This might be a bit controversial, but it isn’t the first time I’ve written something in these posts that might ruffle some feathers, and it won’t be the last.
Have you ever stopped to consider how empty our Protestant Evangelical sanctuaries can be?
Maybe I need a bit of a disclaimer here before I continue. I am not a fan of tradition for tradition’s sake. The church through the centuries has adopted many things that are not good or healthy or even meaningful (I mentioned holy cows yesterday). Holy cows are created when something was meaningful for one person or generation and the expectation develops that the thing/practice/program will and should be meaningful for every generation that follows. That is not the case. Each generation will be moved and spoken to by different things. The danger comes when we try to force that experience onto others, especially when we come to believe that any experience outside of our holy cows cannot be real or relevant. That is why we called them holy cows because the time will come when they have to be sacrificed. Am I making sense?
In light of that explanation, let me say that I find the imagery, artwork and history attached to some church sanctuaries very interesting. I’m not into the icons of Mary or crucifixes, but the visual reminders of Jesus’ life (stained glass windows or the stations of the cross), of the Disciples, of some theology (I’m thinking about the Alpha and Omega Greek letters that you see in Anglican churches), I find those things interesting.
As I was going through today’s reading, I was reminded that the Temple was a place full of utensils and artwork, in fact it’s construction required the employment of the best artisans. Most of our sanctuaries today are devoid of anything resembling artwork or imagery. I recognize that this has occurred as part of the Evangelical reaction to the mainline and Catholic church traditions, but I wonder if it has left us a bit poorer because of it.
We have done the same thing with our church services themselves. Liturgies, written prayers, the posture of kneeling to pray, even celebrating the full meaning of Lent or Advent, all of those things have been done away with in our tradition, yet some of them have rich Christian history and meaning. The unfortunate thing is that even the riches of liturgies loses its effectiveness when it is done by wrote. Any Christian observance is empty when it is not engaged in fully from the heart.
By stripping our services and sanctuaries of these elements, we have lost some richness and some depth.
Even in light of those thoughts, I must reiterate that what we really need when we gather to worship is hearts willing and open to engage with God through the songs, scriptures, spoken word and fellowship of the saints. The most beautiful of artwork, the deepest of theological inquiries and the most beautiful of liturgies are lost on us if we don’t first have an open heart.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5