Rudolph Nureyev is a brilliant ballet dancer in the making. He acquires the nickname the White Crowe, which means someone who stands out from the crowd. Oddly he is not always perfect in his dancing, yet he absolutely owns any stage he dances on, he draws the eye, he demands to be watched. Once you have seen him dance, you know it.
On a trip to Paris with other dancers he refuses to fall into line, spending time with others outside of the Russian group and staying out till all hours. He comes under scrutiny from those in charge, those supposedly monitoring the group. But Rudolph refuses to be monitored. He is a free spirit, he loves art and he wants to soak up as much of the French culture as he can. Eventually this behaviour gets him into trouble, and when the others go to the airport to leave for London he is told he must go back to Russia – supposedly to dance for the President. Rudolph knows this is a trap to get him arrested. And a tense scene follows.
Artists often rock the boat. Reusing to play by the rules. And sometimes for good reason. Ezekiel is one of the great artists of the Bible. A passionate maverick a bit like Nureyev, he uses all kinds of creativity to rattle the cages of those who think they can control him and others. He uses model making, theatre, DIY, haircutting, cookery, mime, storytelling and street theatre – to wake others up and help them focus on what matters in life. He uses his art in such a way that it stops his audience in their tracks and draws them into a conversation about God and his ways. He builds a model of Jerusalem and uses it to demonstrate a coming siege. He shaves his head and scatters the hair, he bakes bread over a fire of cow dung. All visible signs of what will happen if the people do no wake up and change. Oddly, he is warned beforehand by God, when he is first called at 30, that people will not take any notice. But that does not mean he should not throw himself wholeheartedly into his task. Like Isaiah he must bring his message to an audience that will not take note. Why do this? Well for one thing – here we are now – considering his work and his message. Thousands of years later his art is still here, writ large so that we may consider it, wrestle with it, learn and grow. Ezekiel most likely had no idea you would be reading this today, but God knew, and everything he did was worth it, even if at the time he felt that no one was paying attention. We don’t know what became of him, but like Nureyev he ended up doing his art in exile, in a land far from home, showing the people that, though they were not where they wanted to be, their God was very much alive and well and present with them. Even when things seemed lost, dark and difficult.