Genesis 1:1 says, ‘In the beginning God created … ’ And he did so for six days straight!
Before God laid down any laws or smote anyone, God got creative—he imagined, designed, invented, sculpted, constructed and painted a priceless, timeless, original and beautiful masterpiece. Just for us to live in.
Being created in the image of God means we are naturally creative. Artists, accountants, poets, musicians, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, gardeners, mechanics, heavy metal drummers, rappers, Irish dancers, knitters … not one of us missed out on the creative gene. We are designed to imitate the creator by . As Commissioner Andy Westrupp said at the launch of the Offering project, ‘Music and art move us like nothing else can’.
God knew that after the ‘fall’ our lives would be peppered with difficulty, illness, grief, injustice, hate, anger and death. We want desperately to know why God chose not to spare us from all this pain. But anyone who’s been on the spiritual journey for a while knows, beauty is one of the lights that keeps hope alive in dark places.
God created beauty to comfort us when nothing else can. God created beauty to lift our spirits when we fall and fail and are frail. God created beauty to remind us that even when we are staring life’s ugliest circumstances in the face, this is not the end. There is more.
Isaiah 61:3 reminds us that God will ‘bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord or the display of his splendour’.
When we’re stuck in the doldrums of despair, when we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death, when we’re having a thoroughly human experience, many Christians testify that God used the contrast of beauty to reawaken hope and rebuild faith.
The artists and musicians who generously gave their creativity to Offering, will help ease the suffering of our nation’s poor, through the work of The Salvation Army. Beauty for ashes right there.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the lyrics of each hymn featured in Offering, were written during times of great adversity and struggle. The artwork that accompanies each hymn endeavours to express something of both the synergy and paradox between despair and hope, darkness and light, ashes and beauty.
Offering is a mind-blowing blessing for The Salvation Army. It’s also a clarion cry for us to remember that since the fall, exchanging beauty for ashes has been God’s paramount work of creativity.
In the beginning God created … but it was not a one-time thing! Everyone gets a shot at a new beginning. Broken lives can be re-created in Christ. In turn, God enables us to create beauty through our lives.
By Jules Badger (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 1 June 2019, p3- You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.