Last Sunday, my husband and I stole away from church a bit early. We usually “hang out” from the first Mass until the last. However, it was Valentine’s Day and we interrupted our Sunday routine with an outing. A friend told us about an art exhibit which he encouraged us to visit. Information online confirmed that this was a “must see” opportunity. By the time we headed to the gallery, the forecasted snow was falling and traffic moved at a snail’s pace. Since Mike drove, I was free to enjoy the view. On the way, I discovered what it is like to see the world from the inside of a snow globe. I delighted in the winter wonderland beyond the glass in spite of the shoveling which would be required a few hours later. I needed to recover from what had been a hectic morning, because I had a busy afternoon in store. I normally allow myself to relax on Sundays. However, I needed to prepare this reflection which I’d neglected the week before.
As Mike drove, I absent-mindedly hummed a hymn we’d sung during Mass that morning. In the process, I recalled the refrain which had caused me to stop singing for a few seconds. I remember telling myself, “There is a wonderful story here!” As I sang on, I memorized the words which had touched me so. This was an easy task because the lyrics echoed precisely what I needed to hear… Like a rose trampled on the ground, you took the fall, and thought of me above all. Though I don’t normally check the composers of the hymns we sing, I looked for their names. I wondered if Lenny LeBlanc and Paul Baloche knew the power of their lyrics. Did they select the title Above All because they somehow knew that these words would melt my heart today? “Yes,” I reminded myself, “God looks upon each of us as the most important person in this world.” When we arrived at the gallery, I realized that I was not alone in my thinking…
The “gallery” is actually a temporarily transformed old factory. The featured exhibit will travel from place to place until a suitable permanent home is found. Though the Smithsonian Institute expressed interest years ago, the artist refused. The docent who guided us shared that, before he died, this artist specified that viewings were to remain free and accessible to as many people as possible, especially to lonely and unloved children. It is no wonder that the he named this work My Father’s Love. Though Mike and I had viewed the artwork online, the actual works took our breath away.
My Father’s Love features numerous biblical images in stunning wood tones. Artist Ed Lantzer created the scenes on thirty four-by-eight-foot wooden panels. These panels are covered entirely with hundreds of thousands of half-inch diamond-shaped wood pieces cut from more than one hundred-fifty varieties of trees. None of the wood was dyed or painted. Each one was selected for its color or texture and each one is essential to the resulting image. Though the images of Creation, the Last Supper, Jesus’ scourging and the Crucifixion drew us in, the tiny wooden pieces which made them up drew us in further. For thirty years, Mr. Lantzer worked without plans or drawings to create what he saw with his heart. Even a team from MIT was unable to decipher the artist’s method in placing each bit of wood precisely where it belonged. Each wooden piece contributed perfectly to the final image.
When we returned from the museum, I turned to Luke’s gospel (Luke 9:28b-36) for further inspiration. Luke tells us that Jesus took Peter, James and John to a mountainside to pray. Minutes into their prayer, Jesus’ face changed and his clothing became dazzling white. As if this wasn’t enough, Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared as well. This stunned Peter and his friends who were unable to make sense of what they saw. Still, Peter’s desire to do something urged him to offer tents to the holy trio before him. Before he could babble further, a voice bellowed from the clouds, “This is my chosen son; listen to him.” Finally, Peter and the others realized they were precisely where they belonged. God had a message for them above all others. God had revealed that each of them would be an essential part of the things to come.
I’m convinced that it was no accident that we visited that exhibit, that we sang Above All and that I’m writing about Jesus’ Transfiguration today. I haven’t been at my best as of late, and I desperately needed these reminders that I am an important part of a bigger picture. Apparently, no one can bring the color and texture which I bring to God’s masterpiece. The same is true for each one of us. Above all, you and I have a special place in God’s plan and in God’s heart.
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