The campus of the Mesa Arts Center gets transformed into a holiday scene for the annual Mesa Arts Festival, set for Dec. 12 and 13. It runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.People can look at and buy art work. Live music by C’est La Vie Quartet and students from Red Mountain High School is planned.Live artist demonstrations are to focus on ceramics, glass blowing, blacksmithing, weaving, quilting, making jewelry, painting and making prints.Juggler James Reid performs. Activities are planned for kids.The center’s galleries will all be open for public browsing, along with The Store, for shopping.Parking is free in downtown Mesa. The center is at 1 E. Main St.
A few weeks ago, residents of the Valley of the Sun arose to find that an earthquake had occurred. The 4.1 quake did not amass much damage, yet the occurrence inspired a significant amount of conversation. It revealed that nature interacts with our human existence and when it does we as humans are somewhat powerless. Being a pastor in a faith community, I found it interesting how people questioned me as to the meaning of the Arizona earthquake. I was asked, “What do you think the earthquake means.” My answer. I think it means that the crust of the earth shifted. That Arizona has some volcanic history and we do not always know what is happening miles below the surface of the earth. The questioners responded that they actually wanted to know what the earthquake meant as a sign of the time. They wanted a spiritual explanation. For centuries, different people or groups have tried to predict the end of the world. Dates are often given, signs of war and natural disaster such as earthquakes are seen as evidence, and the given date passes with no end in sight. I find these predictions to be unhelpful. Not only because they have, to date, been wrong, but because they often use fear as motivation.Sure, an earthquake can cause huge damage. We have seen such damage around the world. Sure, natural disasters or war cause real fear. However, my faith is one that leads to freedom and blessing, not fear, bondage, or curse. In the Bible and other religious texts there is a lot of talk about earthquakes. When these books were written, an earthquake as a natural occurrence was not able to be explained through science. The Middle East suffered through many earthquakes. Some of these quakes were recorded in the Bible as well as other historical writings. In Exodus 19:18 there was an earthquake in the region of the Sinai. In Matthew 27:51-54 one occurred during the death of Jesus. There are scholars who study such recorded occurrences with varied perspectives as to if an actual quake had occurred or if the presentation of the earthquake was a metaphor or linguistic hyperbole. We will leave that to other scholars to decide.For families that live in the Valley of the Sun, I think we can use the occurrence of the Arizona earthquake as a reminder that we are not in total control of our lives. Any day, something can happen that changes our journey. In my faith tradition, we believe that someday there will no longer be brokenness, or humans hurting other humans. We believe that today we are bearers of this good news. We are to live, not in fear, but freed to set people free from that which binds them or curses them. This is how I read my Holy text of the Bible. In Acts 16:26 we hear that “suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the jail doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” The earthquake in this text is one of freedom. Whether a natural occurrence or metaphor, the use of the event was to communicate that God is concerned with setting people free from that which keeps them captive. A lot of us are in bondage to stuff in our lives. These things press us down and keep us shackled. They prevent us from living the lives God intended for humanity. Might the Arizona earthquake be a time when you allow yourself to be unbound or set free.My favorite Biblical text that recorded an earthquake is from Matthew 16:26 — “Behold, there was a great earthquake, and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.” The stone in the text is the one which covered the tomb of a dead guy named Jesus. The angel sits on it almost mocking death. Death in our world creates real fear. So the angel mockingly sits on the rock that symbolizes the fear of death and brings to mind that God has the final say over death — bondage, fear, captivity, or curse. The earthquake, again whether a real natural occurrence or a metaphor, serves as a reminder that the earth shook to set people free.Today as residents of the Valley of the Sun, how might we help to set people free? What things do you hold over people’s heads that bind them or push them down where they can not live to their full potential. Maybe Arizona Earthquake 2015, can remind us that we might not be in control of all creation, but we can be in control of how we see or act towards others. Each of us can be reminded that our lives are short on this earth. We are in this thing called humanity together. Real occurrence or metaphor, let’s get shaken up. And, set each other free.• Dr. David M. Marz is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Phoenix. Reach him at Pastordavid@sov.us.