Holy Trinity welcomes Jonathan Puls Associate Dean and Professor of Fine Art and Art History at Biola University. Jonathan’s art work accompanies us as we learn to follow Jesus in ordinary moments this season. He has gifted Holy Trinity with 4 paintings from his series entitled “Days.” Says Puls,“I embarked on this group of ‘Day’ paintings in early 2012 and have produced one a year.”
This first one is called ‘Trash Day.’ We all have trash days, perhaps a day of the week (for me it is Tuesday) or the semiannual large item pickup. This trash day evokes especially those transitions in life, this major purging, when we clean out closets and garages, perhaps in the midst of a move we make from opportunity or necessity. In these times or any time we must discard something, we must decide, perhaps unconsciously, what is valuable and what is not.
by Todd Pickett
Indeed, both the work and its title raise questions of value, of what we consider worthwhile and worthless, perception of usefulness and uselessness.
Our eyes, of course, find their way quickly to these three figures in the painting, two young girls and an elderly woman. Are they family or neighbors? Is it significant that, when it comes to usefulness or value, they are those at the end of life or at its beginning, the elderly and very young, no longer or not yet useful or valuable to an economy that produces what we call “goods” (itself a term of value: what is good?). The elderly woman and two young girls seem to be only passing time, something on the face of it not very useful.
And yet we sense something valuable is taking place here.
Let your eyes travel to one or two of these figures and wonder, how might each be experiencing this moment, what value or good might each be finding or seeking in one another?
Could it be the desire to delight another? To receive or give praise? What new gifts might the older woman, perhaps surrounded by by things from her past, be receiving from these girls? What might she be giving? Is the young girl in the foreground admiring her sister or friend, or waiting her turn for attention? And what is each enjoying by just the presence or proximity to another?
Someone has said that in every moment of our lives with others we are invited either to give love or receive it.
Much of this happens just this way, in the ordinary attention we give to one another. Who in your life gives you attention? From whom might you be called to receive love? Whom do you have a chance daily to attend to? To whom do you have a chance to give love in the normal round of things? How might such attention color someone’s whole world, making even the daily or discarded stuff of life appear to be full of color and life, as they are in this painting?
We are in the season of ordinary time, and we know from the gospels that the daily, ordinary life of Jesus’ ministry was marked by a willingness to attend to others, including those who might be considered of little value or none at all. Let us observe this in him. Even today, Jesus miraculously through his Spirit is present here, attending to us, to each one of you.