This morning I picked up a book on the iconic Canadian artists; The Group of Seven, and within 20 pages, the central thesis of a sermon series presented itself.
First I read of how these artists hoped to, “awaken artistic consciousness in this country.” (page 11, Defiant Spirits). And I thought, I want the same thing; eyes and ears and minds opened, alert, sensing what they were made to sense! I want this series to beautifully paint a picture of a seeing that leads to a seeing. I want their use of colour, brush stroke, and perspective to illumine our spirits.
A few pages later I read this eloquent quote on the vast nature of the Canadian landscape – the source of inspiration for much of the GO7’s work;
“The Canadian landscape inspired fear, mystery, wonder and often frustration and disappointment. One confronted not other people, or even oneself, so much as forces of nature and the vastness of the universe… The English poet and philosopher T.E. Hulme, in Saskatchewan to help with the wheat harvest in 1906, experienced what he called the “fright of the mind before the unknown”: a horrifying, agoraphobic vision of the insignificance of man before the oppressive and impossible immensity of Canada’s physical landscape… “the first time I ever felt the necessity or inevitability of verse.”” (Page 20)
My first thought? The fear of an unknown, vast, immense, force-of-nature Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Imagine engaging the Canadian landscape as an icon, looking through it to see the face of God.
And then Rudolph Otto came to mind. He wrote a book called The Idea of the Holy, that spoke of a way of experiencing God called the ‘numinous‘. Can’t find my book right now, but here’s how Wikipedia defines the term;
“According to Otto, the numinous experience has in addition to the tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling, a quality of fascinans, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The numinous experience also has a personal quality, in that the person feels to be in communion with a wholly other. The numinous experience can lead in different cases to belief in deities, the supernatural, the sacred, the holy and/or the transcendent.”
This morning was the first time I felt the necessity and inevitability of preaching this series.