Impermanence

One of the last things my father told me before he lost the ability to think and speak theologically, was how interesting impermanence is. As a young man he had been an actor in the play “Teahouse of the August moon” and he remarked to me how the teahouse was designed to be impermanent - disassembled - and reassembled in a different time and place. He went as far as to suggest that if, as I had been hoping - I started my own construction business, that I name it August Moon Builders.

Now I have yet to see the movie or play, alas it isn’t on Netflix or Amazon - but this idea has stuck with me - about impermanence. 

When my second born son was barely two I began reading philosophy books to him, as a way to settle him down and get him to go to sleep. One such book was a book I remember seeing on my father’s book shelves as long as I can remember entitled “Thales to Dewey”. It’s yet another attempt to summarize the history of philosophy, and I could never have guessed my little toddler would take an interest in Socrates of all people. 

I prefer the ancients - because in them you can see the incipient forms of all later philosophies. Likewise they were so simplistic in their views that it is often hard to reconcile their views with the world in which we live - “How can they say that, can’t they see…” has escaped my lips on more than one occasion; and yet there is a beauty to the elemental dialectic of thought itself. 

One philosopher who has always troubled me is Heraclitus. He was was firstly a material monist - drawing the connection between all things as being of the same essence (for him fire). Secondly and most famously Heraclitus insisted that "No man ever steps in the same river twice” believing  that ever-present change was the fundamental essence of the universe. 

As I’ve wrestled with this, Ive struggled to accept that the idea of the water changing, is not the same as the course of the flow of water - nor is the fact that some of the water molecules may in fact transpire through cycle and flow through the course of the same river ad-infinitum. I understand Heraclitus’ point, and at the same time I see a need for two expressions of river - the one that is not the same because it is constantly changing, and one that practically speaking depicts the geography for useful purposes. These two different expressions cannot therefor be the same as the thought “river” nor as the reality of “river” because they are at odds with each other - and yet they must simultaneously exist. 

Which leads me back to impermanence… and the church.

Jesus says “on this rock I will build my church” and we see a history of saints and sinners connecting us to Christ and the gospel over the course of two thousand years. And yet the church is not the same… it has changed. 

I worked for some time with churches struggling with their existence, deciding to reinvent themselves or not… struggling with the concepts of what was and what is to be. I also know models of church which focus only on the present. Jesus said that wherever two or three were gathered, there he was in their midst - the real presence of the body of Christ, not in a eucharistic element, but in the gathering of unique individuals, unique to a time and place - never the same.


So I look at the church, a dying institution - I look at my profession - a dying career, and as I’ve thought over the past 15 years, there must be a new way forward. While we need an expression of the church that is geographic and orienting to our place in the progression of saints and sinners, we also need to express that the church is never the same; no-one ever goes to the same church twice. 

Death... And Intimacy

I’ve performed more than a hundred funerals, some were for people I knew, some were for important people, some had committed suicide, some had overdosed on drugs, others were for people who didn’t have a church, or a home, or even a family; all deserved the decency of a proper burial, and a prayer of blessing as they face the great beyond, the end and beginning. 

This is why I shy away from traditional imagery of heaven and hell: because all good theology comes from pastoral concern, and if in pastoral concern for a grieving family and the soul of a deceased individual, my only thought and aim is the steadfast love of the Lord which never ceases, I will myself only declare a blessing, since “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Practical confessional theology is the opposite of what we do in theological forums, seminaries, and papers: Diabolical theology (thank you Helmut Theilicke for that language). Practical confessional theology is the basic thoughts and constructs of the average person as they relate to things beyond themselves. Religion is not necessary for a practical confessional theology, but certainly in the absence of Practical confessional theology, (certainly in the presence of Diabolical theology) religion will and should decline. 

But something still joins us together at the hip, we are at the graveside, I have discovered, despite our differences, unwillingly at times, united in our joint humanity - or at-least our joint mortality. And at the grave we realize that nobody goes with us through that dark gate, no friend can hold our hand beyond its threshold, no guide comes over and carries us across, and the image of the river Styx becomes deep dark, rough and very very lonely.

A colleague and friend nicknamed me “Papa Defunto” because of all the funerals I had done, but being around death has lead to some profound realizations about life. We as human beings are lonely. We long to not be lonely, and we at the same time face our existential loneliness constantly in our relational failures, our attempts at intimacy, and ultimately in the news of another death. 

