Hi Created For. My name is Jocelyn Chung. I am a graphic designer and lettering artist, based in Southern California, and I’m really eager to be with you here tonight to talk about what it means that we are made to create.
I’m going to briefly go over a little bit about my story and my own journey, but also what God has taught me along the way about art as vulnerability, art as an act of bravery, but also creating as a pathway for communal healing, communal resistance, and communal flourishing.
And so wherever you’re at with whatever feelings that you might have when you think about the word “creativity” or “creating.” I want to welcome you into the space of reimagination together with the little time that we have, and hopefully invite you to come along with me to learn and continue to reimagine together what it means to be made to create.
And so when I think about creating, I actually think about an interaction with Jesus and a woman who came with an alabaster flask in Mark. And so, in Mark 14 in the Gospels – Mark 14:3, we pick up at the story. “And while He–” Jesus “–was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, He was reclining at a table and a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment wasted like that, for this woman could have been sold for more than 300 denarii and given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.'”
And so when I think about this passage and this interaction between Jesus, this alabaster flask, this woman at the center, and the people around her watching, I think about how the act that the woman did was an act of creating. It was an act of creating a holy, adoring space for Jesus. She brought her most precious thing, most expensive thing with her, she broke it open, and in an act of vulnerability, she poured it over Him, blessing Him. She was ridiculed by the people around her saying, “That’s a waste.” But Jesus instead comes to her defense and says, “Why do you bother her?” He then names that she has done a beautiful thing.
And so, what I think about this – again, art is vulnerable. We bring our most tender, most true selves when we create things. Art is brave. We enter into spaces that might not have been made for us, tables that we might have not been welcome to. And we bring our most true selves, in all of our fear of our judgment with creativity, fear of not bringing enough or bringing too much. And in that place, that’s where Jesus can do beautiful work.
It is said later on in that story Jesus says that wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. He elevates this act that she has done.
And so when I think about creating, I remember growing up in an immigrant household, thinking about how, when I was younger, I wanted to be a Hallmark card designer, and my mom’s biggest question for me when I started pursuing art was, “Are you going to make enough money?” The question was always about, “Are you going to survive?” And that’s a question that often happens when it comes to creating. Creating feels like a novelty. It feels like a privilege. It feels like something that only people who are really elite and it can do. But in reality, creativity does not need to be marketable. It does not need to make money. It does not need to be beautiful in anyone else’s eyes but yours.
But the questions we really should be asking are, “Are you creating in ways that are authentic to you and the community around you? Are you creating in a way that is vulnerable and brave and leading people in a direction of freedom? Did you make something that made you come alive?”
For me, to live into Christ’s likeness in my artwork and in my creating, means to create in ways that bring healing, that uplift marginalized communities and experiences and stories, and invite people into contemplation and vulnerability. And hope to unlock a sense of belonging and beloved community. It is in the uplifting of our creativity and reimagining with God, that we can unlock another level of participation in building the kingdom of God.
And so I think about how at this very moment in time, in the midst of this pandemic, in 2021, where we’re almost a year in, where there’s been so much chaos, there’s been so much loss, heaviness, there’s a lot of deconstructing that has been happening. A lot of deconstructing of both faith, the systems around us, the world as we have known it. And I think about how at the forefront of it, it is the creatives who are leading the way. I think of the poets, I think of the teachers, I think of the artists, the speakers, the dancers, the musicians who are at the forefront of it all. Writing, creating singing our way into healing as a community. And I think about even Amanda Gorman who is only a few years younger than me, and how she stood in front of the crowd at the inauguration and spoke out words of healing, words of light into a dark place.
And that’s what we do when we bring ourselves in creativity. That’s what I do when I bring myself into the work that I make, into the lettering that I draw, into the graphic design that I create for the organizations that are uplifting communities, that are uplifting voices of color, that are bringing light and prophetic voice into this current moment to invite the church into repentance and invite the church into healing.
And so wherever it might be in your life, as you think about it, whether it is in your workplace or in your home. I invite you to remember that as you bring yourself, in your most vulnerable places, in your most exposed places. It is safe, and yet at the same time, risky to bring your most vulnerable and most costly things to Jesus. To your community. It is worth it in the midst of a chaotic time to bring your light, to join in the act of rebuilding. Doing the act of healing.
There is much to be said that Jesus is building a new thing in the season that we’re in. And, in moments that we say, “I’m not creative,” God has actually implanted within you inherently an ability to build beautiful things. To create beautiful things.
And so I invite you to ask God, “What are the things that bring me joy that I’m creating? What are the things that make me come alive? What are ways in which I can create and make out of an overflow of my own life to uplift my community?” To create, for instance for myself, anti-racism resources, to create poetry, to make beautiful things that represent both my family, my community, and what I hope the world to be like.
And in the midst of all this, I want to send you off with a prayer and benediction: God, I ask that you would bring healing to the spaces that are broken, that you would remind us even in a time that is full of chaos and pain and confusion, that you would allow our eyes to look to the ones who are creating and making new things. Who are bringing light into our communities. God give us the vision and the courage, the bravery and the vulnerability to do the same in your name. Amen.