Your Office Is So …

The weekly “Ministry Minute” will be resuming in a couple of weeks. As you see God at work in your own life – or in the lives of your students, or your colleagues – we hope you’ll consider sharing your experience through a future Ministry Minute. In the meantime, here’s a few thoughts from Dr. Samuel Matteson:

Jonathan looked around at the walls of my office. “Your office is so”—he hesitated, searching for the right word—“Fun!”

Indeed, the walls of my office are covered, eye-level to ceiling, with text in numerous languages and framed art of various genres. Some of the items are gifts of former students, like the bird in a flowering tree with the Chinese poem that I keep to remind me of “God’s eye upon the sparrow.”

The Prudent Man

Some items, too, are family gifts like the bronze Latin motto of the psychologist Carl Jung: “Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit,”which translates “Bidden or unbidden God is present.” On my walls are Escher prints paired with Bible verses such as his famous Klimmen en dalen (Ascending, Descending 1960) that shows an endless procession of hooded figures on an impossible staircase. I hung the text of Proverbs 14:15 beside in English and Hebrew “But the prudent man gives thought to his steps.”

I have framed a seat-reservation-sign from Piedmont Airlines that reads “Occupied by a through passenger.” On another wall a graphic of the stereo-chemical structure of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin appears on a sheet with the words “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

I have tried to turn the proverb on its head “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in frames of silver,” for a picture is worth a thousand words. Thus, the pictures on my office walls are “words fitly unspoken.” Furthermore, sometimes the words, that is the texts, are the picture.

Creative Communications

Such creative communications of the Gospel message are not only legal self expression in my personal-professional space but also are a powerful statement of the seriousness with which I take the good news, so seriously in fact that I permit it to (re)interpret for me culture and the arts. Each “hagiographic” representation of the truth that God is present not just as an abstraction or as an icon but as a creative and constant presence is a visual testimony to the Gospel and an opportunity to talk about the implications of each item.

Many times over the years I have had occasion to engage visitors in conversation because of one or another of the items in my “collection.” Like Jonathan, many have found my office “fun.” Some have even found it thought provoking.

As Christ-followers in the academy, we are called to execute our discipline in a Christ-honoring way, to discover how our scholarship and teaching points to a redeeming purpose. A silent witness is no witness at all in my opinion, but that printed communication that catches the attention of the viewer and unlocks the opportunity to talk about “the Deeper Magic” as C.S. Lewis terms it, can indeed be an apple of gold.

© 2010 Samuel E. Matteson

Physics, University of North Texas

Previous Ministry Minutes can be found here

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