By Adam White
“I’m interested in doing something around the theme of ‘dawn,’” he said.
I was speaking with a well-known local artist—who is also a supporter of The Lutheran Center—about the possibility of doing a large painting for the new Lutheran Center’s sanctuary. We had been talking about the project for nearly half-an-hour when he said it.
In the first 30 minutes of the meeting, Kevin, our architect, and I had laid out our idea. Kevin and I traveled to Germany in 2018 with The Lutheran Center and had fallen in love with the painted “altarpieces” we kept seeing there. Even before leaving Germany, we talked about the idea of a contemporary altarpiece, which is a large painting behind the altar, at the new LC. We showed the painter images of the altarpieces we’d seen and updated him on the LC project.
He listened carefully. Then, he said abruptly, “I don’t do figural work anymore.”
Kevin and I took deep breaths, both thinking this was him saying no as all the examples we had given the artist had figures, depiction of human shapes, in the altarpieces.
But then he said it, “I’m interested in doing something around the theme of ‘dawn.’”
This was immediately intriguing.
He continued, “In Christian symbolism, ‘dawn’ signifies two things: the resurrection ‘dawn’ of Jesus and the return of Jesus, the advent.”
Over the past several weeks I’ve kept coming back to this conversation and the theme of dawn. Perhaps I’m yearning for the dawn because the night has gotten perceptibly longer over the past weeks. Perhaps, it’s because when local time is about to reach 2:00:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 3, 2019, the clocks are turned backward one hour. Or perhaps, it’s because our ministry center is a shell of its former self, and we are awaiting its return. “It’s coming,” we keep saying, “but not yet here.”
In any case, I’m reminded of how the shape of a Christian’s life is one of waiting for the dawn to break upon us. It is one of standing on the edge of darkness and leaning into a light that is just now beginning to break the horizon. The promise of the dawn is powerful; it allows us to live amidst death and suffering and to tell the truth about them because we live in the hope of the resurrection dawn. The promise that the dawn will break upon us reminds us each day—without fail—that the long night will come to an end.
The day after the conversation with the painter, it hit me how perfect the artist’s idea was. Each day during morning prayer at The Lutheran Center, we pray, “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us.”
It’s one of those verses that has already been painted on this community through the brush strokes of repetition. And for those who are clinically impatient, it is an image we need, an image to which we ought to constantly return.