Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Truth, Goodness, Beauty

Truth, Goodnes, and Beauty Of the three, it seems that the reformers (with the notable exception of Jonathan Edwards) marginalized beauty at the expense of their focus on the other two. This, I think, was a grave dis-service to both the Christian community and the world at large. In two weeks, I'll be preaching on Isaiah 6 and this passage, before it is anything else, seems to me to be an encounter between Isaiah and 'the beauty of holiness'. And that encounter was central to Isaiah's transformation, and his willingness to enter into the future God had for him.

There is something about beauty, whether the beauty of creation or the beauty of relationship, that calls us to eternity. This was central to CS Lewis' conversion experience, as articulated in "Surprised by Joy". And it certainly has been my experience again and again. Last night, between the 5PM and the 6:45 service, the clouded skies were flaming as the sun dropped over the Olympics to the west. From the staircase to the balcony, one could look at the buildings downtown, transformed to beacons as they reflected the setting sun. In the wake of the rain, and with the trees drenched with autumn color, the moment was as holy for me as any moment in the worship service - a gift from the Creator, who lavishes beauty on the earth as a kindness intended to draw us to Himself.

Because these moments are plentiful in life, and because we tend to marginalize and miss them, I'm sensing a need to articulate a more fully developed 'theology of Beauty'. As one sees the value of beauty, one is drawn into both creation and creating. Both are means of grace, offering the opportunity for transformation and divine encounter for those who turn to God - or hardness and ignorance as the reward for resistance. This is the same as any Divine encounter: Word, fellowship, prayer and meditation are all means of grace, the experience of which will lead to either transformation or hardness.

As I'm writing this, I'm out on the deck in the back yard, watching the 'dusking' sky change the color of the redwood tree, and inhaling deeply the crisp, rain cleansed air. The moment is a gift, and I'm called to the Source - of the air, and the tree, and breath of life - called to praise, and cleansed by the praising.

With a little further reflection it can easily be seen how greed and injustice give birth to ugliness. But for now... I'm simply enjoying the gift of beauty. Autumn does that to me.


At 11/10/05 09:28, Anonymous Beth said...

Your post reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins, especially his poem Pied Beauty, which is one of my favorites:

Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.


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