I am so excited to be able to share these following words with you. Ted Lyddon Hatten is the Conference Artist for the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. We were blessed to have him speak at our PAUMCS conference this week in Des Moines. I was so moved by these words, that I e-mailed Ted, and asked if he would mind sending me the statement. He was very gracious to share this with me. The first part explains a little about the art he created, and the rest is a beautiful, haunting statement for you to read and meditate on. Enjoy...
The artwork for the PAUMC gathering was created to be part of a larger installation for the 2005 Iowa Annual Conference Session. Our theme that year was Stewards of Creation. In addition to these three images, I incorporated sod and caution tape in various locations throughout venue. The following words served as my artist statement. tlh
They call it caution tape and it is intended to be noticed. Yellow with black letters – Police use it to cordon off a crime scene. Construction workers use it to mark off an area in need of repair. You are supposed to see it, to take note, take caution.
If your eyes are open you will see the caution tape around here and what it surrounds. It is sod; grass. There are seven circles of sod – four in the building and three elsewhere. It is up to you to decide if the sod enclosed by the caution tape is a crime scene or an area in need of repair. If it is a crime scene you’ll want to be careful not to touch it – you wouldn’t want to leave fingerprints. It’s the oil that does you in. The oil. That’s why fingerprints can be left on a wet glass. It’s the oil. And you need a solvent to dissolve oil. Petroleum distilled and refined works well. Wipe down what you touch and not even of trace of you will remain. It is also handy as a fuel for the combustion engine in your car, your SUV, and your RV. With gasoline we can go wherever we want in speed and comfort.
“Sovereign God, when we look upon the heavens, at all of creation, and we see the work of your fingers.”
“Stewards of Creation” is our theme for this year’s Annual Conference.
Adam and Eve were the first stewards of creation and they have taught us well. They did not ask to be made but made they were. Made in God’s image which means they were hungry. They found themselves in a garden that had everything they needed – including limits. Abundance beyond the need to measure. And they were told by their Creator to “till and to keep that garden.” Translated another way – they were told to serve the land – to be servants of the land.
I believe the future of this planet hinges on the order of those words.
And they were also told that if they honor their appetites – honor, elevate, obey their appetites they will have open eyes to see the death they have brought.
But the fruit forbidden was ripe – a delight to their eyes and they were surprised that it hung so low – so easy to reach. And with their emerging vision – just before they sank their teeth in the fruit they saw God’s fingerprints.
Hanging over the chancel for these 3 days is a triangular prism that depicts the four elements around which each of our major worship services is built. Fire, air, water, earth. The Fire is the light that shines within just as the light burns, shines within everything that lives.
Air is the side dominated by a Great Blue Heron. Her eyes are locked in on one of two things; Either danger to her offspring or food. It is possible, I suppose, that she is sizing up the fish in the adjacent panel though they nearly out-weigh her. But I think the former is more likely the truth. She has spotted danger.
In the Water swim three fish. They are either trying in vain to blend in with their surroundings or they too bear the fingerprints of a Creator apparently obsessed with color.
The water looks like the air in the other panels and the plowed ground resembles the ocean floor and the marsh and this is quite intentional. The ecosystems that enable life here are infinitely complex and intimately connected one to another. The chemicals we apply to the land end up in our water. The waste we belch into the air falls down onto the land.
The land, of course is our home and our destination. We know it well – it feeds us, shelters us, holds our roots in place and gives us life. The apple in the center of the Land panel has a pattern that, with your emerging vision, you will find in the Air and Water panels as well.
But it is tempting. Tempting to reverse the order of the words spoken to Adam and Eve by God. To act as if the land is here to serve us. Tempting to honor our appetites. Tempting to continue to repeat the sin that stopped being original a long time ago.
As the juice ran down the chin and neck of Eve and Adam – so too does the crude oil run down our chin and our neck. Our combustion engines take us from place to place with speed and comfort but petroleum, refined and distilled, is also an effective solvent. And with it, we are erasing fingerprints of the Divine.
We are stewards of creation. Each of us is called in many ways – a blend of vocations unique to us – as original as the patterns on the pads of our fingers. But to be a steward of creation – that is a calling that falls equally on us all. No one is ordained or consecrated or set apart for the roll of Steward of Creation. We are all called to this ministry.
But if we are unable or unwilling to answer that call faithfully then the sod and the earth it comes from is indeed a crime scene.
The Heron has spotted the danger to her offspring and her eyes are locked in on us.
Should we find a way to answer that call and become faithful servants of creation -
should we find a way to honor God rather than our appetite
then our already opened eyes will see Divine fingerprints
and Divine presence everywhere we look.
And we will hear the echo of God’s voice;
“It is good.”
Ted Lyddon Hatten
Iowa Annual Conference