Coming to Life at MoMA

Sometimes it’s hard to know what makes us come to life.  To realize what we might, rather than should, be doing.  I mean really light up and glow like Moses, “radiant with the Holiness of God beyond human understanding.”

Yesterday I met an old friend, someone I knew in high school, at MoMA in NYC.  I was already pretty jazzed after experiencing a beautiful Choral Eucharist at St. Bart’s earlier in the day but in the museum the inspiration and the beauty had a different kind of effect on me.  IMG_6449As we walked through galleries in the permanent collection I saw paintings and sculptures that I have known and loved for years, many of which I have seen before and yet every time I see them they take my breath away.  “OH!  There it is!”  “My God!” “Joy!”

At one point my friend asked me if I was painting.  “No,” I said, “but the time will come again.”  “Well…” my friend said, “if you saw what I’m seeing right now I think you might consider it.”

IMG_6451In the church we talk a lot about spiritual disciplines as the prerequisites to living a holy life.  We often stress prayer, service to our neighbors, to the other and to the “least of these” in our midst as sure-fire ways to strive toward holiness; we hope and pray that each member of the church find their unique vocation dedicated to God’s purposes in the world. Theologian Frederick Buechner wrote that one finally realizes one’s true vocation when “our greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”   IMG_6452In a world as broken and as hungry as the one we live it’s hard to think that making art might meet anybody’s need, let alone feed anybody. Jesus, after all, asked his disciples to feed the hungry, not to make art!  But how do we define the world’s greatest need?

I’ll never forget reading another theologian, Gil Bailie, in the introduction to his book Violence Unveiled, recalling a conversation he had with Howard Thurman.   In his search for meaning in his life and work Bailie asked his spiritual mentor what he might do to serve the world. Thurman’s response was, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

     IMG_6454 IMG_6459

What makes you come to life?  Are you making room in your life for it?  Your joy, as much as your service, may be just what the world needs…

Happy Monday,


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5 Responses to Coming to Life at MoMA

  1. Jo says:

    The ministry of joy. I love it.

  2. sonyasutton says:

    I love this too. It is the message I try to convey at every opportunity, but somehow Thurman said it better! The world does need more people living lives of joy and saying yes and being alive.

  3. Lois Stratton says:

    JIm, we all know what a great artist you are. Someday you will get back to that, but meanwhile I think you are living a life of joy and bringing joy to us. Thank you.

  4. Ashley Cooper Hair says:

    This is a message I needed to read this week. Thank you, Jim.

  5. Elinor Constable says:

    Wow! I have been going to MOMA since 1954 and understand what you are saying.

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