Masterpiece Wk 1: Less Than Perfect

Masterpiece Wk 1: Less Than Perfect

As we start this new year, welcome to our new four-part homily series we call Masterpiece. The idea of a masterpiece has something to do with this feast of Epiphany. Epiphany is a word that means manifestation. God is manifesting himself, that is, showing himself, revealing himself through his Son Jesus. When we look at Jesus, and all he says and does, we see God in action.

In that way we also say Jesus is God’s self-portrait. The birth of Jesus – into a sub-culture environment of poverty and violence – begins God’s self-portrait. It continues to be drawn and painted through our Lord’s early life – his baptism, temptation, teaching, miracles – and on to the cross where he prays for those who crucified him. And at last, the resurrection where light overcomes darkness and life overcomes death. This is God’s portrait of himself, a masterpiece.

God is also painting other portraits, other masterpieces. God is painting the portrait of your life, and mine. Sometimes we want to grab the paint brush from his hands and not allow the master painter, the creator of all things, to help us paint the portrait of our lives, to help us create our lives. When we grasp the paintbrush, or snatch it away from God, it’s like we are painting by numbers. Painting by numbers, like we are in control. It involves lots of paint but no soul.

Making sense of life isn’t easy. It’s a serious quest, but there’s always something else demanding our immediate attention, and we only too gladly leave the hard thinking for another day. Yet deep inside, nagging questions keep bubbling to the surface and won’t be silenced: Is there any point to all our striving, or is this just a long, painful journey to nowhere?

That’s how life seems to many who, by sheer inertia, have settled into a spirituality that’s the equivalent of painting by numbers: lots of paint, but no soul. No wonder so many wander away from their churches: they know Jesus’ name, but they don’t know him. It leaves a terrible empty place in their souls, and it hurts.

The wise men in the Christmas story knew that hurt, but they didn’t just settle for it. They sensed there was more to God than just a vague cloud somewhere on the fringes of the universe, so they invested themselves in a lifelong search to find God. And when the mysterious star appeared, their quest took on new urgency. They left home and hearth and risked everything to find the One from whom all life flows. And they would not be deterred.

At the end of their long journey, they were astonished to find God with a human face, lying in a manger, a masterpiece, a self-portrait. It wasn’t what they’d expected, but they were able to recognize him, because they had listening hearts. Jesus spoke not a word, but by his fragile presence, in that lonely stable, he let their hearts know that we don’t walk alone. God is with us at every step, and all of his creation is slowly moving to that far off point, where all will be one in him.

Don’t settle for a sterile inner life, a paint by number life with no soul. Look into the face of Jesus – in the manger or on the cross – and see the One who is closer to you than your own breath. Embrace him, receive his strength and his goodness. Look to him and let him paint your life. As a son or daughter of God, you too are God’s masterpiece in the making, but you have to let him paint your life.

An artist, that is truly what God is. He painted the lavender sunsets. He hand-built the highest mountain. God carefully designed you. Remember that the same God who created the universe, the world, the seas, and the land stepped back and decided the world needed a YOU.

True, we are less than perfect. We look in the mirror just about every day and for most of us, our heads fill with tough criticism as we tear apart every aspect of our look. Remember though, every blemish, every curve, and every mark was designed by HIM. When you look in the mirror can you try to see all the “imperfections” as a sense of individuality?

On the other hand, we sometimes insist that the people around us be more like paint-by-numbers.

We insist that they are painted by our numbers, “colored” according to our standards rather than letting them and God paint the masterpiece of their lives.

When a master artist sets out to create a new piece of artwork, he doesn’t make carbon copies of previous masterpieces. A master artist would not succumb to mass producing “paint-by-number” artwork where every piece he creates is exactly the same, using exactly the same colors, exactly the same perspective, etc.

We are handcrafted and so unique, none of us are entirely the same. The beauty of us is really the beauty of his art. We are made by the most skilled, most careful, and by far the best artist.

God chose for me to look this way, and I should be thankful. He truly thinks we are to die for, because he did give his life for us, and he views us as beautiful.

If we are to personally manifest the beauty of what God created, and be his masterpiece, then it will shine through our speech, our behavior, our relationships, etc. The beauty of who we are is not in the outward appearance but in the simplicity of loving one another and doing our best to align our will with the will of our loving God.

Let God finish the masterpiece he started when he created you. That involves surrendering to him and having a relationship with him built on trust. You have to trust him enough to let go of the brush. To have a relationship with God and his Son Jesus, you must trust, and let go.

Stop trying to be in control of every brushstroke. Let God be God. Let the Creator create. Let the master painter paint.

God wants to use our less than perfect circumstances to help make us into what he is calling us to be. He uses those circumstances to make us into his masterpiece.

Here is an idea for you. Ask God to help you decide on one resolution for this new year, something that involves him, the master painter. That way you allow him to paint the masterpiece that will be your life. Here is the key to manifesting the masterpiece God created you to be. Trust him enough to let go of the brush.