What Time It Is

Posted on February 28th, by nicholas in church, contributors, creativity, ministry, rumination, vocation. 2 comments

What Time It Is

{Michael Winters reflects on faith, motivation and art.}

The other day as I pulled into the parking lot at the church office, Matthew was obviously up to some mischief. As I came into his view, he fumbled with something and turned the other way.  He looked caught.

I got out of the car, curious to see where this conversation was going to lead. After all, this was the same guy that got caught vandalizing our sign not too long ago.

I figured he was up to something similar, but he was by the electrical box when I first saw him. I hoped he wasn’t trying to cut power to the building. Thank God he didn’t electrocute himself yet.

Matthew has had a hot and cold relationship with our church, and I had just seen a recent facebook post from him clearly stating a cold front had blown in.

Now, he was walking nervously toward me. As I was deciding to try “tough love” or go easy on him, I could see the evidence of his work over his shoulder. An 8.5×11 xerox print was hanging on the telephone pole. From the distance I was standing, I thought I knew what the image was, but I couldn’t be sure.

“Hey Matthew, whatcha up to?” I said, trying to be friendly, but trying to get an answer too.

“Yo, you know – people tag your turf.” Yes, I do know.  People like him like to write their names all over stuff that’s not theirs. Drives me crazy. “What you see?,” he asked, pointing across the asphalt to the poster.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “My eyesight isn’t that good,” though at this point I was pretty sure I saw a crucifixion image.

And here came the punchline. His statement of intent: “When people see Jesus, they’ll already know what time it is.”

On closer inspection, the horizontal 8.5×11” print was a white silhouette of Jesus on the cross, maybe 3 or 4 inches high, small inside a field of gray toner.

I don’t think I said anything else other than “Cool, man.” I shook his hand and turned a blind eye as he continued to staple gun more posters to more telephone poles, posters I’d probably have to clean up after the rain came.

My job through Sojourn Community Church, strange as it is, is to help cultivate artistic expressions that honor God and serve people.  Without my help, Matthew was doing exactly that, the best way he knew. And really, what he was doing took significant planning and execution.  Without prompting from anyone else, he found the original image, went to a copier to make more prints, got ahold of a staple gun and staples, stepped out of his front door (the hardest part), and stood in the public eye stapling his single thesis to the telephone pole, like Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg.

Matthew’s action was simple and profound.  It has obviously caused me to ponder, if no one else.  And, given his history of vandalism at the same site, this new un-sanctioned posting evidenced a personal transformation.  Rather than a destructive mark reflecting anger, he was now installing a non-destructive public icon in adoration of the suffering Savior.

I’m glad that Matthew carried the project through to completion.  When the idea popped into his head to make posters of Jesus so people would “know what time it is,” it would have have been easier to leave it as just an idea. It’s always easier to not make art. He could have quit after not having easy access to a copier, or not knowing where to get a staple gun. He could’ve worried about looking a bit funny hanging posters with no “practical” use like “Missing Dog” or “Yard Sale.”  Just a picture of Jesus hanging on a cross, hanging on a telephone pole.


Michael Winters is co-director of Sojourn Arts & Culture, a ministry growing out of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.  The other creative outlets keeping him going are photography and family life.  Michael’s book-in-progress, “Hold This Light: Photo Projects Toward Renewed Vision,” is set to be published by Antler within the next year.


2 Responses to “What Time It Is”

  1. Stephanie says:

    This is beautiful! I love the grittiness of your narrative and the accompanying photo. “Just a picture of Jesus hanging on a cross, hanging on a telephone pole.” Perfect.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Stephanie.

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