Self-Portrait of the Artist

Van Gough

It seems one of the favourite activities these days is the taking of “selfies”. This has become the rage, and I began to wonder “Why?”. There is certainly a degree of narcissism involved but it seems to me the desire to be truly known by others may also play a significant part.

Each of us wants to be known! By this I do not mean that we all want to be famous, though this motivation may also creep in. There is an old song “To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him.” Our desire to be known, really known, is revelatory of our desire to be loved.

One of my favourite artists Vincent Van Gough did several “selfies”. They were much harder in his day. They involved layers of paint and swirls of colour. The canvas and brush “selfies” are one of the ways we know Vincent. In them he reveals himself. In them the artists bares himself and we are challenged to respond. He shows his beauty and his madness. He exhibits his seriousness and his sadness. Through his “selvies” I have come to know and love Vincent.

Jesus is God’s “selfie”. In Jesus God chances revealing God’s character: his love, mercy, and justice, in short the very character of God. In Jesus God dares to be known and through Jesus God invites our response. Jesus, the Word made flesh, uses words to create another kind of portrait of himself in the words of the Beatitudes. Henri Nouwen writes “The Beatitudes offer us a self-portrait of Jesus. At first it might seem a most unappealing portrait – who wants to be poor, mourning, and persecuted? Who can be truly gentle, merciful, pure in heart, a peace maker, and always concerned with justice?”  Through his verbal portrait Jesus reveals himself and through this “selfie” invites us to love and follow him. There is no narcissism here only a portrait of the Artist daring to bare himself to view so that we may know God and love God. I am eternally grateful for God’s condescension in making this wonderful and ultimate selfie.

He now invites me and you and his Church to be his latest “selfie”. I am astounded at our risk taking Saviour, who entrust fragile folk like me with representing him in this world. He does not leave us alone in this task but promises to inhabit us, in the task.

I was told of a preacher giving a Children’s talk  about “inviting Jesus into one’s heart”. A little guy looked aghast. He looked at the twenty foot stained glass depiction of Jesus and then at the preacher. “If Jesus was in your heart wouldn’t he stick out all over?” With hardly a hesitation the wise preacher responded “Yes, He certainly should!”

I hope he sticks out all over in your life and mine.