Tuesdays, the first day of the work-week for me, is always a day of searching, sometimes frantically, for a theme for the next Sunday. If I don’t find something that touches my heart I can’t expect it to do anything for anyone else.

Wednesday mornings I meet with Guy to discuss the music for that service, so I had better be prepared, ready or not.

Some Saturday mornings the words escape with which to translate the Tuesday-inspiration into words, are AWOL. This was one of those occasions, so I ask for your indulgence and imagination.

I came across a statement;

Let beauty inspire your everyday life. Observing beauty opens our eyes to alternate ways of seeing our surroundings, and collecting it helps us build a database of inspiration.[1]

For a moment I had this vision of the power of beauty and I asked myself, what role does beauty play in our faith? What role should it play? Do we ever consider how it may enhance our spiritual experience? Are we desensitized to beauty in this day and age?

Faith and beauty.

I realized that without beauty, I personally would have no concept of God—or the Sacred. It is in beauty that I discover godliness.

Beauty is Godly and God is beauty. I don’t mean to deify beauty—its just that I think beauty is God’s fingerprints in our world.

Beauty is to be found in relationships, nature, the arts, and much, much more.

In the overly-intellectualized Western cultures we often neglect this essential part of our faith-experience.

As Westerners we are very good at developing the mind.

We are beginning to pay more attention to the roll of a healthy body.

But we often neglect the health of the spirit.

But we are designed to keep these three elements of our humanity in balance, namely, our mind, body and spirit.

Let’s take the mind, in our culture. We have a great emphasis on education, mental development, productivity, and accomplishment.

We know that a healthy mind needs a healthy body so what we eat, how we exercise and what we drink, will affect the body. We are beginning to pay more attention to this aspect of our humanity.

But what about the spirit? What do we do for the spirit?

How do we nurture our spirit? How do we restore it when it runs dry? How much time and resources do we dedicate to keep it healthy? Few of us even think in these terms. We often take this aspect of our lives for granted.

Perhaps, if we are more intentional we will find great value in paying attention to our spirit, this gift that allows us to experience life at a different level.

How do we feed our spirit?

Part of the answer is found in our ability to behold beauty.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that beauty can be subjective. What’s beautiful music to us might not be beautiful music to our children or grandchildren. Art is subjective. One person can be moved by a certain expression of art while another is left cold.

Beauty can also be universal. Few people will look upon Michelangelo’s Pietà in Rome and not feel some sense of appreciation for its beauty. Few people can stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon and not feel a sense of beauty overcome you.

Worship must contain elements of beauty or we leave feeling untouched. That is why there are different moments in the service designed to speak to us in different ways.

Which brings us to the topic of faith and beauty.

Faith cannot be totally intellectual. That may be one of the growing failings in worship—a lack of diverse beauty that speaks to the heart and not only to the head.

Listening to the words of The Psalm we just read we realize that the author is having a moment of ecstatic wonder and he describes God in terms of beauty.

God, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps…

Jesus trekked up mountains or deep into the desert to find solitude and time to nurture his spirit. I often wonder whether it was to escape the crowds or to connect with God in the natural beauty of creation. The answer is probably, both of the above.

What might happen if we became more intentional in exposing ourselves to beauty in our search for the Sacred?

The Orthodox church found iconography to play an import part in the faith of its adherents. The beauty found in these works of art inspired the faithful. They found Godliness in beauty.

The Catholic church with its focus on art in worship has the same results.

With the reformation we threw out the baby with the bathwater by all but banishing art from the worship space. How we have impoverished our faith experience by being so dogmatic.

Is it not in the metaphor of God as Creator that we find inspiration for our faith? Psalm 8 speaks in masterful poetic language of the inspiration of a loving Creator.

Love is the foundation of what God is and beauty is its kissing cousin. Love and beauty go hand in hand.

The prophets and sages of our faith spoke of beauty often. In 1 Peter 3:3-4 the author speaks of another kind of beauty.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11,

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

To feed our Spirit, to nourish our faith, we need the awe-invoking experiences that are to be found in beauty.

May we be more mindful of the beauty that surrounds us, more intentional in putting time aside to encounter it, and thereby more regularly encounter the awesomeness of what we call God. Amen.

Psalm 104:1-14 The Message (MSG)

1-14 O my soul, bless God!

God, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps,
made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings.
You commandeered winds as messengers,
appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.
You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever.
You blanketed earth with ocean,
covered the mountains with deep waters;
Then you roared and the water ran away—
your thunder crash put it to flight.
Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out
in the places you assigned them.
You set boundaries between earth and sea;
never again will earth be flooded.
You started the springs and rivers,
sent them flowing among the hills.
All the wild animals now drink their fill,
wild donkeys quench their thirst.
Along the riverbanks the birds build nests,
ravens make their voices heard.
You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns;
earth is supplied with plenty of water.
You make grass grow for the livestock,
hay for the animals that plow the ground.

 

[1] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/celinne-da-costa/on-becoming-desensitized-_b_12475772.html