On our trip to Great Brittan, France and Italy I visited and spent time in several cathedrals and famous churches. St. Paul and Westminster Abbey in London; Bath Abby in Bath; Notre Dame, Sacre Coure, and St. Chappelle in Paris; and the Doumo and Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. I will continue my daily blog on my reflections from my time spent in these churches.
In my blog yesterday I stated, “When you walk into these churches they instill in you a sense of awe, and belief in God, or at least definitely a sense of awe, and belief in architecture.” The early church and I would say the church up through the 15th century was the source of creativity, innovation, inspiration, promotion and commissioning of the arts. Architecture, painting, sculpture, music, poetry, and dance all had importance in the church and were used to illustrate the Gospel, the stories of the Bible, the life of Christ and to present the glory of God. The church was the major influence of these arts and used them to shape and influence the culture of their time.
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church, and all this began to change. Luther’s protest and accusations against the church for its corruption, selling of Indulgences, and emphasis on salvation and grace by works was correct and the need for reform. However, in the Protestant Reformation, as in most reformations, the pendulum swung from one extreme, past center and to another extreme.
In their reforms and attempt to differentiate themselves from the Catholic Church they went to far. They correctly stated that salvation is by grace and not works. They returned Scripture as the over riding authority over the church. However they continued in their differentiation. They saw the use of art, sculptures and the icons in the Catholic church, and discouraged their use. The Catholic church participated in the Lord’s Supper weekly, the reformers changed this to monthly or quarterly in a year. They looked at the Catholic requirement for repentance and confession and a persons absolution of sins through a penance of works, and removed the importance of repentance, and in the case of the United Methodist Church I am clergy in, relegated it to a service in the Book of Worship that is rarely if ever opened to in a church service or encouraged.
We, the church basically abandoned the arts and other ways to to teach and share the gospel to one form. The written word, and reading.
This stain glass window in The Duomo in Milan tells the whole story of the life of Christ. Many people were illiterate in the church and in these panes of glass a person could comprehend the stories of Jesus’ life.
The stain glass panels that circle the church Saint Chapellle tell the complete story of the Old Testament. Each panel is a different book of the OT and you read each panel left to right starting from the bottom up to see the chronological order of illustration for each book.
Almost all the stain glass windows that face the East are scenes taken from the Book of Revelation by John. So as people in the church face East, looking for the return of Christ, they look through Biblical images of his return and the new heaven and earth.
I believe the church needs to once again encourage, support and be the source of innovation, inspiration, promotion and commissioning of the arts. Ninety percent plus of all churches use the same form of teaching and having people experience the Gospel. They get in a class, pick a book of the Bible or subject to study, give people a work book to go along with it, and flip pages week to week. However, if this is the only option offered by the church, you basically cut off all those like my wife, that reading from a text is not their style of learning, from growing in their understanding of the Gospel.
I play guitar and try to sing. When I pick up my guitar and I sing worship songs it comes from a place that spoken prayers don’t penetrate.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit are alive and active in and around us in the world today and it is through the arts of painting, music, dance and song the we join in with and illustrate the image of God around us. The church needs to return to its source, a God of creation and the creativity that is at the DNA of who we are called to be.
Question: How do you and in what ways or forms do you best experience God? How creative are you in sharing the Gospel with others besides telling them, “You just need to get into the Word.”
My ODC family, I pray today the God of creation will unleash his creativity upon you today that you will step out onto the canvas of today he has given you and paint his portrait, that you will step onto the stage of today he has given you and dance and sing, and that you will take hold of the resources he has given you and sculpt an image of his glory to share with those around you. Please pray the same for me. God bless you my friends!!!