Church Art Glorifies God and Serves Christians

Jesus and Peter

Faith Lutheran Church in Wylie recently commissioned the artist Ken Spirduso to paint an altar painting for our congregation. We decided on a painting of Jesus pulling Peter out of the water, from Matthew 14:22-33. Jesus pulling Peter out of the water shows us what faith means. It means clinging to Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. Faith is passive, and Christ is active in our salvation. He draws us out of the waters of death by forgiving us our sins in the Gospel.

The photo doesn’t do the painting justice. When you look at it, you can see movement. It’s beautiful. Mr. Spirduso has done a good job of illustrating the Biblical account for our eyes to see and for our minds to contemplate our Savior Jesus. He also added a few things in the painting of note. First, he put a mast on the boat where the other disciples are waiting. The mast is made to look like a cross. Second, he put a little dove above Jesus to show that it is the Holy Spirit who attends all of Jesus’ work and works faith in our hearts through the Gospel.

Altar Jesus and Peter

This is a good Lutheran painting and was affordable for our small congregation. If we spend money to beautify our bodies and our homes, then certainly the house of God should receive even more attention. The beauty in our homes is often done simply to delight us with things pleasant to the eyes. The beauty in a church should not only delight the eyes, but put into our minds God’s Word behind the art. This is a good and pleases God, who wants us to use everything for his glory, which is best served by putting Jesus in front of poor sinners eyes and ears, so that they may learn to trust in him and be comforted by his works.

Don’t give into the ugly opinions of sectarians, who say that art in the church should be as cheap as possible, because otherwise we are not being good stewards of God’s gifts. If you spend time and effort to make your back porch look nice, then shouldn’t the halls of God’s house look nicer? We should primarily give to the poor and for the proclamation of the Gospel, this is true, but this should not stifle our desire to give to our brothers and sisters the benefits of good art in our churches. Something permanent and not just ordered from the Internet has value in it.

Our members now have the pleasure of viewing their salvation every Sunday in a beautiful picture that will last hundreds of years and still be beautiful. I encourage you to look into getting art for your congregations as well, as your funds may allow. We simply asked for donations, and the money came in. We worked with the artist and discussed the theology surrounding the painting so that we learned to appreciate the art even more. To God alone be the glory!

If you would like to commission Ken Spirduso, you may contact him by email at [email protected], or by phone, (321) 217-4445.

About Pastor Mark Preus

Mark Preus is pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and Campus Center in Laramie, WY. He graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne with an M.Div. in 2008 and then obtained an M.A. in Classics at the University of KS in 2010. He was ordained at Faith Lutheran Church, Wylie, TX in August of 2010. He has been married to Becky since 2005. God has graciously given them two daughters and five sons. Pr. Preus loves to read and write poetry, especially Lutheran hymns, and talk theology with anybody who has an ear to listen. He also likes coffee too much and tobacco too much, as well as microbrew beer. He can also prove with reasonable certainty that Paul Gerhardt wrote most of his hymns while smoking and drinking beer.

You can find more of Pr. Preus's writings at his blog.


Church Art Glorifies God and Serves Christians — 4 Comments

  1. It warms my heart that pastors and congregations are supporting artists, and commissioning/working with artists to create new sacred art.

    I wrote about the art in and of my great grandfather’s church and its demolition on my blog:

    I hope that your new painting edifies your congregation until the Day of Resurrection. So often great and faithful art and architecture are lost, or abandoned.

  2. Unfortunately, when we encourage churches to make room for liturgical art “as funds allow,” the funds will never allow. The roof needs fixing, or the furnace needs replacing, or some other mundane expenditure will always trump the arts, where the typical Lutheran is concerned. If we’re going to talk about stewardship, the conversation needs to be steered in the direction of: How are we being good stewards of the arts? Because our time and talents demand stewardship as much as our treasures. And currently, Lutherans (in general) are neglecting God’s gift of the visual arts. We need to budget for art and music the same way we budget for salaries, building programs, outreach, and maintenance.

  3. This is a joy and I hope your Church does truly love this art piece, using some old school terms, simply “cool”.

    I have done the same, never commissioned a piece (thinking about it over the years), but we have some lovely art work at Faith here.

    Perhaps you cannot get it in the budget, but if you look for some congregational donors, you would be surprised how many may come to help pay for art.

    I myself (and the Church does, or they just humor me) love iconic art. I found three pieces, and some donors purchased and had them framed. They are in the back for all to see.

    Up front over the table that (it is not a tabernacle) keeps the Holy Meal ready for the Divine Service; we placed a fairly nice sized older painting of Jesus lugging His Cross. In fact, He appears to be looking down over the Meal He provides for His people.

    Thumbs up, this is good stuff…

  4. My former congregation, Holy Cross in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, included extensive stained-glass and other artwork and symbolism in the new sanctuary we constructed in 2007—now being enjoyed by their new Pastor, Rev. Michael Kumm!

    I recall that when trying to keep the project within budget the idea was floated by the architect of eliminating the Baptistery, a lovely octagonal chapel attached to the main sanctuary, with eight stained-glass windows depicting the life of Christ. For various structural reasons eliminating this feature would have saved a large amount, with no loss of basic functionality. I was quite impressed when one of the most fiscally conservative members of the building committee replied, “If we cut out everything that makes this building special, and tells people who we are and what we believe, then we might as well just put up a shed instead of a church.”

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