For the past month I’ve been scratching away at replicating Rembrandt’s etching, Christ at Emmaus (original above). This gospel story has always been deeply meaningful in relation to the vision God has given our church. The thought that Christ is with us – even when we have no idea that he is – is profound, compelling and a bit unsettling.
I started the project with Jesus’ face (figuring if I got that part wrong I wouldn’t have wasted too much time!). The eyes were so hard to get right. There was something about sketching them, and re-sketching them over and over that brought about a sense of intimacy – like he was near.
As I started to work on the hands, I had a moment where it felt as though he was actually passing the bread to me! Drawing his fingers I was drawn in.
Then yesterday, as I started in on the first of the three characters that surround Jesus (excluding the dog!), I had another epiphany moment. As I was drawing the character in the forefront – clearly not one of Jesus’ two disciples, perhaps a keeper of the house/inn they were staying at – I was struck by the fact that, while he was somewhat aware of what was happening in the room, he was still walking away from the scene!
Walking by and having no idea who he was looking at!
And it hit me… that here’s a moment where three people are all in the same room as Jesus, and still one of them appears to have had no idea who he was. Then I realized that this scene is a microcosm of reality in our world… so many people, caught by something that is going on, and yet seemingly not fully aware. This reality broke my heart. All I want is for people to know Jesus for who he really is… for where he really is!
In Rembrandt’s original it is hard to tell where Jesus is actually looking (it appears as though he’s staring into space), but in my attempted re-creation it’s like he’s looking at that man who’s walking away. A Freudian slip of the pen.
Just finished an article about the “IBM 5 in 5” – “an annual list of ground-breaking, scientific innovations with the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.”
I love reading stuff like this… and more so when I engage it as ‘text’. (So, before you continue reading here, read the article) Here are the five technologies that made the list (along with what they reminded/taught me anew about who God is):
- “In five years, cognitive assistants and sensors in our smart phones could be “listening” out for us – recognizing patterns in our speech and writing as the first line of defense for protecting our well-being.” God is always “listening” out for us, recognizing everything that goes on in us as our first line of defense. In fact, God knows our words and actions before we even say them. “Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.” Psalm 139:4
- “In five years, new affordable imaging devices using hyperimaging technology and artificial intelligence will be widely available, giving us the ability see through objects and opaque environmental conditions so superhero vision can be a part of our everyday experiences.” God sees everything perfectly. He sees our hearts. When humanity seeks to see more, we’re seeking to better image his all-seeing nature. “Does he who formed the eye not see?” Psalm 94:9, NIV.
- “In five years, machine learning algorithms and software will help us organize information about the physical world to bring data gathered by billions of devices within the range of our vision and understanding. The “macroscope” will organize all this information through a system of software and algorithms that analyzes all of Earth’s data by space and time for meaning.” “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” Jeremiah 23:24, NIV. There isn’t a place we can go where God isn’t. Everything that fills the cosmos was a thought in God’s mind before it came to be. God’s Spirit organized and holds all things. Software systems and algorithms are cultural products that we create in out attempts to more fully image and glimpse the mind of God.
- In five years, new medical labs-on-a-chip will serve as nanotechnology health ‘detectives’ and could ultimately be packaged in a handheld device so people can scan themselves and combine the results with other data like sleep monitors and smart watches to help let us know immediately if we need to see a doctor. “God knows what’s going on.
He takes the measure of everything that happens.” (Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:3, MSG). “The LORD’s eyes scan the whole world to find those whose hearts are committed to him and to strengthen them.” 2 Chronicles 16:9. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry; The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:15,17-18, NIV. All attempts to maintain human health, that aim to help us flourish, image a God who seeks restoration and fullness for all that fill his world. Labs on a chip are like all of the self-repairing mechanisms God has already built into our bodies (our immune systems, how DNA self repairs, etc.). They’re being developed now in large part as a response to Jesus’ call to heal the sick (the church responded and took in the sick, leading to hospitals providentially developing in recent centuries).
- “In five years, environmental pollutants won’t be able to hide thanks to new affordable sensing technologies. Together with analytics techniques driven by artificial intelligence, these technologies will unlock insights to help us prevent pollution and fully harness the promise of cleaner fuels, like natural gas.” “You spread out our [environmental] sins before you–our secret sins–and you see them all.” Psalm 90:8, NLT “When [the all seeing Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of its [eco-abusive] sin…” John 16:8, NLT. I think, deep down inside, we all know that things are offside, broken, falling short, not the way they are supposed to be! We can feel it in the air. The corrupting influence of unseen pollutants. A century ago, we could be forgiven for not seeing what we were doing. But even then, the maker of all ecological systems saw and knew. Increasingly humanity now images a God who sees what our polluting hands have done (and are doing); seeing the sin of pollution for what it really is, and offering us a way out.
All of these new technologies point to the heart and mind of God. The God who knows all and sees all perfectly. When we seek to see reality for what it is (the good and the bad), we’re yearning to see the way God does. And when we get a glimpse of the truth, it can often feel like an epiphany… like we’re getting a glimpse of him. “You are the God who sees me… I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13, NIV
image – DARPA, wikicommons