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Nov 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 8, 2015 – Exodus 35:30 – 36:2

Christian Creativity
Creating Beauty

Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship; to make designs for working in gold and in silver and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. He has also put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach,of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs. Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the LORD has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded.”
Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work and perform it. Exodus 35:30-36:2

Intro: I enjoy the Bible; its collage of stories and songs, laws and letters

All the different parts are required to fill out the horizon of our knowledge of God
– but still there are snippets of scripture tucked in odd places that fascinate me
• I’m going to share two of them with you
• the first is this announcement that Moses made regarding God’s sanctuary

The Old Testament heroes–Moses, Samson, David the prophets–had something extra
– they were “filled with the Spirit” – divine energy flowed through them
• so that God was acting directly in the world through human agents
– what first surprised me, then fascinated me about our passage–it wasn’t only the heroes
• God likewise empowered artisans! — they too were filled with the Spirit
• only they were not empowered not for battle, leadership or prophecy
◦ but for artistic design and skilled work to construct God’s sacred tent

We have seen that creativity is not magic nor does it come to us from the outside
– made in God’s image, creativity is one of the qualities that defines the human person
• nevertheless, there are times when God joins someone in the creative process
• and when that occurs, creativity does come from the outside
– the Latin roots of the word “inspire” literally means “breathe into” or “spirit enters”
• God is always involved in creative inspiration, but normally his involvement is indirect
◦ in the case of the artists Moses named, God’s inspiration was direct
◦ and this is true even though much of their work was (technically) not “religious”
• we need to rethink what it means to be Spirit-filled 
◦ and the sort of activities in which being Spirit-filled is relevant

Two lists highlight creative inspiration

First list highlights internal capacities
– wisdom – the appropriate application of information (always practical)
– understanding – comprehending how things work–nature, society, relationships, etc.
– knowledge — or know-how

Second, specific areas of skills
– all craftsmanship
– designs for precious metals and gems
– wood carving
– (more generally) “every inventive work” – fabricate “parts”
– an ability to teach these trades to others
– engraving, designing and embroidery
– skill – wisdom in action; quality work

Creativity is usually defined as doing or producing something new — novelty
– it is assumed that the result will be “original” — a never-before tool, song or idea
• but I believe creativity is broader than a new commodity
• the thing created only has to be new for the person who produced it
– years ago, a management consultant suggested to me that there are two types of creativity:
original creativity and adaptive creativity (e.g., finding a new application for an existing tool)
• I would add mechanical creativity

Barbara’s dad was a machinist by trade, but he had attended an art college in Chicago and continued to sketch and paint for many years. When he turned sixty-five and announced his retirement, his company offered a significant raise as an incentive to stay with them. When at seventy he put in for retirement, they gave him another pay increase to keep him in the company. At seventy-five they proposed another increase, but by this time he was done with work.
How is it that he had proven himself so valuable, so indispensable? It was his creativity. Whenever the company needed a tool or template for manufacturing a new design–for which there was no existing tool or template–, the manager would go to Bob and he would design and fabricate what was needed.

Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men. 
(Pr. 22:29)

• there is also acrobatic creativity, child-discipline creativity, gardening creativity, etc.

Stephen Nachmanovitch says, “We need to remind ourselves here of what is obviously true but not often enough said: that different personality styles have different creative styles. There is no one idea of creativity that can describe it all.”

