Why are we drawn to beautiful things? Why do 3.5 million people visit Yosemite National Park every year? Why do we plant flowers, paint our house, choose just the right car, have a closet full of clothes, go to art museums? We are drawn to beauty and to beautiful things, and there is a reason for that. John Piper is quoted as saying “There is in the human heart an unquenchable longing for beauty.”
Do you think of the local church as a place of beauty? Probably not. The local churches of today have come a long way from the cathedrals of Europe. Instead of soaring and lofty architecture, we have warehouse boxes or strip mall slots that serve as our houses of worship. Instead of structures that lift our eyes upward toward God, the only things we see when we look up are heating ducts and electrical conduit. Granted, we paint those mechanical albatrosses flat black so they ‘disappear,’ but it still just isn’t the same as the towering spires and vaulted ceilings.
I had never heard a sermon on ‘beauty’ before. At least not that I can remember. Do a concordance search on the word ‘beauty’ or ‘beautiful’ and you will get a lot of material. The Bible has a lot to say about beauty. So why, in 54 years of church attendance, had I never heard a sermon on beauty? Regardless of the unknown answer to that rhetorical question, this past Sunday I heard a sermon on beauty. It was powerful, and amazing. Dawn and I looked at each other after the service and in essence said the same thing to each other: ‘that was the best sermon I have heard in a long, long time.’
The pastor of this local church, a mere 10 minute drive from our house, expounded with great conviction and freedom on how all beauty points to God, the Ultimate Beauty. “From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance” (Psalm 50:2). We have a deep longing for this Ultimate Source of Beauty, so we are drawn to beautiful things on earth: mountains, sunsets, symphonies, architecture, clothes, flowers, fabric, sonatas, and so much more. These things of beauty draw us to the Source of beauty. But sometimes the earthly things of beauty can become idols and take our focus off of that Source. Usually when we find something beautiful, we want to share it. “Hey, check out the amazing sunset! Quick, look out the window!” Just as we should desire to share the Ultimate Source of Beauty Himself.
It opened my eyes to new dimensions of the world around me. It gave me a new, deeper understanding of why my wife was always redecorating the house, and perhaps made me a little more willing to paint the walls a different color, yet again! God was so present in this average-sized local church. This past Sunday was the first week they had gone to two services: the first service was more traditional with choir and hymns, while the second was more upbeat with the classic rock-style worship band. It was in so many ways so typical of so many churches. And, as in so many churches in so many places, it was a living, breathing, Holy Spirit infused expression of the Bride of Christ. It was alive and well. It was beautiful!
And it got me thinking. Should we incorporate more beauty into our places of worship? Into our homes? Into our lives? Of course, with the awareness that this earthly beauty should always point us to the ultimate Source of beauty. But what are we missing by being drab and mundane? Does our view of God get skewed when we don’t have ‘enough’ beauty in our lives? I would love to hear thoughts from our readers on this topic!