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Hope + Advent

Jonathan Grant

Just as I was despairing and angry at all of the injustice and oppression in the world, I realised it was time to paint something for Advent. The text in my mind was: 

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit...

The longer I spent with the text, the more hopeful it seemed to me... Out of something that is dead... out of decay... comes something fresh and new! It has filled me with hope. God is all about this process of incarnation... of pouring hope and life into the dead areas of our world. May we continue to hold this Advent hope as we seek to build a healthy and vibrant world. 



On Faith and Sexuality

Jonathan Grant

Image by  Jill Devries  // Styled by  Jamie Skriba

Image by Jill Devries // Styled by Jamie Skriba

We have a lot of work to do in our efforts to craft a Church that genuinely protects and works for the good of humanity. One of the huge areas of pain and rejection within faith communities has been human sexuality. Here are a few resources to help guide your exploration and discussion of LGBTQ inclusion:

The Body’s Grace Rowan Williams - A stunning exploration of human sexuality by perhaps the world’s greatest living theologian. (PDF)

Jason Adam Miller - A profound and tender outline of the debate with perspectives from multiple sides. (Podcast)

Kathy Baldock- Untangling the Mess - In a 2-part lecture, Kathy charts the historical shift in how human sexuality has been perceived throughout time and how that shift has affected the conversation within the Church. (Below)

Jarrell Wilson preaching at the Reformation Project Conference in Chicago on the ways in which the sacraments centre the marginalised. (Below)

Tony Campolo at The American Church in Paris - An Evengelical theologian who has been outspoken in debates against affirming theology, Tony charts for us his shift towards affirming theology, and why he firmly embraces homosexual christians. This is perhaps the best lecture I have found on this topic. (Below)

A Generous Orthodoxy - Malcolm Gladwell's gracious take on how our beliefs interact with the lives around us. (Podcast)

Pastor Danny Cortez- A gracious sermon outlining a solid scriptural perspective. (Below)

Wendell Berry on Gay Marriage - Perhaps the most traditional and community-oriented man in America today, Berry discusses his change of heart and policy. (Below)

The Liturgists Podcast LGBTQ - Beautiful and gentle stories from many different perspectives. (Podcast)

Matthew Vines Transcript - Not a theological treatise, but it still gives a good overview of affirming theology. (Below)


Queer Virtue - Rev. Elizabeth Edman

Building a Bridge - James Martin, SJ

Take This Bread - Sara Miles

God and the Gay Christian - Matthew Vines

Walking the Bridgeless Canyon - Kathy Baldock

On Spiritual Friendship (12th century) - Aelred of Rievaulx

The Man Jesus Loved - Theodore Jennings

I will try to keep this updated, but feel free to add more links in the comments! 



… and the the fantastic theology above, I will add a bit about my journey:

Summer Wanders

Jonathan Grant

Photo by Hannah Persson

Photo by Hannah Persson

This Summer has been out of control in the best way possible. My travels have brought me to 

Chicago, South Bend, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Indianapolis, Saint Louis, Willow Springs, Eliabethtown, Corbin, Mt. Mitchell, Winston Salem, Raleigh, Seattle, Kirkland, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, San Clemente, Berkeley, Los Angeles... and now back to the midwest! 

My time has been occupied with meetings and speaking engagements and conversation after conversation with creatives. The constant theme developing has been the URGENT NEED to craft churches into spaces where we can all create and worship freely... and my messages to churches have been along a similar set of topics. It has been so powerful to hear that creatives and churches all over the United States are re-imagining the ways in which we serve and worship, and are actively working to create space for the people on the fringes of their faith communities! I am so heartened by this! 

I have so many exciting updates and projects to share with you all! Stay tuned for updates! My return to Paris has been extended a bit, as I continue to put together a team of partners to help fund and co-dream this ministry, and as I finish up a few projects and commissions and consulting work with churches in the States. 

If you share this vision and hope for the possibility and beauty of the Church, I would be honoured to have you partner with what we are working on. Check out my "Partners" page for more info. I still need a few more partners to help make everything come together fully. 

Excited to keep dreaming and plotting with you all! 



Summer Work

Jonathan Grant

Summer is the season when I get to create whatever I want. I'm usually barefoot, strolling through a forest, swimming a lot, and engaged in long conversations over bonfires, so my summer work tends to reflect that. I recently had a collaborative show in South Bend, and these works were for that show. They were spontaneous and free... pouring out of me and executed quickly. I love the chance to work in this way... to express without the concious weight of history and theology... exploring the world and trying out new forms and ideas. Hopefully this will come in handy in the Autumn when I return to Paris. 



The Outsiders

Jonathan Grant

There are so many powerful images in the parables and passion of Luke. He weaves together this narrative so skilfully of “the outsiders”, both in the stories that Jesus tells, and in the people who surround Jesus in his final days. 

In the parables we have the stories of the rich man inviting the poor to a banquet, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost (prodigal) son, Lazarus the beggar, the persistent widow, the pharisee and the tax collector…

In Christ’s last days we see Jesus spending time with tax collectors and sinners, Simon from Cyrene who carries Christ’s cross, the children who are welcomed to his feet, ALL THE WOMEN (who normally weren’t on the centre of jewish religious life), Jesus healing men with leprosy, healing the blind man, Zacchaeus the tax collector, The criminals hanging next to christ. 

