar response that Noah was given by the lawless ones in Genesis…….
At this time of crisis and in the face of death God is with Paul and believes in him…….
Paul prays and talks with the men in the boat; he talks and prays.
Paul stands in solidarity with the lost and unholy ones: their predicament is his predicament and now his prayer must be their prayer. He is just as scared as they are. But, he has decided to pray and trust God. That's all.
believes FOR them. And God is with him as he prays. And he asks God for their lives……
He literary asks with all of his power for 'a merciful gift' (GK; kecharistai) Paul asks this gift not for himself but for THEM.
All of the 276 souls on that boat survive in the midst of total mayhem. (ref. Acts 27 v. 41-44)
Nobody who is preoccupied with the act of God closing the door can deny this.
And the text reads loud and clear; 'And everyone reached land in safety'.
what do we have: God closes the door of the Ark. Nobody can enter anymore. NO second chance. Not a political half-chance. No compromise or change of plan. Those inside the Ark are saved: the ones on the outside are lost. This is the ANTITHESIS that God is prepared to practice…….
the metaphor given in the Book of Acts the believer, the church, and the unbeliever, the world, are both in the same boat and they are saved together. This speaks of SOLIDARITY.
Paul's boat, his intercession on the basis of compassion leads him on to speak and ask. reply, God speaks and gives. We see the resulting inclusion of those lost souls in a wonderful event that shows that the God Who closes the door is also willing to open it in a gift of salvation for these souls…..
And what about Jesus? What does He do? What does He say?
He both preserves ( Mat. 5 v. 17 -20; Joh. 17 v. 12) AND adds to His church ( woman at the well; murderer at the cross)
In Him, preserving and adding are taking place with perfect confidence, in seamless harmony, peaceful.
That is possible because Jesus reconciles all 4 realities ( ref. Diagram top first page) WITHIN HIMSELF.
initial question; What happens with those who believe and those who don't is answered IN JESUS. The answer is not found in reason or wisdom or in a statement of revelation or in a theological construct. It is found in a PERSON.
And that PERSON, JESUS CHRIST, is the Saviour for those who are lost.
May we be able to have Jesus do His saving work both in this world and in the house of God that is the Church.
As a boy growing up in Amsterdam shortly after the Second World War, I used to wander off into a large Roman Catholic church at the end of the street where I lived. I took in the richness of my surroundings, my sight, hearing and smell were profoundly affected by this sacred environment, so different to the everyday world outside. Through my senses God announced the reality of His presence to me.
Now, half a world away and retired after a career as a psychotherapist, I find myself able to participate in this special calling of pointing human senses toward the divine. An icon can become a meeting place between God and us, where we enter and communicate with God, and God with us. I paint icons because I believe God has shown me he wants me to paint about Him, His Kingdom and His creation. By doing so I participate in an ancient practice which I share with nearly two millennia of Christian icon painters.
Icons aim to picture the divine beauty of the Trinity, the saints, Biblical events and the created world; both painter and observer perceive the presence of divine message, mystery, devotion and beauty. In the world of icons, virtually every element of the painting has a symbolic meaning which contributes to the whole message. They are intimations of a God- filled world, available for any of us to contemplate and engage with.
Please feel free to ask me about the meaning of anything in these paintings.