Death steals our hope of ever not being alone.

Being “born again” or saying the “sinners prayer” may be what “Christianity” is about, but that’s not what Jesus was about. Jesus said “Lo I am with you always” “If you remain in me and I remain in you” words that indicate not only communion, but that we cannot ever truly be alone. 

I have yet to find widespread evidence to contradict my personal thought that most people have this; that Jesus is with everyone whether they know it or not, and in thinking that - I then have to act and suggest to people that he is, and that they learn to listen and feel and act, like one who has the power of deity within them, that they too are the incarnation. 

I’m not afraid of heresy, the long tale of orthodoxy leads us down a path to the institutionalization and decline of a faith that once made lepers clean and blind men see. Instead I start my own theology with the heresy of orthodoxy, and the necessity for personal faith to be heterodox to some degree - giving people encouragement not to settle for being alone, but to learn how to be alive. 

My funeral meditations are short and I’ve mixed and matched them to the point that I’ve got all the talking points memorized - beyond the occasional mistake saying the lords prayer or the hail Mary, the themes that we turn to from our own hearts at death are probably the themes we should live our entire life by:

Job: God is my friend and advocate, he will not turn his back on me.
David: God does not despise me, his love is unfailing, and I cannot do anything to be separated from his loving presence
Jeremiah: The Steadfast Love of the Lord never ceases and his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, because of his great faithfulness to me. 
Paul: We frail broken pots have a treasure which is God’s presence within us, it is the light God called for on day one of creation, not he sun, not the stars, but the presence of God in our hearts
John: God wants to be where we are, and while he requests we trust him, he tells us that we already know the way
David: Even though I walk through this dark valley overshadowed on one side by doubt and despair, and on the other side by presumptuous traps, I walk through the valley, because it is only there that the streams of life giving water nourish the meadows and feed my soul, refreshing me and giving me strength to move on. 
Hebrews: We have a great cloud of witnesses who watch our every step, cheering for us to do what they could only dream of, so lets not put it off any longer.
David: I can’t help, but lift my eyes up to the source of my help, because deep down I know that I could not have made it if someone had not been with me.
Paul: Love never fails/ends, every other thing we do or try will eventually be silenced, but love transcends death, and cannot be silenced. 

And so the “Other” that takes away our loneliness is accessible, but identifying “others” will only distance ourselves and make us more alone - perhaps that is the ultimate outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

John lays out a very interesting prescription in 1 John 1: 5-8 - its not about prayers or religiosity, its simply about being real: If we are real and walk in the light of our realness, displaying to others that which we are afraid they might think we are, and if they do this same thing, THEN we will enjoy a sort of intimacy, togetherness, fellowship with both them, AND with God, and it is only in this intimacy that we can understand the cleansing that takes place, where our dark dirty spots are cleaned, forgiven and overlooked - and we are ultimately not alone. 

Intimacy is the one thing that most acutely threatens us. Sexual intimacy having the potential to be the most intense and transcendent experience of this between consenting adults, and so we are most threatened in our own security by the notion of sexuality, and our participation. We have invented ways to demonize its expression, and as highlighted by the worlds oldest profession, it has always been the bridge between our constructed reality and our loneliness. 

I believe in ethics, and so in our search for intimacy, our quest to not be alone, I believe we MUST do only that which we would permit all others to do, and I believe in situational ethics - that in some places and times circumstances would permit all people to act differently than at other places and times. We thus do not copulate in public, not because of a moral obligation, but an ethical one. We do not force ourselves upon the objects of our desire, not because it is immoral, but because we would not want to be forced upon by another.

The Pedophile is the example then, of someone who by profile seeks intimacy but unable to find it in adults, in violation of the ethical reasonableness of their actions seeks to construct a false intimacy with someone who cannot comprehend the issues of intimacy and ethics yet. Pedophilia, is the gravest form of ethical abuse, because it doesn’t take away the right of the other, but pre-empts it. 

During the priest abuse sex scandal much was written about the profile of the pedophiliac, and their modus operandi. In my own experience and from studying criminal justice, I understand the basic fact that sexual arousal patterns are moldable and fluid. At some point we cement ourselves in our loneliness, seeking objects rather than “others,” for any offer of intimacy is an irresistible grace. 

