Worship and The Legacy of the Arts

So Moses summoned Bezalel, Oholiab, and every skilled person in whose heart the Lord had placed wisdom, everyone whose heart moved him, to come to the work and do it.”  (Exodus 36:2)

It was the middle of the week, and my family stepped into the church in the midst of a busy tourist town.  As we entered the church, I found it interesting – even strikingly so – that amidst the activity and noise of the street outside, the church’s interior was quiet.  In fact, I would certainly describe it as a “sacred” quiet.  As people entered the church, they whispered to each other.  Many would find a pew and sit, listen and observe the peacefulness discovered within the walls of the sanctuary.  Calmness permeated the place and everyone seemed to know that respect and dignity were found there.

The church had been built (and apparently rebuilt several times in 170 years) in the fashion of a small cathedral.  The entire sanctuary was notably shaped as a cross.  The entry was the foot of the cross, and as you approached the altar there were two “wings” with pews that shaped the arms of the cross.  Unlike our modern buildings, cathedrals and churches of ancient times were constructed to preach the gospel without words.  We can certainly see the reflection of God’s image in this human creativity when we consider that God, Himself, also preaches without words – for Psalm 19 tells us that the “heavens declare the glory of God” even though “there is no speech, nor are there words” (vss 1-3).

But it didn’t end there.  I began to walk about the building and look closely at the stained glass windows.  There I found bold, unapologetic statements of Christian doctrine and truth.  The doctrine of the Trinity – fashioned in glass – showing the truth of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three persons, yet one God.  Reminders of God’s power as experienced by Israel in various Old Testament stories.  Images from the medieval church reminding visitors of Christ’s work, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the sacraments, the uniqueness of Jesus as the God-man, the stories of the four gospel writers, St. Paul preaching at Mars Hill, Zaccheus in the tree, and on and on.  I could have spent hours there and even my kids were intrigued as I began to explain the meaning of this artwork.

Just as Bezalel and Oholiab were chosen by God to build the Tabernacle, and commissioned by Moses, so those who infused the gospel into the structure of this church were expressing their faith without words.  From the comments of a local evangelical pastor, the clergy and membership of this church hardly stood for the gospel any longer – but were social activists based upon a liberal and ecumenical religious stance and political correctness.  Acceptance of the profane and immoral were the norm – all in the name of tolerance.

Yet, here the gospel was proclaimed faithfully from years past.  Those artists had built a message that stood strong against the social ills of this age.  And I wondered whether we were doing the same for future generations.  Does the structure of what we build – buildings for worship, worship services, musical forms and expression, recordings and videos – are these things really infused with the truth of Christ like that?  Not just words or the message, but the mediums and methods themselves?  Could they see or hear our Christian convictions if the words were silenced?

We must work and pray that it might be so.  We must work toward establishing artistic expressions in all of the arts that represent Truth deeply and concretely.  We must think further, clearer and deeper as we proclaim the gospel, seek first His kingdom, and share the love of Christ with those around us.

Our Father, help us in Your grace to honor You in ALL we do.  Not just by words, but in the very structure of what we create, as those created in Your image, and reflecting the creativity of the One whose voice is heard even without words.  Amen.

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Posted on June 16, 2015, in Architecture, Arts, Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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