Gold and Silver, White and Red
A few years ago I walked into The Friendly Bean down at North Oak and Barry Road to order a coffee and do some sermon preparation. There were a few people in line ahead of me, so I let my eyes wander around the café. Of course I scoped out and silently admired the coffee grinding and brewing equipment. But I also noticed the various pieces of abstract art that filled the very limited wall space. Some were small and intricately sponge-painted, some were large and elegantly brushed.
One painting in particular caught my attention. It was a snow-white canvas, about 12”x14”. And the acrylic paint was not sponged or brushed—it looked like it had been spilled and then left to run and drip across the canvas.
But it wasn’t just the medium or the technique of this piece that caught my attention. It was the colors. I first noticed the deep red that bled across the canvas. And as I moved closer to the painting to admire it, I realized that beneath the red was a layer of silver. And beneath the silver, if you looked closely, you could make out the slightest notes of gold.
It was my turn to order coffee. So I walked away from the painting and over to the counter. After I ordered, I looked over my shoulder at the painting, and all I could see was the rich red paint on the snow-white canvas; the silver and gold paints only reflected the light and so made the red stand out more boldly on the white. Beautiful.
I decided to ask the barista if I could buy the painting. She said yes and told me the price, and I bought it. That painting is now hanging in my office at church (feel free to come by sometime and admire it!). This painting is small and quite simple, but it illustrates beautifully Luther’s explanation of the Second Article of the Creed where he paraphrases 1 Peter 1:18-19:
“[Jesus] has purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”
Like the colors of the painting, any riches of gold or silver are lackluster compared to the precious blood of Jesus; his blood makes our robes dazzling white. In fact, the relative worthlessness of our gold and silver only serves to magnify the redemptive power of the holy blood of Jesus. By this blood we are his own. Thanks be to God.