by Natalie Gessert, M.Div. senior
His mission was to bring large posters explaining the Ten Commandments, Apostles Creed, Lord's Prayer and sacraments to the hearth, where families gathered for mealtime. He believed "the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household." God does not live just in the church building. The lesson for today is that God also abides and belongs in the home, in the middle of everyday life.
Now, even Barnes and Noble carries them - Bibles, devotionals, even "Christian romance" novels. The Bible has been translated into nearly 3,000 languages and dialects. While the Bible is more commonplace and acceptable in many places now than in the 16th century, artist and seminarian Edith Gage noticed the Bible and other teaching tools of faith are often relegated to bookshelves and left unused in daily life. Gage's mission? Bring God's word and Luther's simple explanations front and center as Luther once encouraged among his own parishioners so faith becomes part of central conversation and teaching in the home.
Edith Gage, a Master of Divinity intern, grew up in both Georgia and Indiana. Her passion for art began at an early age with crayons and gradually grew through experimentation in school with various mediums. While in high school, Edith was introduced to calligraphy and throughout college she continued to study and strengthen her calligraphy skills. After graduating from college with a degree in secondary art education, Edith worked as a youth director, often using her calligraphy skills in the congregations she served.
The Rev. Paul Hill, '04, said of Gage's artwork, "When I was at Luther I led chapel and Edith always painted for me during the sermon. Her artwork preaches the gospel as clearly as any spoken word ever does. She can do with a pen what the spoken word does in terms of proclaiming the good news." Gage's mission work is neither glamorous nor exotic. She seeks to bring the good news to everyday people in local communities.
Throughout her seminary studies Edith has gained increasing appreciation for the Greek and Hebrew languages. Her artistic sense allowed her to notice the beauty of the early biblical script, and coupled with her deep Christian faith, she began to wonder how these links of language might connect contemporary Christians to the early church. She was inspired to incorporate biblical Greek and Hebrew words and texts into her artwork. During a class on the Lutheran Confessions with Mary Jane Haemig, associate professor of church history, and Patrick Keifert, professor of systematic theology, she learned that Martin Luther's "Small Catechism" was first published in poster form for people to hang in their houses in an effort to assist parents in teaching basic faith to their children. Gage wondered why the "Small Catechism" in our time has often been reduced to a small book that is easily lost. She began to create posters for home and office walls filled with the words of the catechism. The Apostles Creed and Luther's explanations were completed in 2006, and the Lord's Prayer with explanations the following year. The other sections of the catechism are works in progress.
Gage recognizes the importance of this work, yet is quick to ascribe her inspiration and artistic ability to God. "I don't believe it is simply me producing this art, it is God working through me. God gave me the ability to do this and I hope and pray God is glorified in my work," says Gage.
The Rev. Kelsay Parker, '08, of Trinity Lutheran Church in Richmond, Mich., and her husband, the Rev. David Parker, '08, have Gage's work in their home. "It was given to us as a gift. In our busy lives as a clergy couple one thing we have been doing is memorizing Luther's Morning and Evening prayers," says Kelsay Parker. "We say those together at the beginning and end of the day, and Edith's artwork is a visual reminder that those foundations of our faith are part of our everyday lives, especially in our home."
Gage's work reflects the deep simplicity of God's mission in the world. Her work conveys how the word of God belongs in our homes and in our hearts. When people come face to face with God's word in the safest and most loving environment, God's work follows into all matters of life. Mission happens when the word of God is the foundation of life - from the home, outward.
Gage's mission empowers everyday people to a life of faith. "I'm very glad she is doing it," says Kelsay Parker. "I think it really captures how the 'Small Catechism' was meant to be used, which is not just in our confirmation classes but around our supper and breakfast tables."
Gage is a member of the Colleagues of Calligraphy and has been influenced by the work of local calligraphy artists Judy Dodds, Kirsten Malcolm Berry and Timothy Botts. She is currently on internship at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bemidji, Minn., with her husband, Ryan, also a seminary intern.
High-quality, limited edition giclee prints by Edith Gage are available in 11x14 and 22x30 sizes and printed on 140-pound, acid-free fine art watercolor paper. Each print is signed and numbered up to 250. To order, contact Edith Gage directly at email@example.com.
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