Did you see the movie “A Night in the Museum?” I never thought that I would have an actual “night in the museum,” but last weekend I did. Now, it wasn’t the whole night, and neither Ben Stiller nor Robin Williams were there, and I didn’t have any conversations with any of the exhibits, but still, it was pretty cool.
One of our nieces got married and had her wedding at the Science Museum in Boston. When we walked in, the place was packed with people including little kids everywhere. We were whisked downstairs and outside, where a small ensemble played music for the arriving guests. Tour boats hurried by in the background, and following the ceremony and requisite wait for photos, they escorted us back inside. This time to an empty building. On the ground floor of a three story atrium with a huge globe of the Earth hanging over us, we did the typical reception thing. But then, through word of mouth, we found out that the dessert was up one floor. Which meant that we could explore the exhibits up there, and the third floor for that matter.
They had no monitors, no docents, no roped off areas, we were free to roam the museum! What?! We had the whole museum of science to ourselves? Yep! Now, THAT’S a venue for a reception! Lots to do and see. From the fundamentals of electricity to the actual skeleton of a dinosaur by the name of Cliff, from an exhibit of Antarctica to the botany of California… there was a little something for everybody.
What caught my attention was an exhibit that spanned one side of the third floor which they had labeled “Seeing is Deceiving.” It combined examples of impressionistic art with optical illusions, kind of a diversion from the more heady stuff of the hard sciences. One particular work impressed me. The artist printed some text, I don’t remember what it was, then shaded some of the text to look like a man’s face. The thing was, up close you could only tell that some text was darker than others. About three feet away, you could tell that the text was actually a face. But from across the museum, all it looked like was a face. The farther away you got, the clearer the face was. I just loved it, and that night took several people up to see it. I think it had impressed me more than it did them. Oh well.
One of the reasons that I liked it is that I have a similar piece of art. It’s a lithograph of the Sermon on the Mount, printed on a 2X3 foot piece of paper. Anna Talbot (the artist) began shading the text ever so slightly, until she had turned the words into the face of Jesus. I have loved this piece for many years now, although it’s quite an old piece – it will be 100 years old in six years from now.
I never felt that the work was “deceiving.” I felt it revealed more than it concealed. The tinting elicited more value, not less. Some of the displays in the museum did make- say shapes- look bigger or smaller than they were because of their context, but this? No, there was more to see, whether you first saw it from a distance, or up close.
And in the case of my lithograph on the wall, it reveals Jesus in the text. That’s illustrative of my homiletical task. I want us to see and show Jesus whenever we read or write something. I think the job of the Christian is to try to find Jesus in all that we see – to see the creative power of God in nature, to see the attributes of Jesus in our Christian brothers and sisters, and to learn how to be better people from whatever text we encounter (which might be a cautionary word about what we choose to read).
It was great to spend “a night at the museum.” We’ve enjoyed our vacation time and are grateful to First Boca for the privilege of taking the time away. But it’s also great to be back in worship with you all. It’s good to be home!
Appreciating beauty wherever it is to be found,
Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29