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Wandering Heart: Art for Lent 1, "River of Grace"

This week's art is by Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity

Inspired by Luke 5:1-11 | Theme: "Jesus Sought Me"

Acrylic painting on canvas with digital drawing

"River of Grace" by Rev Lisle Gwynn Garrity

Artist's Statement

“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

As we begin Lent, this desperate confession introduces us to Peter, the disciple whose story—and wandering heart—we will follow for the next 7 weeks. If you’ve ever acted in a play or film production, you may have been tasked with writing your character’s backstory, imagining the threads of your character’s life that form the tapestry of their personality and motivations. If we do this exercise with Peter, many threads of imagination and historical details weave together.

Peter was a commercial fisherman; his business partners were Andrew (his brother) as well as Zebedee and his two sons. Based in Galilee, he was most likely bilingual, speaking Aramaic and Greek. Culturally, he was immersed in Judaism and Hellenism. His business would have been under oppressive control of the Roman government, which arbitrarily imposed harsh rental and harbor fees, fishing licenses, and taxes on domestic fishermen. He was likely a blue-collar worker daily constrained by tides and taxes.

With this backstory in mind, we may hear Peter’s response to the abundant catch of fish with fresh ears. There are so many messages within his protest: “I’m not prepared. I’m not capable. I’m not deserving. I’m not faithful enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not the type you’re looking for.” Have you ever found yourself saying these things in response to a new calling, or to an abundant gift of grace?

In this image, the bursting nets transform into a river of grace meandering through the composition of Peter’s life. The river pours into Peter’s hands, but he can’t quite grasp the fullness of this gift and calling quite yet, and so most of it rushes right by. As you will see in my other pieces for this series, this river of grace will wander alongside Peter throughout his life. The river represents how his journey with Christ begins and ends: with an abundant catch of fish. He is forever tethered to the overflowing love of God. The river is a symbol of Peter’s gifts, as God uses what Peter knows how to do well (being a fisher of fish) and invites him to apply his skills to a new calling (being a fisher of people). It’s a visible reminder of the ways God’s grace bends and turns and rushes to find each of our wandering hearts.

Despite Peter’s resistance, grace seeks him out. His right thumb gets caught in the net. He can’t escape the fact that God’s goodness and mercy will pursue him all the days of his life (Psalm 23:6). The river rushes in. The question for Peter—and for each of us—is will he follow where it leads?

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