Where Are You Going?

This painting by L.S. Lowry is titled Going to Work and was commissioned in 1943 by the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC). Britain’s Ministry of Information established WAAC when WWII broke out. The goal was to avoid what happened in WWI when artists stopped working because of gallery closures and diminishing sales. As a result, there was little artistic representation of life during the hard times of WWI. WAAC wanted to make sure artists could keep working so there would be a contemporary artistic, visual record of WWII. 

Going to Work is set in front of the Mather & Platt engineering plant in Manchester. A crowd of matchstick workers flow into the factory. The white sky and ground invoke an aura of industrial haze. Industrial workers played a crucial role in the war effort and the WAAC reflected this role in their art collection. 

Seeing the mass movement of people reminded me of a spot in the New Testament when there was a mass exit of people. Jesus had just finished speaking about how he was the bread of life, as in communion bread, and we are told that “many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him” (John 6:66). They said, “This teaching is too difficult; who can accept it?” So many people walked away that Jesus had to ask his 12 disciples if they wanted to walk away too.

Jesus could address the question to us: “What about you? Do you want to walk away too?” After the last 18 months of COVID, I fear many people have said, “yes” and have walked away from the church. Perhaps they got out of the habit or have determined it is irrelevant or have just become too busy. Perhaps church has been put on the back burner.

To see so many people walk away from church is hard. Yet Jesus never stops extending the invitation to stick with him, to walk with him, to be the Church, to partake in the body of Christ, to be the body of Christ. Together, in community—supporting, encouraging, and serving others. Hearing the Word of God and singing his praises. Like the workers who knew their role in the war effort, we as God’s people have a lot of work to do. And I love that the workers are matchstick makers. We the Church are called to be a light in this dark and scary world.

Being Human connection: Do we want to walk away too? Perhaps the disciple Simon Peter answers it best. “Lord, to who can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Featured art: Laurence Stephen Lowry, Going to Work, 1943, Imperial War Museum (IWM), London