Optional: Plan a way to project two or three paintings by an “Old Master” onto a screen or wall where everyone will be able to see them during your introduction. Be ready to name the artists credited with creating each.
If you are into art . . .
If you have ever taken an art appreciation class . . .
If you have ever studied to be a contestant on Jeopardy . . .
Then you probably know the term “Old Master.” It refers to any European painter of talent who lived before 1800.
(If you plan to provide examples of art painted by an Old Master, project them now and name the artist responsible for each painting, sharing the details about apprenticeship as you conclude. Otherwise, simply use the text below.)
Artists like Michelangelo and da Vinci are considered Old Masters. Jan van Eyck and Albrecht Dürer are, too. The list of Old Masters is, in fact, quite lengthy. The Old Masters are artists who excelled at their craft. They worked independently—in contrast to the apprentices who often worked under their supervision, learning their craft. A painting done by one of the Old Masters is “a Master’s piece”—a masterpiece!
The Bible—both Old and New Testaments—often uses artistic terms as it describes God’s work in Creation. Look through the Book of Psalms, for example, and you will find dozens of verses like the ones I am about to read. You may want to listen with your eyes closed as you picture the Creator in action and marvel at the masterpiece he created.
(Read some or all of these verses, as time will allow: Psalm 19:1, Psalm 65:9–13; Psalm 148:1–10.)
Hearing all this, and considering the wonders of the universe around us, we can’t help but conclude with the psalmist, “The works of the LORD are great” (Psalm 111:2 KJV). They truly are!
But, sadly, we also recognize that those works are not nearly as great as they once were. Not at all! The creation around us, beautiful as it still is, suffers the ravages of human sin. As we sit here today, an island of plastic waste three times the size of France floats in the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes and tsunamis, tornados and typhoons, pain, plague, and the agony caused by endless wars—all mar the creation our Master once declared, “Very good!” All these entered through the door human beings opened by our rebellion against God.
None of this ruin, this destruction, is the fault of our Creator. We are the apprentices who have rejected our Master. Our attitudes, words, and actions—no matter how trivial or inconsequential they may seem—have contributed to the mess. Our self-centered decisions. Our ugly, loveless words. Our careless attitudes. Can they be all that bad? Yes, the Bible tells us. (Read Romans 8:22.) The creation itself groans under the destructive weight of our sins.
And here’s the most frightening part: There’s no way we can undo the damage, especially the damage we’ve done to our relationship with God. We deserve to be exiled, to be banished, to be sent away from the presence of our Creator, our Master. But God’s presence is the only source of love, of peace, of meaning, of joy, of light, of beauty. Our Creator is the only source of the life that is really life! (Pause for a few seconds to allow those in the audience to consider this.)
It is into this despair that Jesus came—not in rage, not with retribution and vengeance on his heart—but in self-giving love. Listen! (Read Ephesians 2:8–10.)
The Master created us. Now, in mercy, he has re-created us—not because of anything we have done or could do but only and completely because of all Christ Jesus did for us on his cross. His graciousness has no bounds. No matter how deeply you dive, you will never discover the bottom of that love!
The Old Masters painted masterpieces. Perhaps surprisingly, though, many of the works that carry their names were painted, at least in part, by their apprentices. For example, a painting completed under the direction of da Vinci, by one of his pupils, is also considered a piece by the Old Master. A masterpiece!
Graced by your Master, you have been born afresh in Christ. You are his masterpiece. Now, he works with you, beside you, and in you so that the things you think, say, and do bring honor to him and beautify the world around you. Little things. Big things. All reflect his love, his artistry, active and at work in your life.
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion is the Ministry Message that accompanies CTA’s just-released women’s retreat, Masterpiece. You can save time (and your budget!) by planning your retreat with CTA. Check out all the gifts and digital resources! All you need to do is bring the craft supplies!
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