ARE YOU IN THERE?

Have you ever watched a sculptor at work … creating a beautiful figure out of a chunk of marble or wood? How do they do that? How do they know what figure will come out of the material they are using?

Although I have not seen sculptors working in marble, I have seen people sculpting wood – with chain saws!

Sculptor of wood with chain saw working on large piece.
Sculptor of wood with chain saw working on large piece.

These artisans were chainsaw sculptors who were taking part in an international chainsaw carving competition in Reedsport, Oregon in 2009. This competition was subject of a post entitled “Creative Talents on Display” posted on May 2, 2015.

They created wood carvings of birds and bears, fish and wildlife on both a mammoth and a small-scale, all done with chain saws, some large for the first cuts and others very fine for the detailed work, but chain saws nonetheless.

Chain saw carved hawk.
Chain saw carved hawk.

No matter the size, the concept is the same. Something is inside the wood, and the artist must work to release it.

Looking at wood and seeing the statue encased in it.
Looking at wood and seeing the statue encased in it.

Michelangelo said that “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” The same great sculptor was asked how he knew when to stop sculpting on a piece and he responded: “Carving is easy, you just go down to the skin and stop.”

 

Checking the sculpture and confirming what the craftsman sees for his piece.
Checking the sculpture and confirming what the craftsman sees for his piece.

This is a picture of one of the sculptors in Reedsport who has placed some rough-hewn details which begin to show the subject of his sculpture.

Eagle grasping at salmon, carved by chain saw sculptor.
Eagle grasping at salmon, carved by chain saw sculptor.

Here the artist has completed the work and has released the object from its imprisonment! This is one of the finished products at the Reedsport, Oregon competition in 2009 – an eagle swooping down to catch the fish below. Incredible detail, all done with a chain saw!

I readily admit that I have no such talent – if I were to hold a block of wood in my hand, it would stay there until I put it on the wood pile for the next winter fire. But, I certainly can appreciate the effort, talent and creativity that goes into developing one of these pieces.

I believe that God has called each of us to be, in essence, a sculptor of persons through His power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Quoting from the Book of Isaiah, Luke 4:18-19 Jesus said:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Emphasis added)

Jesus told those in the synagogue that day so long ago that He was sent to proclaim freedom to the prisoners … He was not talking about those in jail for their misdeeds but to the broader citizenry who are held captive in sin.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” 1 Corinthians 15: 56.

What does that have to do with blocks of wood? Nothing. But it has everything to do with our involvement with others in our church, family, neighborhood or world.

Think about the young people who come to church for youth group. Perhaps a smile or an arm around a shoulder would encourage some barriers to be dropped so that the story of God’s love through Jesus Christ could make inroads into a young person’s heart, replacing “attitude” with love.   Are you in there?

The attitude bear cub.
The “attitude” bear cub.

Think about the elderly who have no one to care about them? A warm meal served with a smile, or a coat provided with a hug, might be something that would chip away the callous exterior to reveal the heart that Jesus can touch.   Are you in there?

Mountain Man carved with chain saw.
Mountain Man carved with chain saw.

Why do this? Because God said we should, see Matthew 28:19‐20. Praise His Name that He should want me to work on His behalf! What a privilege. What a responsibility. What a joy.

Are you in there?

Father, help me to see others as you see them … through the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to look past the exterior and to see the hurt, the need, the worries, the anxiety, and the fear. Help me to be the hands of our Lord as I seek to minister to others, and help me to point other always, and only, to you my Lord, for the glory of God the Father.

 

A CHIME IN THE DARK NIGHT

We are fortunate to live in a city that has an incredible symphony orchestra and, as a result, we have ready access to classical concerts, pop concerts, chamber music concerts, etc.  Last year we had tickets to the classical concert series.  I love to listen to the orchestra in a live performance – it is a real treat.  But I don’t know what to expect just from reading the advertisement for the concert.

We arrived at the theatre and found that the program was three selections, all written in the 1800s by persons of whom I had no knowledge, given my relatively insufficient knowledge of composers and their works. The concert was in late October so the selections had a Halloween theme.

The first selection was A Night on Bald Mountain written by Modest Mussorgsky, a Russian born composer who was born in 1839.  The work is based on a Russian legend describing the witches who go to Bald Mountain the night before the feast of St. John the Baptist.  While there, Satan comes and it becomes a night of passion and frenzy.

A Halloween Costumed Devil
A Halloween Costumed Devil

(The picture is not from the concert but, rather, is a Halloween costume one of my grandchildren wore a number of years ago.)

The program notes included an explanation, written by the composer himself, detailing what to expect in the performance.

So far as my memory doesn’t deceive me, the witches used to gather on this mountain, gossip, play tricks and await their chief – Satan.  On his arrival, they, i.e., the witches, formed a circle around the throne on which he sat, in the form of a kid, and sang his praise.  When Satan was worked up into sufficient passion by the witches’ praises, he gave the command for the Sabbath, in which he chose for himself the witches who caught his fancy.  – So this is what I’ve done.  At the head of my score I’ve put its contents.

  1. Assembly of the witches, their talk and gossip.
  2. Satan’s journey
  3. Obscene praise of Satan and
  4. Sabbath.

If the work is performed, I wish this program to appear on the bills for the enlightenment of the audience.

[From the Program Notes by Ken Meltzer, The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra program for the concert on October 17, 2014 entitled Symphonie Fantastique, Sameer Patel, Conductor.]

The orchestral work ranged from fluid and enticing to frenetic and frenzied.  The entire orchestra was involved; violins, woodwinds, two harps, brass, and of course there was, my personal favorite, percussion!  What struck me, however, was that just before the end of the piece, chimes were struck, clear and sharp.  The chimes pierced the frenzy of the scene and peace came in their wake.

The program noted that “At the height of the Sabbath, a distant church bell sounds.  The spirits disappear, and A Night on Bald Mountain concludes with the arrival of dawn, and the return of peace.

Sunrise at Sea
Sunrise at Sea

I have attached this link to a YouTube post by The Wicked North which is a performance of part of A Night on Bald Mountain, this clip coming at the height of the Sabbath toward the end of the piece.  The YouTube clip is a little over 9 minutes long, but at 7:20 on the clip you will hear the change in the music following the ringing of the chimes.

As I applauded the skill and talent of our orchestra in its rendition of A Night on Bald Mountain, I thought of the symbolism in the music.  It was a beautiful reminder that our Lord is supreme.

We need to be reminded of this as, in our own country, innocent people have been killed, just in the past month, as they prayed in a Charleston, South Carolina church, they did their assigned duties at the Marine and Navy centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and they watched a comedic movie at a theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Clearly, Satan has his way in the world [Ephesians 2:2], but we know that the ultimate victory belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56:

“Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [ESV]

Oh that we would live our lives hearing the bell’s chime through the din of the world’s clamor.

Oh, that we would live our lives in a manner that we would be like a bell chiming out the love that the Lord gives us for this fallen world.

Oh, that when people meet us, they would see Jesus.