On Friday, I will be attending Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at DeVos Place. Because I didn’t enroll in any art appreciation coursework in college, I try to take advantage of viewing the works of some of the great artists whenever they are made available. This isn’t the first time I have seen Van Gogh’s art, but I’m looking forward to this nuance for bringing an art exhibit into the 21st century. I just hope the glitch in the computer program which happened on opening night is resolved before Friday.
One of my bucket list items that was checked off in 2012, when I attended the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle. Robert LePage, the Met art director at the time, created a new production in order to bring a classic opera into the modern world. No flat sets and fake looking caves, castle and dragon. The set brought new life and new vision to an ancient story of morality and the burden of doing the right thing.
I believe the goal of both productions has been to touch more people and draw them into a new expression of art and culture. Only time will tell if these ventures have accomplished what the designers intended.
Immersion is not a new concept. In the opening verses of Luke Chapters 9 and 10, Jesus sent out the disciples and seventy-two others to spread the good news. Each one was to rely on the willingness of the inhabitants of a town or village to welcome them, feed them and give them a place to sleep.
The author of Luke doesn’t give us an itinerary of where these eighty-four people went, nor do we receive a detailed report of their experience. Still, I imagine that someone from Galilee learned a lot about cultural differences in Bethany or Jericho. Although the region is not as vast as the United States, there were undoubtedly dialectal and cultural differences in the language, with people in one region describing the world around them a little differently than their neighbors to the north or south.
The continued sending of the followers of Christ into the world is chronicled through the eyes of Paul, beginning in the Book of Acts and continuing through the Epistles. Immersion is in our DNA. We are called to travel to the neighborhoods of the people we serve. Our road leads us from the center of cities to the farm communities which are becoming smaller and smaller. Social media and an online presence are a significant part of our culture. People are characterized by their generation from Baby Boomers to Gen Z. And because Jesus has encouraged us to go forth, these are the people we have been asked to reach.
The world is our mission field. We are called to journey with others who do not look like us, eat the same foods we do, or speak about the world in the same way. Often, whenever I seek to engage in mission with others, with the intent of sharing God’s blessings, I am in turn blessed by learning of another’s deep and abiding relationship with our Lord. May we continue to be immersed in God’s creation as we seek to make disciples for the transformation of the world. And Amen.