God inspired creativity because he wanted a specific outcome

We learn this in regard to his “specifications” for the priests’ “uniform”

You shall make holy garments for Aaron our brother for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me. (Ex. 28:2-3)

– God wanted to be represented by beauty
• the interior of the sacred tent was beautified with sacred art
(figures of cherubim were woven into interior curtains, like tapestries)
• beauty touches the human soul – awakens and lifts it
– God also wanted his sanctuary to reflect his “glory”
• there was lots of gold, silver, and gems in tent clasps, furnishings and the priests’ clothing
• the whole space would be always shimmering and sparkling

Isn’t it interesting that God would connect holiness with beauty?
– this brings me to the other scripture I mentioned that fascinates me:

Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Ge. 2:9)

• hire engineers to design trees and you get vending machines
◦ a device that efficiently performs a practical function — it dispenses food
• but God added something to his organic food and fragrance dispensers: “pleasing to the eyes”
◦ that is to say, he made trees beautiful — they did not need to be beautiful to serve a purpose

Think about the fact that God wanted his religion to be beautiful

In The Church At the End of the Twentieth Century, Francis Schaeffer described churches and Christian organizations that instead of being defined by their love for others were “producing ugliness” and that many of them were “hotbeds of ugliness.”

– ugly religion is one of the tragedies of Christian history
• and it’s a tragedy of Christianity in our time
◦ people have commandeered their brand of orthodox faith and made it ugly
• I imagine God addressing us as he did the people of Judah in Ezekiel 16
“I gave you this wonderful gift and this is what you did with it?”
– let’s do better — let’s create beauty

Beware the illusion of the finished product

A painting, musical piece and a novel are examples of completed projects
– it is easy to imagine, that with a burst of creativity, a masterpiece was produced in one sitting
• but the creative process seldom moves smoothly from idea to composition
• there are periods of research, exhausting practice, trial runs and failures
◦ on occasion, the process includes a fortuitous mistake
◦ more than one writer, composer, painter has stumbled into beauty
– the spark that ignites creativity is not always the need to express a feeling or inspire an audience
• it may be the result of coming up against a problem or being handed a challenge
• think of Bezalel’s challenge! where would he get golden thread to weave into the priests’ robes?
◦ his era was not only pre-industrial, but his work space was a desert wilderness!

Then they hammered out gold sheets and cut them into threads to be woven in with the blue and the purple and the scarlet material, and fine linen, the work of a skillful worker (Ex. 39:3)

Our minds have a creative mode they click into
– state of intense concentration
• we are moved, not by an act of will pushing us, but by the heart’s impulse pulling us
• everything is experienced in relation to our project
◦ light and shadow, sound and silence, motion and stillness
◦ only later, in our rational and critical mode, do we go back and separate the chaff from the grain
– in our creative mode we lose track of time, miss meals and work “with abandon”

“For art to appear, we have to disappear.” Stephen Nachmanovitch

• this can be a letting go of ourselves and a surrendering to God’s Spirit
• then, as he did Bezalel, the Spirit can inspire, empower and create beauty through us

Conc: Let’s create beauty and lets do it where beauty is not expected

For Christians, the cross of Jesus is a brutal and barbaric form of execution, yet it is also beautiful

A career criminal paying for his deeds, in last hour is suddenly enlightened. He turns his face toward the man whose body hangs on the cross next to his own. “Remember me,” he begs. In pain, Jesus is determined to make eye contact. Then with authority, speaking to the thief as if he had always been one of his disciples, the Lord says, “Today you will be with Me.”

– this moment was quickly swallowed in darkness
• that too is many times the nature of beauty
• the other night I took my three year old grandson, Calum, outside as a distraction
◦ the sun had already set and the eastern sky was dark
◦ but a few clouds caught the last rays and radiated a brilliant contrast — it lasted only seconds

creative 1– this is why we take photos, write poems, paint
• to preserve a moment
◦ this is why our awareness in the moment is so important
• not every moment is about creating,
◦ every moment is about being alive!

When we think we’re going somewhere, we are somewhere
When we think we’re preparing do do something, we are doing something
– each moment has its own character — charming, disgusting, satisfying, aggravating, etc.
• still, God has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecc. 3:11)
• and the beauty that inheres in each moment will never be repeated in all eternity

We have enough creativity to surround our lives with beauty and carry it into the world
When we need to go beyond that, Jesus will be with us and God’s Spirit will inspire us

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