I was very humbled and thankful to be part of a wonderfully mournful and worshipful experience of live art and music last night. The Grace choir performed the 7 Last Words of Jesus while I painted on a 12′ X 4′ canvas. The choir sang, the congregation sang, I painted, and we all entered into that terrible story of how God demonstrated absolute love in the face of betrayal, hatred, fear, and violence.

Thanks to Jonathan Orwig, our worship and music director for pulling together all these details (and risking his life on the lift to blacken out the windows), to Doreen Hutchings for directing the choir, to Pastor Mark for being, not only a great senior Pastor, but also a fantastic accompanist, to the choir and musicians and tech crew and Pete Vaillant and Johnna Hirt for singing and reading us through the story so powerfully, to Sue Melody and Judy Wold for setting all those candles, to Paul Oman for opening up a new medium to me, to Terry Kornberg, Mike Frazier and Jenn Hubal for taking the photos displayed below, and to my Dad for building this amazing canvas stretcher and easel.

Thanks be to God, who pours out the deepest and most lasting love through the grace that comes through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Photo by Jenn Hubal

Photo by Jenn Hubal

Now, for those who are still reading, let me tell you the artist’s back story. This painting freaked me out. I originally thought that I would do a large charcoal drawing, like I have done in the past, only bigger. Then Kevin Doely introduced me to Paul Oman. Paul is an amazing artist who does live canvas paintings all over the place. He told me how he does it and inspired me to try it.

Yeah, try is the operative word. I have never painted with this type of paint before. Nor have I ever painted in front of a crowd. I was so nervous that I woke up at 2:30am that morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. Once the music started and I started painting I was in pure panic mode.

“Oh no,” I thought to myself, “this is going way faster than I anticipated.” I botched the proportions on Jesus’ face right away, and there was no way to recover. I put the center piece of Jesus carrying the cross too far to the left.

Half-way through the painting, I felt like God said, “Steve, let it go. This painting isn’t about you. Just let the people live into the story and get out of the way.”

Half way through the last song I decided to be done, to step away from the painting and let people soak in the image while the choir sang “For God So Loved the World.”

I knelt in front of the painting, on the ground below it. This was the first time I had ever been in front of the congregation and never faced them or spoken a word.

The image, my exhaustion, the music, the moment…it was overwhelming. The last slide said, “Please Leave in Silence.”

No one moved.

My back was to the crowd and I could tell that people just sat there, fixed in the pain and beauty of God’s love and mercy.

Whew! The painting itself was completed in about 40 minutes, so it is not a great work of art. However, it was a worthwhile experiment and experience.

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