I’m not above irresistible grace, beautiful objects of desire, intimacy implied or imitated draws my eyes and anyone else who is honest. While ladies on a screen scream intimacy to our dopamine receptors, it is only true intimacy that we really seek. Sexual experience is no guarantee of this as evidenced by the rise of groups like the Oneida colony in the nineteenth century. Depriving ourselves of sexual experience likewise is no cure: It’s a declaration that sex, and its accompanying intimacy and relationship are too dangerous because of the risks that they will not fulfill our expectations.

And herein lies the issue of sexuality: it will always disappoint, because it is temporary at best, it is flawed, and we are bad lovers. But only by practice can we get better, and in getting better can we find our faults, and in finding our faults and nakedly writhing in the light of another, do we find that shred of dignity and intimacy that says: “Real intimacy exists, and you are on the path.”  

Physical gratification at the expense of another rapes us of our own souls; but in the angst and anger and passion of need, this is often how we fulfill ourselves, no better than the criminal we condemn. But withholding beauty and vulnerability, putting up our shell perpetuates the lie in our minds that we have to take what we want, because nobody will give us what we need. 

Luther said “sin boldly” and forgive my short reference, but he meant this very point. Peter tells us Paul is difficult to understand, because Paul himself was a tormented soul. He knew that the thorn he had was put there by God, and he knew he was the worst among sinners, but he also knew that there was a freedom. We can guess at Pauls freedom, or his thorn, but that is our hurting pornographic tendency - rather we have to identify our own thorn, our own freedom, and struggle through the torment - pressing on as if to win the prize.

I believe that sexual ethics and morality have been forever distorted by the people who were supposed to be its guardians and champions. St. Augustine, the Church, the Reformers, the Puritans, and especially Evangelicals. Our reaction against the propagation of a lie is to swing in the other direction. We are hurt by strong women so we seek weak ones. We are hurt by men, so we avoid them. We were told our appeal to another brought us our pain, so we hide behind habits of frumpiness, or make ourselves inaccessible and undesirable. We find ourselves hurt and rejected as social outcasts, so we find a way to come out as an insider of a different caste. For whatever reason that drives us to where we end up, our task remains the same - and it is not to become some idyllic Adam and Eve - but to honestly and ethically pursue the intimacy that is in front of us where we are. 

That’s harder than it sounds. And some readers are flinching. Some readers are angry now that I’ve seemingly endorsed abhorrent behavior. And right now every reader is envisioning in their head some pornographic vision of a sex act - wipe the smirk from your face, the indignation from your voice and rise up to join the human race. 

I’m coming out as a human being, deeply flawed, and wanting intimacy - I don’t want to be alone anymore. Forget what you’ve been told, what you believe, your notions of history and morality - and walk with the one who calls you by your true name.

An ode to the old discontinued Stanley Powerlock 16’ tape measure.

(A silly poem I actually sent to Stanley tools)

Always ready to give a dimension
with tables and conversions to save aggravation
Lightweight and small it won’t hurt your back
32nds of an inch help keep accurate track
8 foot stand-out and plastic coating thats smooth

the only drawback is its easy to lose. 

For Rich... who asked if I still write.


The pointy end of things you get
with helical blades adjacent
engineering feats that men forget
the humble pencil sharpener

screwed upon a workshop wall
always roughly four feet tall
a handle crank for use by all
the humble pencil sharpener

Self feeding holder so adroit
at gently carving the sharpest point
graphite lubricates its joints 
the humble pencil sharpener

A marker is great and so’s a quill
I type and write with little skill
but there’s a place in the world for this one still 

the humble pencil sharpener

broken

I’ve been broken at the foot of the cross so long
I’ve forgotten how to walk
and opening up my mouth is apparently an invitation
for “His followers” to mock.
Their blind faith in the system that prospered them
causing the misfortune of others
I’m not sure that I can continue at all
to call these people brothers.
They use the book I love - and hate
[and I used to say] “and twist it”
But I’m beginning to start to understand
the point of life, I’ve missed it.
Jesus was crushed by a rolling wheel,
and all good will be too
Choose your side, but know full well –
“Light” it seems to lose.
There is no more peace from doing right,
or sweating from the brow
And there can be no heaven later
if there is no heaven now.

Current musing

(Originally in response to a Facebook quote of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison)

I'm beginning to have my doubts about the theologians of the early 20th century... statements like "Evil always carried within itself a germ of its own subversion in what it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease." (Bonhoeffer) seem to not play out in the modern world... Did they take for granted a definition of Evil that we don't share, or have we become seared in our consciences against those artifacts of unease?

