This past Christmas eight related households in five states each received an exquisite piece of counted cross stitch artwork. These gifts of love represented hundreds if not thousands of hours of meticulous, painstaking craftsmanship by my mother, who recently celebrated her 85th birthday, and who selected each work to complement the household colors and decor of each of her six birth children and two stepchildren scattered throughout the USA. Sara Faye and I opened ours at Mom’s birthday party in January — a portrait-quality portrayal of a cottage yard aflame with brilliant flowers, complete with a birdhouse and bordered in by a white picket fence. (To see a photo of this handiwork, click here.)
Mom is a gifted artist (as is my brother Benjamin) whose oil paintings also grace two rooms of our house, along with the 360-degree miniatures in our china cabinet that she painted on eggshells. I admire artistry of all kinds — acting, dancing, drawing, hand-work, filmmaking, painting, photography, music, writing and whatever else I am forgetting. With each medium, we marvel at the finished work but we praise the artist who created it.
In the Greek-speaking Mediterranean world of the first-century, a finished work of art (literary or otherwise) was a poiema, which in English becomes a “poem.” Paul chooses this word twice in his letters to describe works made by the Master Artist, God himself. God’s first “poem” consists of “the things that have been made,” the physical creation itself (Rom. 1:20). And what a gallery of natural art the Creator offers for our pleasure! We can admire star-filled skies, snow-covered mountains, desert vistas, floral landscapes, sparkling waterfalls or majestic oceans — and praise the artist who created them.
God’s second “poem,” his artistic “workmanship,” is seen in the transformed lives of women and men who constitute his new creation in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10). And what a show of divine artwork results from this! God works through the Spirit and the dingy tightwad becomes a warm-hearted benefactor. The Creator touches a self-centered man consumed with pride and he morphs into a model of humble service. The Master Artist “works” a woman enslaved to bitterness and blasphemy, and a gracious lady overflowing with encouragement is the result. We admire God’s poiema and praise the Artist. How great is our God!