“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5
Solo sports like tennis showcase the skills of superstars like Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Team sports like basketball differ; they gather individuals and form a squad. The epic 1992 Gold Medal Dream Team comes to mind. This team gathered elite athletes like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan, and defeated all opponents by an average of 43.8 points. Individually, each player was incredible; together they were unstoppable. Together, the skilled became increasingly skillful and further displayed the beauty of sport.
In an epic season of Israel’s history, God’s people escaped Egypt, wandered in the wilderness by a cloud and a flame of God’s glory, ate manna, and drank water from a rock. Amazing. But God wanted more; He desired to dwell with, to tabernacle with, His people (Exodus 25:22). So He provided Moses, the coach, with a game plan for the tabernacle, a mobile worship center that allowed divine and humankind to meet. Then God gathered His Dream Team, first calling “Magic” and “Michael,” also known as Bezalel and Oholiab to “make artistic designs” for the furnishings of the worship center (31:1–6). God filled the men with His Spirit, skill, intelligence, knowledge, leadership, and creativity. Individually, these two were incredible.
Next, God invited all the other spirits filled, minds skilled, and hearts stirred to join the team (35:10–19, 36:2). Before construction ever began God gave “ability to all the specially skilled” (31:6 esv). In other words, to all those who could slam dunk, God gave the ability to take off from the free-throw line, loop the ball through their legs, and stuff it. Boo-yah! Finally, God opened tryouts to everyone. People responded, lavishing Him with freewill offerings of jewelry, fabric, and animal skins as donations to the project (31:6; 35:4–9, 20–29; 36:3–7). Together, these people were unstoppable.
Art can be an individual endeavor, an act of intimacy wherein one meets with the divine. Pretenses of perfection (especially those propagated by Pinterest) must cease as the artist seeks to truly know and be known. Feelings of vulnerability may startle as we engage and express our ideas and emotions. But gradually, confidence builds as we try new recipes, tickle the ivories, or take the lens caps off our cameras.
Art can also be a group effort, an act of intimacy wherein one meets with others. Think of the communal aspects of the tabernacle: designed in community (the Trinity), constructed in community (all the tribes of Israel), and sustained in community (God dwelling with Israel and they with one another). The tabernacle proved that art involves more than the skills of an individual. It requires a willingness to participate in community, to know and be known. So, too, our participation in the pottery class, community garden, or church potluck is more than a showcase of our skill with clay, cabbages, or cayenne. It is an act of intimacy, vulnerability, and authenticity with others. It is a willful denial of kitsch and perfectionism and an intentional dismantling of the barricades of race, class, and gender. In this way, it is a fight for beauty.
Art creates a context for community with Christians and non-Christians. You see, after Christ resurrected, He sent the Spirit to tabernacle within believers, making us temples of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). As we open ourselves to others, sharing our skills, experiences, and labor, we invite them to intimacy with God and each other. Art is more than individual effort or heavenly genius; it is also togetherness. Together, the skilled become increasingly skillful and further display the beauty of God.