There is a River

“There Is a River” Silk dye on silk, 9’ x 55”, by Kristen Gilje

Commissioned by Faith Lutheran Church, Redmond, WA as a memorial to member Del Stalwick

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations”.

Rev. 22:1-2

Maybe it’s because I grew up on the Mississippi River. Maybe because of all the canoe trips on Midwest rivers and the Minnesota Boundary Waters. And surely because of living in the North Cascades next to rushing and tempermental mountain streams with their many waterfalls, feeding the great Lake Chelan….Moving water has figured prominently in my paintings as a life-giving and holy image.

Many biblical texts draw from river imagery and provide inspirations for this silk painting. One is from Psalm 46:4 “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the most high” . Furthering the image of the sacred river is the beautiful text from Revelation 22:1-2 of the river of the water of life flowing from the thrown of God. In this text a sacred river runs through the city and nourishes the tree of life, which in turn provides sustenance for all.  Both these texts provide a great image of hope, strengthening my faith that God is indeed present and active in the world.  I imagine God’s presence like a river actively coursing through our lives, and through the life of all history and of all creation.

Another source of inspiration for “There is a River” is the stained-glass work by Mark Gulsrud that graces the windows at Faith Lutheran in Redmond, where the banner hangs today. .Mark has often used the image of a dove in his work. As part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is sometimes pictured as a dove, as it is here in this painting, and its presence often shakes things up.  An octogenarian friend of mine used to pass the peace by saying “May the Spirit of God disturb you” which always shook me up a bit, as was her intention. The colorful ribbons and streamers coming from its wings represent the shock waves and disturbances the Holy Spirit causes as it enlivens the will of God in the world.

If you look carefully you will see a golden line lyrically coming forth from the mouth of the dove. This is the bird’s joyous song as it remakes the world in the way God intends and reminds us to be joyful in our faith. I hope also, that as a memorial to Del Stalwick, it will bring to mind Del’s love of music. I hope this banner brings joy and depth to worship at Faith Lutheran for many years. 

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