Monday, March 21, 2011

Word and Image

the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands (Acts 7:48)

To that I say: Amen. Some people have mistaken my talk of architecture as a spiritual endeavor as a refusal to accept verses like this. But I don't say that this building will make it possible for God to dwell there; I say rather that it can join with nature - and with the Lord's Supper, and baptism - in proclaiming the truth and beauty of God through visual image and symbol. Even the Word himself was not only word, but also image, "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).

"The lesser light to govern the night" (Gen. 1:16) - A still from video
footage I took of the full moon rising over the sea a few hours
before the vernal equinox this year.

We are not the privileged ones for having God's words neatly bound between the covers of one book. The privileged ones were those who walked with the Word in the flesh - who saw just how his eyes moved around the crowd as he preached, just which way his hands gestured when he lifted the crippled out of their demons, who got to watch him walk, to see what is the stride of God. The visions too received by the prophets were God's choice of how best to manifest those truths. The wordy, mostly impenetrable verbal accounts of them are good for us to read and digest, but they are mere shadows. Will we think ourselves higher than John for being able to read the vision of the exploding heavens on a flat piece of paper?

"The greater light..." Looking west through the first and
lowest window opening formed in the stone wall.

John's "Word" is Greek Logos: the divine wisdom, the ordering force of the universe, God himself ("the Word was God"), not yet word or image in the beginning, only Spirit. "Word" is not the same as "a word" or "words." This Word was imaged via incarnation in human form and sinless action. "Incarnation" means "in his meat." It's fleshly, visual, physical. And the Word also spoke words; words are just another imaging of the Word, another way of manifesting the Idea. An idea, a raw concept, at its inception has neither words nor images to express it; it sits in the womb of the mind waiting to be enfleshed -
a spirit awaiting a body.

The south-east corner of the Great Room. I love the earthiness
of these bricks - just slabs of red clay, baked and sliced into chunks.
Who needs paint when you can get color like this out of the ground?

The Incarnation of the Word was not the first imaging of God's thought. Creation was there already. Nature is a constant image of the thoughts of God, always in the background of our senses, ever returning to our visual field. It is the first "book" of God, the visual book, declaring without speech the truths of God,
as the Psalmist said.

The sweet bay tree near the stone wall. These
have the sweetest flowers I've ever smelled,
but I haven't seen a bud on this one yet.
When will you bloom, my sweet bay?

And then came the Law. And then the Temple. Then the Christ, and his Church. There is a symphony of God's thoughts enfleshed all around us: plants and animals, planets and stars, our own bodies, ever before us speaking; and the Bible's writings, rooting us, nourishing us, changing us; and finally the works of God's inspired people, creating with both words and images - preachers, prophets and poets, painters, dancers and architects, none of us doing everything, each of us doing a part, to drape flesh over the invisible face of Jesus
in the world, for the world, until he comes.

A vine I found on site today that just started blooming.


  1. beautiful. the words. the pictures! beautiful! :)

  2. Chris, it is an inspiration for us to see your dream becoming a reality, and your house rising out of the earth....
    After a few months of stress and real fears of losing our place, there are some lights in the forest. It seems as if we may be able to keep the property and still follow our dream...
    It may call for my early retirement (and usingpart of my pension to secure the property).
    I'm attending the SA Missiological Society's congress this week, where I met a brother with dreams similar to yours. Am sending him your links - you may inspire him too.
    God bless your venture.

  3. Thank you, Randi.

    Ernst, it's great to hear from you, and that your project is still in the works. Sounds like God's put this on your heart like he put my house on mine - whatever it takes.. I admire your commitment and sacrifice in the face of discouraging obstacles. It's a beautiful dream you have; I think it's worth it. And thanks for sharing my project with someone else; always good to connect with people with similar inspirations. You mean there are three of us in the world?? Amazing.. ;) I'll put your blog address here for anyone interested: