So far, I’ve made a case for showing up at church to be grounded in truth and involved in a community of love. Now I want to plug our desperate need for a weekly dose of beauty.
Clearly God values beauty, what with the creation of sunsets, flowers, waterfalls, people from LA. The first thing God told his people to do after he rescued them from slavery was to build a place for worship, to use their most precious stuff for it and employ their best artists to make it. All its architecture and objects were their visual reminders of the law and character of God, skillfully made with gold, silver, precious stones and fine fabric. The tabernacle was beautiful.
Just as clearly, it is in us to seek beauty. In “Beauty Pays, ” economist D.S. Hamermesh demonstrates that beautiful people are more likely to be employed and are better paid. Even against logic, we gravitate to beauty. It soothes us, delights us, renews us, gives us hope.
Christian communities have always valued beauty, making their buildings and worship events as lovely as they could manage. Gothic architecture points us to heaven. Stained glass hints at a glory beyond the glowing panes. Modern churches may be stark in design, but they shoot for beauty with their music production and their screen work.
Some churches are ugly, but not many, and never intentionally. Traveling with a Christian theater company takes me to a lot of churches, and even in the simple ones, people bring flowers, hang pictures and practice their music to make it flow. In preparing something beautiful for God, we do Him honor, but then, as so often happens with God, our giving ends up blessing us and we find ourselves nourished by the beauty we soak in as we worship.
It may be a song’s haunting chord progression, a few seconds of riveting movement in a dance, a few eloquent sentences, or an awesome movie clip – but sometimes, one sublime moment in worship can stir us to a new level of faith, or hope, or love.
Life can be so harsh. Some of us work in tough, ugly places all week. Most of us are bombarded with the media’s disturbing sounds and images. One of the important ways we can care for ourselves is to soak in the music, art, poetry, drama and crafted speech that we experience in church.
Beauty is the physical demonstration of God’s goodness. Where evil prevails, places get ugly. Part of the horror of concentration camps, battlefields and crack houses is that all beauty has been destroyed. Where God rules, beauty takes hold.
We need to get together to celebrate the beauty of our God, and be renewed by it.