One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4).
Our churches, even in the Old Testament, have never been bare. It’s because God is beautiful, and He’s really present in His temple. That beauty has and will always give shape to the churches that believe God is actually present in a meaningful way. Our churches have always been covered with art.
Our church is beautiful. We hang stained glass windows, banners, crucifixes, candles, chimes, and paraments, all expressing a living faith. It is a confession of what we believe that shouts at anyone who walks in the door. The art in our church speaks to the ineffable beauty that takes shape where doctrine becomes hope, given by God and embraced by those who seek the Lord where He has promised to be found. The church is a lighthouse, shedding light upon a dark world, chasing away despair and death. There’s beauty where the faithful, desperate for grace, grasp something real. When we believe in the promises delivered here, finding art in a church becomes like finding out water is wet.
This beauty speaks to what God does here. It’s what David expects when He seeks after the beauty of the Lord in His temple. He will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock (Psalm 27.5). There is help here. It is for us sinners. Art speaks to that truth in a way so powerful it can even cover the ugly man called to deliver those gifts. Pastors wear art too. We wear vestments. It’s not because we want to dress like royalty, elevate ourselves above everyone else, and demand they worship us. It’s because we know what we look like. We’re hideous. We’re sinners. We’re so unfit to handle these magnificent gifts that we would run screaming from the room unless we were sent by God with a promise that He would work through our sinful hands. So we hide behind our vestments. We wear white albs and surplices to show the power given in God’s word to cleanse. We wear stoles to show we’re yoked into service of this church.
From the time of Moses, we wore chasubles too. The ephod, the colored outer garment the high priest wore showed exactly who was at work in the Lord’s temple. It wasn’t ugly man, it was beautiful God. This tradition carried on through the Roman Empire Jesus was crucified under, through the Reformation, worn by Luther, and even today. Our church has been gifted a set of chasubles that speak to a powerful truth. Something quite literally divine is happening during the Divine Service. These chasubles, art worn during communion services, express the beauty of the Lord’s promise to work, even by overpowering ugly and sinful men and distributing grace in the Body and Blood of Jesus. We haven’t had a set in this congregation before. We welcome them though, not just for the sake of tradition of the church as a whole, but for the sake of the truth our tradition has held on to for thousands of years, and for the sake of the reality that our religion is not just a set of facts, but a beautiful truth that brings light to darkness and saves sinners. Thanks be to God.