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Friday, May 02, 2014

God in Art or Visio Divina

Rublev's icon depicts the Trinity at a table together.
Art is a powerful communication tool that often transcends words. Luckily God and the bible have inspired art throughout the centuries.

The Orthodox tradition uses icons to help focus prayer through a practice called Visio Divina or "divine seeing." It is a counterpart to the practice of Lectio Divina which uses scripture as a source of meditation and contemplation.

I like connecting the body back to ancient ways of looking at the bible and it's a helpful way to find applicable visuals for preaching through a passage.

For example, recently I preached about the woman caught in adultery in John 8. I found several paintings depicting the scene and was able to use one of them to start some conversation in the church on the topic.

Another benefit to using paintings is that they are often public domain images. When projecting an image in church we need to be aware of the copyright situation and only use works for which we have the copyright. Public domain and creative commons images have an open license that allows you to use them without having to pay royalties. You can also find royalty free stock photos (both free and paid).

You can use Google's Image search to sort the images by license type.

Typically I'll start with Google Images and look for the passage I'm preaching through. Then I'll start to narrow things down by using the name of the pericope (like "woman caught in adultery" rather than just "John 8"). Then I might need to add the word "painting" to the search string to refine the results.

Usually I'll come across a great renaissance painting of the passage that will serve as an illustration for my text. I'll often use this as the title image for my sermon. It give the audience a chance to get into the passage without giving away too much of my sermon.

This image uses dark and light to illustrate the conflict of John 8:1-11
Connecting my preaching with classic paintings helps to keep the visual people connected, reminds the church that we're part of a great cloud of witnesses who have been thinking about these passages for millennia, and gives me high-quality visuals that are public domain for no cost. 

That's pretty cool to me.