This week in our Faith and Art series, we have another wonderful stained glass work by Shepherd of the Valley artist Edie Martin. Last week Edie’s subject was the lion lying down with the lamb in Isaiah. This week she portrays a couple stories from the gospels: Jesus Feeding the 5000 and the assurance not to worry, that God watches out for even the lilies of the field.
As usual with Edie’s work, the joy comes in the details, how subtly they match together. The first thing I noticed about this piece was not the central figure, but the crowd of people looking over his shoulder. They’re juxtaposed with the flowers in the lower left, creating a frame. They’re related by color. The clothes of the people pick up the same hues as the blossoms. We remember that God says he’ll care for the flowers. We also remember that God cares for us in the same way. We become the flowers, blooming and growing, clothed in love.
Interestingly enough, other bits of the crowd’s clothing matches the colors of the food in the center. As we’re loved, we’re also meant to nourish others, both physically and with the same care God grants us. Whether we’re flowers being nurtured or food for nourishing others, we’re part of the process.
Though several colors populate the piece, red-orange stands out most to me. After seeing it connects people and flowers, we notice it also shines forth in the sun, representing warmth and light from the sky. The things that define us and bring us life also bind us to the deepest parts of the universe. We glow with God’s grace, united to each other and to the divine.
The figure in the middle brings all of these things together in a single moment of resolve. “Are you hungry? Be fed.” For a moment, all the connections between us, the universe, and God coalesce in a plate of bread and fish, into the most basic human transaction: eating. This ordinary thing becomes extraordinary and cosmically relevant. Our simplest acts of kindness and community care connect us to each other and the world in the most powerful way possible.
You don’t have to create a perfect system of government or write a philosophical treatise to change the world. Share food with your neighbor who is hungry. You’ve now done an act as powerful as any king of old, as deep as the world itself.
The child holding the food has that same red-orange hair. The power of God and all the universe shows through him. Is he a child, or is he Jesus? When we look into the frame watching, are we standing in the sandals of the Savior, looking down at food offered by a young person, ready to receive and distribute? Or are we a recipient, being fed? Do these distinctions even matter anymore? As the meal is shared, we, God, and all the people around us become one. Those sharing the food, those partaking, and God are wrapped together, united in a single act of love.
What a lovely moment. What a striking depiction.
You can find Edie on Facebook @ediemartinglass and see more of her artwork at www.ediemartinglass.com.
Come back next week to find more artwork from your friends and neighbors and more clues about how our lives relate to God’s!