Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Places of beauty

In her book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, Marva Dawn writes, "I am grateful for my heritage in the Lutheran church, because it nurtured me in an atmosphere of symbols. Even when I didn't understand anything of the sermons, I learned from the statues and stained glass windows depicting Jesus, from the altar carvings and paraments in the sanctuary of my childhood."

I made a sweeping generalization yesterday as I am prone to do--there are some churches in my fellowship which do have sanctuary symbols. Highland and Otter Creek both have crosses and banners. Otter has a small stained glass dove over the baptistery. Woodmont Hills has decorative movable items which can be changed from
time to time to meet the season or theme of the semester. I know there are others as well. These are somewhat better than the boards of my youth which reported song numbers and attendance figures.

Dawn continues by saying that her home church had 2 large stained glass windows depicting God blessing Jesus with a dove representing the Holy Spirit hovering near.
Each morning as the congregation confessed the Apostles' or Nicene Creed, she contemplated the images of the Trinity there. On her first Sunday away from home, at that point in the service, she lifted her head and "with a great gasp I realized that the front wall was empty, and it took me awhile to recover my equilibrium enough to speak the words of the creed. The stained glass windows of my home church were very useful tools for nurturing my faith. Their beauty lifted me in awe to contemplate the mystery of the Trinity."

Dawn writes, " is important that our places of worship be places of beauty, and it is especially wonderful if the beauty can be produced by members of the worshipping body. When the works of art, the banners, or other furnishings reflect the loving hands of community members, the beauty of these things reinforces the understanding that we are all importnt ministers in the the church according to our respective gifts." I have written before about honoring the artists among us---we were fortunate at Highland to have Jack and Jill Maxwell, whose chalk art hangs on the wall of the auditiorium, helping everyone to recall the Bible story on which the art is based.

For those who are saying, oh, worship is a heart worship in the New Testament--don't forget that heart worship is a sensory worship. Surely your heart worship of your spouse involves the senses? We do not know what the New Testament church looked at as they worshipped--they had no buildings. How then, can we bind what goes in our buildings in the 21st century? It is my belief that we must get over our obsession with avoiding liturgy, icons, candles, etc. and go about teaching our children symbolism and the importance of beauty in the worship of God. He is the creator of Beauty and to approach him with beige walls and beige worship is a travesty.

Power point has provided some hope in this area--an adept use of it can bring to worshippers great works of art and beautiful graphics which do aid worship.

Thank you God for small slivers of light in our bland approach to you. Help us to
look harder for ways to worship you wholly.

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