A Sunday Afternoon Picnic and Learning to See God in the Bible

A Sunday Afternoon Picnic and Learning to See God in the Bible

Author: Mark Fenstermacher
August 27, 2020

If you want to find meaning and truth in the Bible, it may be helpful to use the very same strategies a visitor to the Art Institute in Chicago uses in viewing Georges Seurat's magnificent (and large!) painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Using a very large canvas (81.7"x121.5"), the post-Impressionist painter used a pointillist technique to depict men, women and children enjoying a Sunday afternoon near the river. The painting, which has a featured role in the popular film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it in Chicago. I stood there transfixed, studying the work of art. It took my breath away!

So how can the way you view the painting help you approach the Bible?

First, to really appreciate the painting you need to stand back and see the overall picture. If you get too close, you will miss what the artist was trying to do.

Some people get so close to a particular verse, passage or book of the Bible that they miss what the artist - God - is trying to do and say. They focus on the passage where King Saul is told to kill the Amalekites, or they get lost in Paul's references to slavery and miss the big picture of God.

So step back far enough that you can see the overall picture when you come to the Bible. Don't get so close to a particular verse that you miss the big picture.

The second key to understanding the Bible is getting close enough to see the beauty and truth of particular verses, passages and books. To really appreciate what Seurat has done, you want to get close enough to study some of the millions of dots of paint he used (the technique is called Pointillism).

You may miss the beauty and power of the Bible if you don't get close enough to see the detail about God preparing clothes for Adam and Eve as they leave the garden (grace!), or that small detail about the charcoal fire in John 21 (why does John tell us Jesus cooks breakfast over a charcoal fire?).

Getting close can be key. Knowing the stories, paying attention to the details of a verse or story, is vital if God is going to get through to us with the truth we need.

And, on the other hand, we need to remember to stand far enough back to see the big picture, the overall message, the great themes, the God who is seen in the Person of Jesus.

If you haven't seen the painting, it's worth a trip to Chicago to view it in that magnificent art museum. If you haven't gotten close enough - or far enough away - to see the glory of God in the Bible, I would encourage you to give it a try.

"The word of God is alive and active," Hebrews 4:12 says. Get close enough, and far away enough, and you'll discover that for yourself.


See you Sunday at 10 as we continue our 8-week series Inspired.

Don't miss out on one of the small groups which we'll be offering to explore the stories and people of the Bible during this Inspired series.

Finally, remember that on September 27th we will be going back to two Sunday morning worship services.

In Joy,
Pastor Mark


First United Methodist Church
1203 E. Seventh Street | Auburn, IN 46706
office@auburnumc.church | 260.925.0885