Central Idea: Though careless and reckless sin has marred the masterpieces of our hearts, God can restore us through this holy season.
For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
I am not a violent person. Not at all.
But if I could have, I would have slapped the snot out of Vladamir Umaniec. Spiritually speaking, of course. After you hear his story, you just might want to line up to slap the snot out of him as well. Spiritually speaking, of course.
This is a true story. Google it.
It is October of 2012 and it is a quiet day at the Tate Gallery in London, England. I kinda like art galleries, they are good for my soul. I usually come out of them a better human being. On this particular day, our boy Vladamir, an art blogger, decides to make a statement about his favorite art genre, something called – not making this up – Yellowism. I have read Vlad’s description of Yellowism and I haven’t got the foggiest idea what he is talking about. Now, I would not slap him for liking the color yellow, I kinda like the color yellow. It is what he does next that absolutely infuriates me. He steps over a barrier, walks up to a piece of modern art, Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon and with a black graffiti pen defaces one of the panels. On it he scribbled: “Vladamir Unmanets 12 A Potential Piece of Yellowism.” Vlad told the BBC “I’m not a vandal” and he then compared himself with surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp, adding “Art allows us to take what someone’s done and put a new message on it.” Uh, no Vlad, it doesn’t. SLAP.
Now many of you may not be into modern art, especially Rothko’s particular style. But you do know about money. Rothko’s pieces sell for up to 60 million dollars. This particular piece is part of a series of nine, so, in effect, all nine pieces are ruined. The cost of the restoration, if it can be done at all (more on that later) was figured to cost between $300,000 and $400,000. C’mere Vlad. SLAP SLAP SLAP!
What was truly crazy is the process to remove Vlad’s vandalism. You cannot just get some paint thinner and clean it off. The key, according to the experts, is solubility. You need to remove the inky black of the graffiti pen without removing the paint of the artist. Easier said than done. The Tate contacted the family of the late artist and they provided the gallery with similar pieces, so that the restorers could test various solvents on a real life canvas.
After eight months of testing, they were finally ready to start the cleaning process. To say it was a meticulous procedure would be an understatement. They took a “0” sized paintbrush, the smallest possible, dipped in a special solvent and lightly placed on a 2 millimeter spot. You wait a couple of seconds and then you lightly dab the canvas to gently lift the offending ink from the artwork. It took another ten months to finish that painstaking chore. Finally, in early 2014 the masterpiece was ready to be rehung and enjoyed. Ironically, eighteen months was how long good old Vlad sat in jail to ponder the cost of Yellowism.
Ah, I still want to slap him, though. Spiritually speaking, of course. I am not a violent person.
In this senseless act, however, we see a metaphor for the diabolic mechanism of sin in our lives, as well as the subsequent healing and power of God’s grace.
It is a brutal fact of life that what often takes a long time to create, like a work of art, takes only a few scant moments to disfigure someone or something. A building that may take months to erect takes only a few seconds to implode. Think about children who are victims of abuse. 99% of their lives could be happy and joyous, but in that one moment of brutality, that one instant of cruelty, and a masterpiece is destroyed. I always reminded my students that it takes a long time to build up a reputation and it only takes one thoughtless second and all trust is obliterated.
The second brutal fact is that things can appear in our lives like they will never be the same again. I am sure that the curators of the Tate Museum, upon seeing the senseless graffiti, thought in their hearts that this piece of art will never be able to be fixed, is marred forever. Sin has a way of doing that to our souls. It beats us down. It makes us wonder if we will ever be the same again.
But that is where this season of grace kicks in. Lent reminds us of the amazing power of God’s grace, to restore, to repair, to mend, to lift the inky black of sin. When we think that the Vlad’s of our world have irreparably damaged us, we discover that God has infinitely more power, more skill, more meticulousness to bring us back.
But there is one caveat, like the restoration of Black on Maroon, it may take a lot of time, a lot of skill, a lot of sweat, blood and tears. Maybe that is why Lent is forty days instead of forty minutes.
So, when you are traveling the world, seeing the sights, taking in the wonders of culture and the arts, leave the Sharpie at home, don’t be a Vladamir. Or you may get slapped, spiritually speaking, of course.