I've been working on this recently - I'm leaning toward "wickedness" - taking delight in the misfortune of others, "Evil" - actively planning or causing the misfortune of others... I think they stand apart from "sin" especially in their biblical context (think Psalm 1:1) could we in fact have lots of evangelicals who have "sin avoidance/mitigation" down to a science while actively participating in wickedness and evil.

Politburo

We all have our very own demons to fight very often we face those demons at night when we, all alone, struggle in darkness there is no weapon no friend nor solace to ease the treacherous battle that wages in our aching hearts we write empty pages we live in a poem that attempts to express what we have to offer the world it’s our best which isn’t good enough to earn a days pay Says some lucky fool who counts beans all day We find the need to escape. “The world owes a living” they say is not true, but what God freely gave to me and to you is fair game to deprive from the hungering masses how John Locke defined sin, suddenly passes for the basis of law, economic devotion stirring have-nots overcome with emotion It’s not just Jihadis come from abroad killing themselves to protest this strange God our very own sons, and the fruit of the poppy a strange addiction that is too often copied Not even a Boxer can stop Vote if you want to see change affected they say as they promote the discord suggested and invisible masters pull on the strings your vote gives them power, the very same thing they say is your freedom, which nobody needs a rifle or sword, this machine feeds on fear and division, on drugs hate and lies some very nice people one comes to despise how they act when they see that their Lucre is threatened and doubt the intentions of everyone mentioned Lets build a giant wall! We blame all our troubles it seems on outsiders which is simpler to swallow than facing the fires that burden our heart, (must be something we ate) and so we build community on hating the hate No different than when we persecuted witches real people that we simply thought were just bitches or obstacles in the way of our progress toward more and we sacrifice a few to the way of the whore or the pederast church, our ethics be damned know thyself, change thyself, if you call yourself “man” These go by other names today. I’m not superstitious, but my mind can’t escape the idea that I’m left with a bill for mistakes and sins committed by those long ago: “let my children reap the seeds that I sow” and “its none of their business what jollity I’ve had” thus whole generations are lost or gone mad be it ISIS or pot-heads, the church or your job Everyone feels that they have been robbed We long for the zombie apocalypse horde (which we’ll fight with our video game skills of course) glued to a screen we’re numb to the worst of everything that is real. Those screens numb our conscience - feed our soul on a diet that leads to eventual starvation, not riot for which we give thanks when we probably should flee but we have lost our innate sense of irony for Facebook is full of social media critics their message: they use social media to spread it and the manager enforcing the rule that he hates or a stock portfolio unequally spreading the weight our money to work for others we put it their sudden misfortune is our sudden profit Someday we’ll comfortably retire. But the deepest of sins with age more abounds “I had to go through it … with no-one around” in self-congratulation we heap up the burden on those who would follow, for we must be certain of things we know not of ourselves, lest we ask but we don’t and we can’t we’re not up to the task Seniority, Wisdom, Experience we claim while limiting your right to do the same Protectionism in the guise of a certificate or license the competent are summarily excluded, and thence we cannot find a leader The blind carry on boldly with their walking adventures and vistas they paint with their talking but little they know for they chose to forget the other senses which they’ve not lost yet I’ve heard it myself; write him off: “He’s no good.” do drugs and get murdered they’ll help shed your blood she deserved it, he got what was coming his way to assuage the guilt of the part that we play for sin is not things that we do, it’s a place and we quite like the custom of the rat-race As long as we think we can win But give of yourself so to others be kind (they preach it but try it and soon you will find) Put yourself first is what truly is meant and with a turn of the wheel another future is spent Will people live up to the image inside seems doubtful so long as the devils astride and so the way that seems all too treacherous: to not sear our conscience and too become lecherous This of our life, is the goal in large part not to manage our actions but instead guard our heart I think I am failing All of creation it groans as in birth expecting to see something else “good” spring forth As long as we keep looking out for ourselves we’ll all be alone as a sheep among wolves If we could just see that in caring for others we gain the strength of millions of brothers the world would be saved, redeemed if you will God if he’s there is a humanist still and that there though ridiculous it seem, though it die like an ember, my very last dream that good still exists.

Gollum

(with a little inspiration from P.K.W.)

