02 March 2009

you're a work of art

Has anyone ever told you that you’re a work of art? Well, the apostle Paul thinks so!

The epistle reading for the fourth Sunday in Lent comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2. Right after the familiar words of verses 8 and 9, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast,” we hear this in verse 10: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

That phrase, “what he has made us,” is also translated as “his handiwork” or simply, “his work.” It’s the Greek word poiema. It’s where we get our word “poem.” Just as we speak of a “work” as something constructed with bricks and mortar—or with ideas and words—the same was true in ancient times. The New Jerusalem Bible brings this out clearly: “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.”

But we’re not just any work of art; we’re not just any poem. We’ve been designed for good works. It’s our true nature. When we deny the best within us, we vandalize God’s art.

We need God’s help to make something of ourselves; but God needs our help in turning us into a masterpiece. We co-create with God. In his Anchor Bible commentary, Markus Barth says that “completion of the work done in Christ includes not only the will of God, Christ, and the Spirit, but also the mission, conduct, and action of the saints.”

How much different would the world be—how much different would we be—if we were determined to be artists with God? Our canvas can become life itself.

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