Jesus (and Gandhi) as Artists and Prophets

Jesus was a poet, a storyteller, a parable maker, an artist. This was how he chose to share his message. He was not a priest or theologian or academician or a dispenser of sacraments primarily, but an awakener to the sacrament of existence, the sacrament of the cosmos, the presence of the kingdom/queendom of God in which we actually dwell. 

The Good Samaritan (1826) by Guillaume Bodinier. Wikimedia Commons.

In a discussion I was once part of when I was writing my book Original Blessing, a theologian shouted “Christ is the cross and nothing but the cross!” Under the spell and paradigm of fall/redemption religion, it is easy to forget that Jesus’ choice of action was as an artist. His choice to teach in parables was deliberate and it was an immensely creative choice. His parables are the closest we will ever come to his exact words, his exact images, his exact message. Behind them all lies what Brother David Steindl-Rast has rightfully called “a poetic mind who sees everything in the world as a symbol if only we have the eyes to see.” 

Natural Pearls, Photo by Tyler Houck. Wikimedia Commons.

Behind this unique method of parable-telling that Jesus chose, there lies trust: Jesus’ trust in his own, unique images—leaven and a dragnet and a mustard seed and a pearl and a coin lost around the house symbolizing the kingdom/queendom of God, for example. Or the good Samaritan to instruct us on what compassion is and is not all about. 

Jesus also trusted his listener’s ability to find truth in the power of images he relays.  Parables are non-elitist. Jesus trusts the intelligence and creativity of his listeners. South African theologian Albert Nolan put it his way: 

Nothing could be more un-authoritative than the parables of Jesus. Their whole purpose is to enable the listener to discover something for himself. They are not illustrations of revealed doctrines; they are works of art which reveal or uncover the truth about life. 

“What’s the Danger in Reading Parables?” Dr. John Pennington explores the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. Video by Bible Study Fellowship.

As Steindl-Rast puts it, he appeals to “the divine authority within each person” and by doing so invites a deep transformation or metanoia in the individual, change of consciousness that leads to a change of life. They invite a whole society to let go and start over again, trusting its images and power for creativity. 

He appealed to the imagination. Not unlike Gandhi who said, “we struck the religious imagination of an angry people.” All prophets do that.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 239f., 257.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE

Banner Image: Statue of Jesus teaching the children at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Draper Utah. Photo by Always dreamin. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree that artists appeal to“the divine authority” within each of us? And to the prophet in all of us to change and be change agents in society? Do you think our educational and religious institutions know this?

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Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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14 thoughts on “Jesus (and Gandhi) as Artists and Prophets”

  1. Avatar

    A wise person recently said this and it stuck with me. What is needed today is Courage and Creativity! In the world.
    Thank you for the work you put into these wonderful meditations.

  2. Avatar

    Brief answers to your three questions at the end of today’s beautiful DM Matthew are Yes! Yes!, and No!
    Synchronistically, recently I attended a zoom webinar sponsored by — Rue Anne Hass, Lorian Faculty, was the presenter on “The Heart of Imagination.”
    I’m developing an awareness of the spiritual importance of our human faculty of imagination, creatively developed and practiced in many forms by artists. Since metaphorically it resides mainly in our hearts, rather than our minds, this spiritual faculty can help us become more aware of the source of our imagination in our “True Heart Self~Eternal Sacred Soul” Present within and among us as I attempted to describe in my Comment yesterday.
    Our spiritual journeys includes opening our hearts not only in meditation/contemplative prayer, but also in our compassionate awareness/conscious perceptions of the Sacred Flow and Presence of the Sacred in our daily human lives of the physical and non-physical multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos within and among us in our ongoing co-Creator~Source’s Loving Diverse Oneness….

  3. Avatar

    What a beautiful meditation.
    I am speechless because it touches the deepest level of my soul and what I long to do and dream to belong to, a community and a cause, in love with my neighbor, the world, with the Creator, with Mother Nature, to belong to a love so strong that it transform our world for the better.
    A community working for positive change so we can save and honor the Earth rather than destroy her. We sorely need this renewal. There are many individuals, artists, organizations and businesses doing this work but what is missing is a communal experience and consensus in our country. When people join together in a common cause, others will envision the joy and love in the mission, hearts will be changed and the movement rallies. So I humbly suggest that Matthew holds a Cosmic Mass at the grounds of the Capital, President Joe Biden will participate and U2 will perform and other artists will gladly participate and a message of hope and unity will be our ally along with the Holy Spirit!
    This Cosmic Mass at the Capital will help define what we stand for and its message will spread around the world.
    I’ll volunteer in any way I can be of service.
    So will many others. Many diverse people are longing to be a part of this.
    I know you are doing this at the Parliament of World Religions but afterwards let’s take it out even further! It’s longing to go public!

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Hi JoAnn, what an inspiring comment. I share your vision for a Cosmic Mass at the Capital – would be a wonderful ritual of cleansing, purification; a vision of hope and compassion, of genuine nurture and care. A way to replace all of the Insurrection Images of violence and brutality, brother against brother and the very real threat to our democracy and who we aspire to be as Americans. To offer us and the world new image, new creative possibility, a dream that includes the Four Paths – so that we can all understand our part in this journey and its many dimensions.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
      I know that Matt reads the posted comments – I will send him a copy to be certain he saw it. You do know he has a tight schedule.

  4. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Today’s DM is truly empowering in so many ways. It speaks to me of the precious and valuable gifts given of creativity, imagination and intuition; and the transforming power of these, which invites us into participating in the unfolding, evolving, emergence of a change of consciousness and awakening.

    Converging with symbols and images, through the gifts of creativity, imagination for myself, has become an intuitive way of engaging in the language of Spirit, which speaks to my heart, mind and soul. All of nature too, speaks this language. This language, all can learn to understand for themselves, by simply entering into sacred communion with; which is a unique pathway of listening and dialoguing with the living Spirit, present in its essence within all… in a metaphoric, symbolic, story telling kind of way.

    The mystics, prophets, artists, poets, musicians, psychologists, cosmologists, mythologists, scientists and yes even some theologists learnt to be and live in this spiritual reality, consciously; trusting in the beauty of the gifts of creativity, imagination and intuition within… which led them to discovering and awakening consciously, to truths once unknown.

    Thank you so much for todays DM!

  5. Avatar

    Art seduces us into the struggle against repression–and unleashes the power of courage to see it through, whatever the cost.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thank you for the succinct sentence in which you describe the movement within the Four Paths – from Via Creativa to Via Transformativa; the transformative power of art.

  6. Avatar

    Can an intellectual idea-form be clothing for the divine One’s art?

    The fashions of mysticism’s earth-woven clothing have changed,
    some of its old closet-hung garments’ threads have worn bare,
    but the transcendent Truth-dancer always-forever wears a beautiful garment, newly fresh-woven, that shows off the glorious One’s elusive form, and a cloak that rings gaily with little bells that tease the misty edges.

    The garment is always made anew, of fibers freshly-grown,
    teasingly awe-tickling
    but also oh so very intimately comfortable,
    a garment just begging to be tried on, slipped into during scandalously intimate moments.

    It is always shared, eagerly gifted, the Truth-dancer holds nothing back.
    Dancing together, the garment is forgotten, they soar, one dance dancing
    And the artwork transcends its humble clothing.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      So beautiful!
      You write poetically.
      Draw the images with gentle strokes
      of engaging majesty.
      Glory and Beauty!

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