Painting this altarpiece was a huge breakthrough for my faith journey. As I sat by myself in the attic of ACP reading Luke, I found myself turning the pages faster and faster. Each story started connecting to the other. Suddenly the words were alive for me. The repetitive themes of “those who believe without permission” and without “being invited” started to resonate.

What stood out to me were the repetitive themes: “Foreigners, Children, Strangers, The Sick, The Weak, The Oppressed The Marginalised”, along with the constant call to: “Go out into the highways and bring those were weren’t invited” or find that one lost sheep / find that coin / run to that son / purchase that pearl. We see Christ constantly affirming that “the club” in not necessarily in touch with his vision. It is to the criminal dying next to christ, the one who was not “invited” to believe or understand, or join the club- to this man who believed without invitation Christ says: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What i hope that I have portrayed in this work is a bit of the spiritual “reality” behind our world… The desperate hands of the “uninvited” eagerly grasping at a seed of hope. Hands outstretched in expectation and belief. Faith in the banquet. This piece (for me) is the “behind the scenes” look at what is really going on… This is what I see in my mind now when I see an “outsider”. 

More than anything, I hope that this piece invites you to consider the texts in a new way, as my time meditating on Luke has changed and challenged me personally. Wishing you so many blessings as you complete your Lenten journey, and we together await CHRIST’S resurrection. 

(Special thanks to Moki for these images, and to all the dear friends who sat with me in the attic while I painted) 


Preparing for Holy Week

Jonathan Grant

When I was searching through a list of hymns to accompany the lectionary texts for Holy Week this year, I keep re-discovering the idea of God’s Majesty and Diety... not ideas on which I normally focus during Holy Week. I had envisioned creating an object that revolved around the concept of pain and suffering... perhaps a dark experience in the garden, or a prickly crown of thorns. With this meditation and new direction I have drawn towards the poems of our shared hymn tradition that point toward the combination of a suffering yet triumphant divinity. It might seem like an odd combination... or perhaps a bit premature... but in the songs and poems inspired by the Holy Week lectionary I am finding inspiration for our project.

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

Bernard of Clairvaux

Here is the melange of inspiration I have compiled for my upcoming installation for the American Church in Paris:



Martyrs and Monsters

Jonathan Grant

In the Autumn of 2010 I re-read the Epic of Gilgamesh. It struck me. Not only as a timeless story of love and friendship- but the imagery and texture of the tale struck me too. It is believed to be the oldest written human story, and yet, it is timeless. I could talk endlessly about the archetypes it established and the beauty of its message. But the point is that it captured my imagination.

At the same time, I was living in South Bend, and working at the University of Notre Dame. In-between lifeguarding shifts and teaching freshman how to drown... err... less, I would spend a few hours in the campus art museum. That museum has a fantastic collection- and I was enamored by their pre-columbian collection. I spent entire afternoons sketching pottery- intrigued by the simple, black lines and wide circular eyes. I devoured books on Picasso and Miro. Somewhere this all merged with my love of the forest and of the church... and voila! Martyrs and Monsters.

So what am I trying to say through my art? There is a deep, deep, spiritual world that we often ignore- but its not as dark as all that. I like to think of the natural world as intensely spiritual- connected with the past- and yet- full of joy and mirth. I don't think that even the darkest aspects of existence are really that scary. Perhaps that betrays my extreme optimism, but that is simply what I believe and it shows in my art. Life, Death, Adventure and Art are all the joyous expressions of creativity.


Bless Monsanto

Jonathan Grant

A few months ago I was at a monastery with friends. We were all sitting around discussing life, and I brought up a project that I was working on. I was planning to do a series called "F*ck Monsanto"… basically calling out the huge Seed Magnate for oppressing the world with its monopolistic greed. 

I thought we were all on the same page about this subject- but my friend Calvin stopped me. "Dude" he said… "you are going about this the wrong way". With a gentleness that I myself could never muster he challenged me to re-think my statements and re-explore the topic. He encouraged me to think of Monsanto through a different lens (ie: Wendell Barry, Ghandi, Joan Baez, and yes, even the Bible)

Truth be told I was taken aback. It was much easier for me to think of Monsanto as some looming evil, than as something complicated and human. Calvin said that the actual energy to transform something would take a positive statement like "Bless Monsanto". It struck me immediately. In part because it called out my own vulgarities, and in part because it was the hippiest thing I had ever heard.

This series was born out of that discussion. More a look into oppression and provision than an indictment of a corporation. I use the word "bless" because I too want to change the conversation… not just exposing corruption and evil in the world but exposing it in my own heart as well. 

My artwork tends to explore questions of relationship rather than make specific statements. 
I am reflecting a world in which the oppressor and the opressee are obscured. A world where food is power and power controls food. I also wanted to play with themes of accountability- exploring who is watching and keeping record of wrongdoing.

Again, none of these are concrete ideas- merely an invitation to further discussion and exploration. This is not a struggle of good vs. evil- but a complicated arrangement of hunger and power.



For Your Journey...

Jonathan Grant

I am always on the lookout for music that feels fresh... a song that resonates with me and with what I am learning... Here is a playlist of the tracks that have been inspiring my spiritual journey as well as my creative journey.