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Art Project

2014-2015 Middle School Sunday School Art Project

by Kevin Burns


The Middle School Sunday School class, rotating its Bible survey content between Old Testament and New Testament every other year, focused on the New Testament in the 2014-2015 church-year. During the fall, the class explored the unique literary perspectives of each gospel in our cannon.


FullSizeRenderAfter exploring the intentional reveal of the mysterious identity of the suffering savior in Mark, the emphasis on Jesus as the one sent by God to be the fulfillment of Judaism, and presented as a second Moses in Matthew, the emphasis on Jesus as the prophet to the whole Jewish and Gentile world in Luke, and the perspective of Jesus as divinity, incarnated in flesh, performing signs to demonstrate his identity in John; the class then looked in detail at what Jesus taught, both in discourses (like the famous Sermon on the Mount) and in parables.


Acknowledging that some of our Christological ideas like the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ as both divine and human were developed long after the texts of the Bible were written, the class spent an entire class focusing on the dominant metaphors for Christ that are actually in the Biblical text. Through discussion, the class selected the following as the most dominant metaphors/images: shepherd, bread of life, living water, the vine/tree, and light in the darkness. Some of the scriptures referenced in this study included: John 1, 4, 6, 10, & 15, Jeremiah 17, Psalm 23, and Revelation 22.


What emerged from the conversation was an understanding that Sustenance is a dominant concept in both our Old and New Testament. Human beings have a fundamental need to survive by eating and drinking. Many of the metaphors describing Christ, and God, in our Bible relate to this fundamental need:


God is embodied in the living water of the stream that feeds the tree so that it will survive the drought. (Jeremiah 17, Revelation 22) That same living water is offered to the woman at the well by Jesus in John 4. Jesus said in John 15 that He was the vine that provides nourishment to us (the branches). In John 6, after feeding the multitude, Jesus declares that he is the bread of life. Even the prominent metaphor of the good shepherd is that of one that guides, protects, and works to ensure that the flock is fed. The Lord who is our shepherd prepares a table for us (Psalm 23).

 What emerged from the conversation was an understanding that Sustenance is a dominant concept in both our Old and New Testament.

It is no wonder that one of the most important sacraments of the Church and one of the most dominant themes in the New Testament is the unique fellowship that comes from sharing food at table with our community and with Christ.


Each participant (from the Middle School Sunday School Class and the Junior High Youth Group) was challenged to paint a canvas, which had to contain at least two depictions of the metaphoric images discussed. Each canvas was designed to stand alone and tell its story while simultaneously contributing to the whole….to the bigger picture which is the Christ, just as each Gospel stands as an unique, independent rendition of Jesus, but when read together give us a much more complete and useful understanding of the Christ and the meaning of the Gospel.


September Reflection

This year, we are taking one phrase from our mission statement each month as a kind of  “theme” for emphasis and reflection. This month, as we begin the program year of education for children, youth and adults, it is appropriate that we reflect on how the Bible is our source of knowledge, inspiration and hope. When we use the word “inspired,” we mean it in two ways. First, our creeds and confessions say that the Bible is the “inspired” Word of God. This means that the Bible is both the product of human authors, editors, scribes and translators, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Presbyterian Christians argue that the authority of the Bible lies not in the words on the page but with the Holy Spirit who not only inspired the authors but inspires us as readers today.


“We are a community of faith inspired by biblical teachings.”


Second, not only is the text inspired, we are supposed to be inspired by reading and hearing the scriptures. The problem is that many people don’t experience the Bible as inspiring. Some have experienced the Bible as a weapon used against them: “behave this way, or else….” “Believe this, or else….” Obviously, the Bible contains principles, values, and rules for living. But when people use it primarily as a way to condemn others, the Bible itself is being abused, because its purpose is to bring life not death, hope not fear, joy not anxiety.

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