How we rushed to get through antiquity
discarding the pre-socratics
their dialec-tic monistic vapory
esteemed anachronistic.
Until meeting with Friedrich Hegel's
dialectic holds absolute sway
engendered in reality
philosophy of day to day.
Utilitarianism of desire
accumulating gains
observes the train that’s crashing
and Calculates net pain.
And if it’s you that suffers
as long as it’s less than me
I'm thoroughly Epicurean
following John Dewey.
Bu’the rules o’the game are written
with cheating built right in
and this game is played for keeps,
incentivize! play! just win!
How frivolous our objections
when observing all the rules
we dare to come up short
o brother, - Racca, - fool:
If you think society's aim
your ultimate demise
you esteem yourself too highly
and consider us too wise.
For margins were added on purpose
to level the playing field
and you are but the means
to-day on the alter kneeled.
- This the people's confession
as you drown in a sea of terror:
"there is - no - conspiracy
just a comedy – of - errors."

Democritus Was Right

The most perverse of pleasures
eject from us at whim
and yet our humblest moments
evoke from us no sin

The tongue untrained unskilled
commits a genocide
though mightier than the sword or penis
wherein we chance confide

Words contain no meaning yet,
until to them ascribed
a fluidity of motion,
by interpretive design

Convey to you myself I fail,
but know you shall insist
the heart and ill intentions
of this ephemere-al wisp

Ideas are not the same as words
or reality
and so my conscious universe
is not entirely free

But stuck within a neural frame
a matrix of desire
of blood of toxins and of pain
of putting out such fires

This tyranny of urgency
demands my full obedience
while each and every agency
rebels o'er this allegiance

To mechanist pursuit
in the context of attention
our span is far too short
antecedent e'en to mention

And like our woe betided friend
Democritus we'll expire
in pursuit of circumstantial cause
to a-priori aesthetic fire.

And to this teleology we
admit an admiration
for science owes in part its frame
and we suppressed emotion

Midst rational fallacies adroit
and new ones of our invention
The phallic symbol of our might
a black/white world and pension

A decontruktion of our faults
the modernist prescription
bloody gruesome crimes of war
turned into progression

Yet to our antediluvian mind
we have not achieved a state
we falter at merely being kind
how dare we try-trick fate

Taking that which we haven't earned
we claim a destiny
Manifest in the result;
it must; because it be

And yet Albert Schweitzer's Jesus
still calls from a rolling wheel
or a beachhead, was it in Normandy
Silence, peace, be still

The beauty of human endeavor
is that we try e'en though we fail
that’s the story of god incarnate
it is the tearing of the veil

The truth is seen with many eyes
yet we cannot come together
for at the ending of the day
all we share is but the weather

Out of lonesome hearts we lash
our tongues betray our fear
we drive away all sense of other
lest it become too dear

And ultimately at last
a judgment few, no none
can bear upon the soul we hear:
nothing, we’re alone.

What hope then but the atomist
quantum theory can't provide
the space between our atoms
or the dark stuff that be god

But in our first beginnings
beauty it did slay
or slake and quench a "baser" thirst
which? we dare not say

For if we accept the first premise
then falls behind the second
We've built our worlds upon our might
and false humility it beckons

With the crafty voice of a serpent
slithering near the tree
it’s easier to be wrong
than live up to: who is me

