Second Presbyterian Church, a large congregation on the north side of Indianapolis, has always made music and the fine arts a priority, as much as missions or other outreach programs. I was invited to participate in a five week seminar - "Faith Expressions - an exploration of the Parable of the Prodigal Son through artistic expression." I was delighted.
The Seminar's Purpose
The seminar series looks at the Parable of The Prodigal from these perspectives - religion, literature, poetry, music, dance and the visual arts. Five faculty, all retired from nearby Butler University, direct the seminar - each taking the lead in one of the areas.
Rembrandt's portrait of "The Return of the Prodigal Son" (see below) was the central visual for the seminar.
What Will I Offer?
I was apprehensive sitting through the first lecture as I did not know how I could make a contribution. I listed myself as a mixed media artist which allowed me to explore different areas of art that I complete.
I asked myself a couple of questions as I listened to the introductions of the faculty and other artists.
How can I connect with this familiar story? What piece of art will come from my interaction with this text knowing that my background will influence the way I understand this incident?
Other participants were sharing ideas they had to interpret the scripture or to connect with one of the people in the story. I sat in my chair, getting restless, knowing that eventually God would give me a thought, but not right now.
As I was driving home, God presented the idea of a monologue given by the prodigal's mother. The mother is faintly seen in Rembrandt's painting, in the upper left-hand corner.
"A monologue, God? I've never done a monologue. That means I have to memorize my talk and I'm not good at memorizing. Oh my!"
Despite my concerns, when I arrived home, I went right to my desk and grabbed a pen and piece of paper to record the words. God poured out of my soul a monologue from the mother's perspective. A poem also followed a few days later. God provided abundantly.
Here is my monologue from the mother's perspective called, "A Mother's Heart."
I hardly knew what to think when he gave our son his inheritance - and then that wayward child went away to spend the money, who knows where - and we didn't hear from him for what seemed like forever.
Now all of a sudden, he is home. I haven't seen him yet; he's busy with his father and the servants, but I did hear him mention a famine in the country where he lived and longing for food, even food that the pigs ate, but he got nothing! And all of the inheritance is gone!
I will be glad when it's my turn to see him. I'm hesitant how he will respond after so much time. I've torn lots of cloth in my sorrow over his leaving, not knowing if I would ever see him again - so many strips of cloth, swaddling my heart with comfort while tears flowed down my cheeks. See the raw edges of torn cloth? That's how my heart felt as time went on, raw.
I prayed each day for God to keep him safe wherever he was. It seemed a useless prayer for such a long time, but now he is back! How do I greet answered prayer?
While I wait for him to come my way, I'll bake a loaf of barley bread. He used to like it when it was just baked. I bet it will taste good to him if he's as famished and starving as he says. Maybe he will look at the bread in a new way realizing that in Jesus, the Bread of Life, there is no more longing or being lost or trying to find a path through money and wild living.
When the day arrived for the artist reception and program, I felt prepared to give my monologue.
To add authenticity to my presentation, I took a piece of lavender fabric to bind around my head. I gave my monologue boldly and with a full heart sharing the connection I made with this mother from long ago. The mother, a forgotten perspective, was now given a voice.
For Your Reflection
1. Take a moment to sit in quietness and openness before God.
2. Choose a story. Listen to the story. Write down the names of the people involved.
3. Ask yourself a few questions: Which person stands out for me and why? What is the person's purpose in the story? What emotions does the story evoke?
4. What creative ways can you respond to God's word?
5. Share what you have done with a friend.
Prayer: God, we come to your stories filled with curiosity about the participants and the message. Our hearts quiet and become open as we reflect on your words. Guide our creative expressions of what you have brought to us so we may sing, dance, write poetry and made a piece of art in response, realizing that what we make brings us into co-creating with you. Amen.