God's Self-Portrait

"Art is so often better at theology than theology is.” ― Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

This has been my experience too. Films, songs, and literature have done so much to enrich my spirituality and sense of God, often correcting and re-enchanting my theological categories.

As a poet, Wyman stares at wonder. And he then tries to describe his experience in the holy and liminal spaces of our world in words that have the capacity to take us there with him. While I wouldn't necessarily describe him as a "Christian writer" – perhaps calling him a writer of "Christian persuasion" would be more accurate – he constantly talks about God as a being a who is both distant and difficult to pin down with human language and yet one who is intimately aware of and involved in the day to day life of his creatures. 

Some may find Wyman raising more questions than he seeks to provide answers to, and for those of us steeped in the rationalistic Christianity of the modern West this may be troubling. But, I find his poetic bewilderment about God to be the most endearing quality of his writing – and I don't even like poetry! Wyman's sustained quest to find God in the beauty and sadness of life (he has an incurable form of cancer btw) is often so much more instructiver even when compared with some of the overly-confident didactic statements about God that I memorized in seminary. 

So, I recommend his writing to you, but that's not the point of this note. I rediscovered the quote above earlier this week and included it in our "reflection quotes" for tomorrow. This isn't altogether strange or worthy of comment except that I'm preaching again on Paul's letter to the Colossians, a notoriously heady book. 

In the New Testament, the four Gospels are thought of as primarily narrative in content while Pauline letters are primarily instructive and pedagogical. But, I'm not so convinced of this taxonomy. While Paul doesn't tell the story of Jesus in the same way that the Gospel writers do, he's not writing systematic theology either.

He's writing doxological and pastoral letters to help local churches connect their lives in practical ways to the stories they've heard about Jesus. 

While Colossians might be more stylized than say Mark's Gospel, and certainly there is a great deal of theological reflection in the letter, none of it is meant to be pondered without being lived. In fact, it wouldn't make any sense if you tried.

We're reflecting upon Colossians again tomorrow to try and better understand the resurrection, which to Paul is not simply an event that happened, and far more than a theological reality to defend, but something closer to divine art – God's self-portrait if you will – whereby he steps into our reality to invite us into his.

I hope you can join us!