May 22, 2009

Holy Things

  • A crayon drawing from 1st grade.  Your favorite teacher thought it was the best one in the class.  You still hang on to it.  It's just a piece of paper.

  • A photograph of your children when they were preschoolers.  It captures their innocence and joy even though the subjects aren't "framed" correctly and there is even a bit of blurring.  It's your favorite photo, and you smile each time you pass by it.

  • A dresser scarf that was hand embroidered by your mother years ago.  No one uses dresser scarves anymore, but it doesn't matter.  It gracefully adorns your table and gives you great comfort.

  • Boy scout badges earned on campouts when you were growing up.  They are only little fabric circles with crude symbols embroidered on them.  One glance, however, and you are right back in that camp, learning how to build a fire and seeing the pride on the face of your instructor as you completed the task.  You can still smell the campfire and hear the pine trees around you.

Growing up in Bible churches for much of my life, there didn't seem to be much of a sense of the holiness of objects in our church services.  Everything - from the pews (if there were any), the hymnals, the table for communion, the podium, the cross in the sanctuary - were all viewed as material objects and nothing else.  They could be used for a variety of purposes and services.  There was a big emphasis on practicality and utility.  Indeed, communion was viewed merely as a "memorial" to Christ's death on the cross.  There was nothing special about the bread or the wine/grape juice.  Indeed, some even reported seeing children in the kitchen after the service eating the extra communion bread as if it was an added snack for the Sunday School kids.  What does this communicate to the children?

Why such an aversion to imparting value and sacredness to an object?  We do it all the time in the rest of our lives.  But when it comes to faith and worship, many Evangelicals have a knee-jerk reaction to "setting apart" things in the church for one and only one purpose. The Old Testament is full of places, events, and objects that were set apart for specific purposes and to help the people in their worship and reverence of God.  Why did we think that all that changed when Christ came?

I can't help but think that such lack of respect for those things which should hold great meaning in our spiritual lives will ultimately do damage to the soul in the long run.

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