Friday, November 3, 2017

Not Simply for Show

Copyright © Edward Riojas
“Jesus has blessed His church with pastors who [adapt our sensibilities to Christ] in preaching, but it's better for our church when He also gives us authors, artists, architects, and hymn writers who can do it through their crafts.”

Those words were recently written to me by a Lutheran pastor. It may seem a simple thing, but saying them out loud is important and the sentiments cannot be stressed enough.

There are folks in Christendom, however, who challenge those thoughts. I’m still learning my lesson when it comes to avoiding the elephant-sized rabbit hole of differing opinions on sacred art. Hopefully, I’ll never learn.

My arguement always backtracks to the most basic of ideas. Some folks like to worship in Spirit with no external stimuli. Some folks like to keep things simple. Some folks are offended by Catholic images and trappings. Some folks are petrified of having graven images. Fine.

Besides trying to live in an imaginary world, those same folks must also face reality: Their houses are usually nice; Their houses typically contain photos of family members, some of which are long gone; Their houses contain other fine things meant for the eyes.

So why insist that The Lord’s house look like an entertainment venue or a Zen temple or a pole barn?

It is maddening that we think so much of the Lord that we avoid picturing His Divine work on our behalf. Heaven forbid that we remind ourselves what Christ has done for us, because that would be heresy. Instead, we are more apt to invest in window stickers that show our family is comprised of six stick-figures, two cats, and a dog; we are more apt to wave a pennant displaying whatever sorry sports team we follow.

"Parables of the Vineyard." Edward Riojas. 2017.
(Collection of the artist)

If folks are so terribly afraid of graven images, then perhaps every visual should be trashed. That includes profile pictures, traffic signs, faceless Amish dolls, family photos, and the cameras that produce the same. And don’t EVEN think about purple giraffes. I realize that the graven image-thing was behind a lot of bickering and bloodshed when the Eastern and Western churches butted heads, but the point of graven images was aimed at other non-existent gods that sucked the salvation out of stupid people.

But now we preach Christ crucified, and we do it with every fiber of our being and in every vocation, whether it is visible in the sanctuary or hidden in the home. Mothers proclaim the love of Christ when they change dirty diapers, and artists do the same when producing images of the crucified Christ. Mothers can’t help it, and neither can we.
"Precious in the Sight of The Lord." Edward Riojas. 2016.
(Collection of the artist)

Which brings us to the Sola Art Exhibition currently showing at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In what is now a biennial event, the modest show exhibits the talents of living, breathing artists working within the Lutheran sphere.

Two originals of mine, “Parables of the Vineyard” and “Precious in the Sight of The Lord,” along with the work of several other artists, will be on view in the seminary library through January, 2018.

Sacred art, however, is not simply for show. Neither is it something we worship. At its best, sacred art points to Holy Scripture and, by extension, The Word in the Person of Christ and His salvific work on our behalf.


Both original paintings are for sale, as are giclee prints of the same. For more information, e-mail the artist at

1 comment:

  1. Meaningful art is important. I love your artwork but I never like seeing Christ on the cross since he was there for only 3 hours of His life. He is not there now and there are many more ways to depict His character and life.