Beauty: Hate is the Denial of Beauty

Much has been written and spoken in response to the killing of nine people during Bible Study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston SC - some of it does not bear the dignity of a response, much of it verges on appropriating the very real suffering of others as our personal cause. There is a temptation to repeat the phrase that the Christian should have "The Bible in one hand and the Newspaper in the other." 
But a very astute Barth actually said…
"The Pastor and the faithful should not deceive themselves into thinking that they are a religious society, which has to do with certain themes; they live in the world. We still need according to my old formulation - the Bible and the Newspaper."
"Take your Bible and take you newspaper and read both. But interpret the newspaper from your Bible."
I fear the church has become reactionary joining the chorus of unison voices as we all seek a cathartic experience, and I do not mean to devalue those expressions as we seek to make peace in our own ways. But the church is called to be prophetic - speaking truth to blindness. We live in a time where one finds it necessary to speak out in condemnation because there is the very real risk that someone will in interpret our lack of condemnation, our silence, not as respect but as condoning the prejudice and hatred in others. 
We as human beings have a penchant for identifying the things we hate, as the cause of hate and thus perpetuate a vicious cycle and whirlwind of propaganda, and creating such a noise that nothing meaningful can be heard or understood; for (let me be clear) Hate is not made possible in our culture by bad parenting, ignorance, differences, or the prevalence of guns.
Martin Heidegger, one of the most influential philosophers of our post-modern era wrote that "Aesthetics is the consideration of humanity's state of feeling in relation to the beautiful." Heidegger went on to argue that only and "anti-aesthetic" or "post-aesthetic" view of art and beauty can help us understand its true significance, our basic sense of what is and what matters.
Heidegger essentially declared war on beauty, in the interest of a mechanistic post-modernity. And the past several generations of Americans have with religious fervor chased the illusive promises of the "American Dream," all the while devaluing the only things of infinite value. We as a people far from being united by what and who we are, have learned to be united only against a common enemies. (i.e. Soviets and Terrorists) We deny the intrinsic value of human life, quantifying humanity as wealth producers and consumers thus making beauty in the form of the image of God, only the means to an end: wealth and consumption.
But Stephen looking up to heaven displays the transcendent in and exclaims his praise in the face of beauty while being stoned. 
Acts 6:15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Hate is made possible in our culture by the cultural war on beauty itself as an end in itself, as intrinsically valuable, as universal experience of transcendence - beauty instead is superfluous, unnecessary, without utility to our industrially refined capitalistic sensibilities. 
Only in a culture like this: where beauty or its imposters are harnessed to sell products do we find a utility which is marketable, is it possible to devalue that which we personally find no utility for... Only in a culture like that is it possible to walk into the sanctuary of a church and shoot Nine people.
We think we know beauty, but much of what we experience is merely reminiscence of something past, a comfortable feeling, salacious, even pornographic - or it is our attempt to appear erudite in the face of esoterism. But beauty, true beauty, when experienced is transcendent. Beauty inspires, and this is what makes art special: The Sistine chapel is not beautiful because of the frescos, and the millions of people who experience the work of Michelangelo, rather the Sistine chapel is beautiful because it gave Michelangelo the means to attempt to express through fresco, his own personal experience of transcendence. 
This is historically the unique relationship between the church and the arts, and this is why the church must stand for beauty, teach not art appreciation (mechanist appreciation) but beauty appreciation, the praise of a beautiful God for the Beauty of the earth. We as a body are called out to display Gods glory, or as Romans 8 says:
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
So we must also try its expression, though we fail, though we feel hideous, though we engender ridicule, and especially because we invite hate. 
Solzhenitsyn wrote:
"so perhaps that old trinity of Truth and Good and Beauty is not just the formal outworn formula it used to seem to us during our heady, materialistic youth. If the crests of these three trees join together, as the investigators and explorers used to affirm, and if the too obvious, too straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light—yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three. And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoyevsky to say that "Beauty will save the world" but a prophecy. After all, he was given the gift of seeing much, he was extraordinarily illumined. And consequently perhaps art, literature, can in actual fact help the world of today."
The church is called to be beautiful: Be ye perfect, in Matthew 5:48; or a pure bride, Ephesians 5:27; to walk in light... But all we can truly do is try - to appreciate all beauty, to let it affect us in our core, express that we have been changed - To bear witness that we have experienced beauty.
One blogger has written "why do the hateful come to houses of worship"
"I thought about a church gathered for prayer and Bible study last night, and how they had opened their circle to let a stranger join them. And I thought about a mosque in Arizona, and how the faithful walked past angry, mocking crowds with guns in order to worship. And I thought about the temple in Maryland, and the anti-Semitic graffiti they found one morning this spring.
“There’s a reason the hateful choose houses of worship. It’s because that’s where so many of us put our hope."
No. The hateful choose places of worship, because the house of God’s family represents a safe place to try, it represents sanctuary. The hateful choose places of worship because that sanctuary represents the experience of the transcendent and the encouragement to seek out transcendence. The hateful choose places of worship because the experience of the transcendent requires the acknowledgment of beauty - and hate is the denial of beauty; it is the war on beauty. God allowed the fullness of his revelation; of his beauty to be nailed to an ugly cross, in order that a beautiful people might rise up and help redeem this world for the Beauty, the Glory, and the Majesty of God.
Let me end with this exhortation from Kurt Vonnegut:
"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding.
The arts are not a way to make a living. There are very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."
We must as a people bear witness to beauty.

Sermon, June 21, 2015 - First Baptist Church of Plymouth MA.