By Charles Kelley with Natalie Meeks
DALLAS, Texas – It was a blistering day in Cambridge, England – July 23rd, the hottest day on record since 1976.
I stood in the yard of Great Saint Mary’s Church; situated squarely in the heart of Cambridge, one of the foremost centers of intellectual, scientific and theological life for more than 800 years of Christendom. I was there at the invitation of Romanian sculptor Liviu Mocan and British art catalyst Jonathan Tame, Executive Director of the Jubilee Centre, for the unveiling of Archetypes, Mocan’s much-anticipated sculpture exhibition.
Inspired by the five ‘Solas’ of the Reformation (Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria, and Sola Fides), Archetypes is a six-month exhibition situated opposite the iconic King’s College Chapel. The exhibition invites visitors to reflect on the conversation between history, faith, and contemporary art.
Under the weighty heat of the open sky, the ribbon was cut and the sculptures unveiled.
Forged of shining brass, each piece reflected brightly, rays extending outward and upward, as Liviu and Jonathan addressed the public on the spiritual inspiration for the exhibition and the vital role of art in public life.
The ceremony came to a close and I lingered to the side to speak to passersby about the meaning of each of the pieces. I had been designated as an official tour guide of the exhibition. Before I knew it, a Chinese scientist and his non-English speaking family approached, looking at the objects from afar.
“Come closer,” I called to the man. “Look at this book. It’s unlike any other book you’ve ever seen. It speaks to you and it reads you – come and take a look.”
He translated my invitation to his family. Very slowly, his wife approached and paused before the sculpture of the Bible – The Book that Reads You. Cautiously, carefully she inched toward the shining book of brass and peered down, the open pages meeting her at shoulder level.
Do you see the eyes?” I asked. “This is the only book that is alive and reads us. As we read it, it reads us.”
I continued, “The Bible is alive. It has hands… it reaches out to us; it has feet… it chases after us; it has a voice… speaking to us; it has eyes… it looks into our hearts.”
As I watched the father translate the Gospel to his family, joy filled my heart.
Next, I invited the family to the sculpture of The Lamb of God, whose fleece was also made of the patterns of eyes.
“You can touch the Lamb, ” I encouraged the children. I explained to them what it means to be the lamb of God, the love of Jesus, and the story of that most crucial sacrifice which made it possible for our sins to be forgiven.
We continued our tour around the courtyard to the Ladder of the World. I spoke about the cross that Christ died on and why he died, recounting the symbolism. I pointed out that this sculpture was designed in such a way that the support pieces resemble the rungs of a ladder.
The person of Christ is the unique way, or ladder, joining heaven and earth – Solus Christus.
His crucifixion and resurrection made transcendence possible, from relational brokenness to harmony with God and neighbor. We stood there together, each of us soaking up the reflected rays of the gleaming rungs.
“Christ is the way, ” I explained. “The only bridge to God.”
Again, the father repeated the message of hope to his wife and children.
Slowly, we walked next to the Anchor Cast up to Heaven.
This piece envisions a gravity-defying anchor which has been thrown upwards from something that resembles a boat.
What does this look like to you?” I asked the man, pointing to the base of the sculpture. Thoughtfully, he walked around, assessing the piece. “A sinking boat,” he replied, intrigued.
“This boat is like all of our lives, yours and mine alike; we are all on a journey, that journey is hard and we need help because all of our boats will eventually sink like this one. When a ship is in danger, the captain throws the anchor down. But when our lives are sinking, we need to throw the anchor up where it catches the throne of God. That is real security, real safety.”
We had come nearly full circle, standing now before the final sculpture, The Trumpet in the Universe. Fifteen brass rods shoot up from the base of the trumpet, piercing small balls and layered spheres to span the dimensions of the universe, from microscopic to gigantic. Around the base are 12 inscriptions from different disciplines, representing the development of the arts and sciences, and emphasizing that everything from celestial spheres in the heavens down to sub-atomic particles resounds with the Creator’s glory and praises Him.
Triumphant and majestic, The Trumpet in the Universe is the tallest sculpture…17’7” and the most visible of all. Throughout history, trumpets would sound to announce the presence of the king; this gleaming, golden trumpet proclaims the presence of the Living King.
This proclamation is not simply about presence; it is about praise. And not merely private praise; it is public praise.
“That’s what the exhibition is about,” I concluded.
“It’s public praise.”
And then, for the fifth time, the scientist interpreted my words to his attentive family. The satisfaction in my soul was immeasurable.
The heat of the sun that beat down on Cambridge that day in July has cooled, and the names of the visitors viewing the exhibition continue to change. But the truths represented by the magnificent brass forms gracing Great Saint Mary’s lawn will forever remain the same.
The Archetypes exhibition is expected to be seen by up to a million people. We pray that they will touch many more hearts over the coming months as they bring witness to our King of Glory and reflect our need for Him.
And we thank our Creator God for the language of art to proclaim the Good News – to you and to me, to a Chinese family visiting Cambridge, and to the ends of the earth.