Art as vision

Ezekiel 1:26-2:1
Has someone ever described to you a vision they saw?

Most of us might be uncomfortable. It’s hard to know if you’re supposed to take this seriously or worry about who’s talking to you. We’re all shaped by reason and sensibility, so what does it mean if someone sees visions?

When we read of visions in the Bible, it’s easy to explain them as such. It’s the Bible, after all. When it’s someone in front of us, it’s more difficult to discern what we’re supposed to listen for. 

But we actually see visions all the time. Think of artists. Sculptors, painters, musicians, writers, actors and architects. These people create works based on things they see most of us cannot. Art is vision. Have you ever viewed a painting that captured your imagination? What about a song or performance that opened your eyes to some new understanding?

That happened to me in the fourth grade. It was the first time I heard Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me.” It’s weird to describe, but I think I thought music was just something you heard. You either liked a song or you didn’t. I had no idea how music was so much more. Of course, I wouldn’t completely understand until much later. 

We had just learned about acid rain in school. When I heard Marvin sing about “radiation under ground and in the sky,” I perked up. I knew what he was talking about. When I told my teacher about it, she shared the song’s meaning. Things ain’t what they used to be is a vision.

Our faith needs art to show us such visions. If we don’t have them, our wonder dulls. 

Several years ago, I read The Gospel According to Peanuts. I thought I was going to read how Charlie Brown gave us charming Bible thoughts. The book was much more than that. One of the topics was art and the church. Today, even more than when the book was first published, the church lacks art. We’ve replaced it with design. 

Design can be artful, but, by and large, art resonates deeper than design. 

So, perhaps it’s past time for us to reevaluate art. If we could see it as vision, it may open our own creativity. Of course, art can inspire and convict us, much like we expect sermons can. God still speaks to us in visions. Before the Lord spoke to Ezekiel, the prophet saw a grand vision. Our visions may not be as offbeat as some of Ezekiel’s, but they are still gifts from God. Then again, maybe what we see today does seem strange to us before we begin to hear divine whispers. 

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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