Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A doorway to God

Today is the second anniversary of the completion of Light of the Lakes UMC. We celebrated this event last Sunday in church. As part of the sermon I used different images of churches I had photographed in France. The three churches I showed were Sacre Couer, Notre Dame, and Sainte Chapelle. I grew up going to Hamline UMC, which while smaller, was built (in the 1920's) in a similar style to the great cathedrals of Europe. Baxter, as a newer, younger, growing community has few examples of older styles of churches, and instead has churches built along much more modern lines. what is perhaps most striking to me is the effect of these different worship spaces. From what I understand, a lot of modern churches are built to make people feel comfortable and at open. Theater style seating and corporate style atriums remind people of other buildings and places they are comfortable going. The cathedrals of hundreds of years ago were built along very different lines. Rather than wanting to make people feel at home, they were meant to convey the majesty of God, to transport one's soul and spirit towards Heaven, to reveal a bit of the Divine to humanity. Do our churches today help give us a sense of the divine? Or do our churches instead become something mundane? In an effort to make people comfortable and at home (important things to do) do we loss something that makes church exceptional, special, something more. I would b e the last person to advocate overly for the sacredness of church. I think that God can, and is experienced all around us. The church is not the place where God lives, nor is it the sole place to experience God, but it must be a place to experience God. I think the challenge today is to make sure that our places of worship help bring a sense of the divine to our everyday lives and help transport people, at least for a moment out of our everyday lives into something extraordinary, into a place of worship.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The line "it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah" from Jeff Buckley's song "Halleujah" keeps going through my head this week. It reminds me how much I love the Psalms. At first I was always kind of bored by the Psalms, they seemed to just be a bunch of long ways of saying "YAY GOD!" but over the years, and through my educative process at seminary, I have learned to appreciate the subtler nature of them. In particular I like the Psalms of lament, because they contain so much powerful emotion from across the spectrum. Lament Psalms are about praising God, but they come to that praise through pain, agony, and even loss. This speaks to me because while I have rarely truly doubted in God and I am generally optimistic and cheerful, the ability to express grief is important to me. It is easy to praise God when life is great. It is easy to give thanks to God, when we are surrounded with God's bountiful gifts. But to express that same love in the midst of tragedy is so much more powerful to me. A cold and broken hallelujah shows a love for God that goes beyond our temporary condition and understands the more powerful and permanent relationship we have with God. Not based on our happiness at this moment, but based on God's presence and love for us in the midst of all the bad things that happen in life. I only hope my love for God is strong enough to give birth to so powerful an expression of faith as a cold and broken hallelujah.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Pinning Down God

I have had an image in my head of a butterfly pinned to a board in a museum, with tiny labels attached to different parts. For whatever reason that image seems very fitting to me of how I often want to view God. I have a real desire at times to want to pin God down to something and attach labels. If I can do this then I can really isolate what God is, the component parts of divinity. All of this is just a reaction to the struggle with uncertainty in faith. For the last several weeks I have really been living in the midst of that. I am struggling to find an authentic way to express both my sound belief in God and the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds it. I believe the uncertainty that I feel is a good thing, but there is still that desire. A few months ago I was trying to take a picture of a butterfly, but the butterfly refused to land long enough for me to take a good picture. The same is true with God. The more I try to pin God down, the more God flits away. It is theologically frustrating, but aesthetically and emotionally satisfying.