Trinity (2011)
Acrylic on Illustration Board
80 cm x 110 cm
Nathan Kurz, Munich Germany
copyright 2011

Trinity Sunday, Isaiah 6:1-8

Historical Description:  

Trinity was inspired by questions that have occupied me for some time: the ever-present suffering in the world; the question of God’s presence during such times; and the desire to reconcile such times with faith.

Though the questions seem eternal and have occupied generation after generation, the concept for the painting came in a moment—a picture in a local German newspaper of two male concentration camp survivors standing next to a Bavarian boy in German traditional clothing provided the vision for this walk of faith.

Nathan Kurz (brother of Miriam Kurz, Pr. Erick Kurz, and Pr. Joel Kurz of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Warrensburg, MO. and the son of Pr. Rudolph and Carol Kurz) lives and works in Germany together with his wife Marion and 3 children.  We thank him for his multi-faceted contribution to this project, weaving together art, poetry, and biblical reflection.

Devotional Reflection:  

Sometimes difficulty descends like a sudden summer storm.

The tempest takes its toll—and shaken, perhaps shattered, we search for meaning.

A string of personal and professional events has forced intensified reflection lately—one of the things I found myself returning to was the 23rd Psalm.

The peace and tranquility that the Psalm offers dominates our altar pieces and Sunday school lessons—yet the darker portion is often ignored.  For many, daily reality is not the peaceful pasture but the dark valley, filled with shadows, with memories that haunt and with fear that is hard to shake.

In art (as in life), the magnificence of light is revealed through the dark—and not in its absence.  Shadows are essential to complete the work—to shape, reflect and give meaning to the light.

A poem I wrote several years ago entitled “Heaven” touched on this point. “To touch the heights of heaven…we must fall…we must be broken…we must surrender…and become the prodigal…mired, desolate and alone, to grieve and hunger, till nothing is left but faith—and the hand of God.”

There is good reason for the Gospel message: “Do not be afraid.” Christ purposely and visually presents himself as “light in our darkness”—to lead us—this moment, this day, each day. This message is embedded in the very nature of creation, played out, as night gives way to day—as fear gives way to hope.

Trinity”, a painting from 2011, inspired by a Dietrich Bonhoeffer seminar earlier that year, focuses on the presence of Christ in our lives—specifically in dark and difficult times.

A bald and beaten Christ—perhaps ten years old—takes his place in the center of our circumstance. The “distant” and powerful king from Isaiah’s vision…is here—lowly and suffering in our midst. This boy, this innocence, this power, this hope is Emmanuel—God with us.

The two other figures, a man and a woman in prison clothing, stand against an unsettling orange background. Mary, Joseph. (You? Me?). They wear the scars of their earthly journey, vision and hope obscured by life itself.

And the Christ child?

He stands in their midst—bearing the scars of His earthy experience. This is the holy family—where Jesus dwells.  This is the trinity.

The tree of life/death anchors the piece and is central to the work of the carpenter—purpose and patience essential for the beauty of finished work.

A triangle provides an inner frame—joining humanity to the divine. In Christianity, the triangle marked the mystery of the trinity. In history, the triangle, in various combinations and colors, has marked the “unwanted” and the “non-human”. The divine trinity and the earthly one stand in stark contrast. While divine mysteries and purpose may remain hidden, Christ steps out of our bitter and broken trinity, His gaze set, penetrating and clear.

He knows where He is leading as night gives way to day.

If we are willing to accept any truth that the 23rd Psalm might offer, let us accept following:  the intentions of the shepherd are good; His role (and desire) is to lead. Our task is to follow—and to trust.

Following may involve prolonged periods over dry and dusty ground or very real and personal pain. The path may be hidden, the destination unclear—yet we must remember that we are being led—and our journey has a reason.

“Trinity” was accompanied by the following Bonhoeffer poem (my translation):

            Tag (Day)

This day is the border of our worries and efforts…

this day is long enough to hurt or to heal…

to preserve faith or fall into shame…

to find or lose God…

in the history of the world there is only one important moment—this day.

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