Everybody has a face…and faces communicate powerfully: think of a sultry come-on, or the stern look of a parent or the delighted look of teacher who just realized “you got it!” The values that drive the public face of Holy Trinity Church are quiet, beauty and thoughtfulness. These emerge as a Gospel response to the social context of those to whom we minister.
Quiet: Southern California is noisy in the extreme. The noise is jangling our minds and shrinking our souls from their God-intended expansiveness. Despite what we think, we can’t be present to everything—but we try: ear buds in, TV on in the background and searching something on line while texting a friend, we tell our selves that we are connected, that we are multitasking. Actually we are “no tasking”, or at best going very quickly from one task to another—connected to something or someone one split second at a time. And we wonder why we cannot concentrate or focus when we pray, sing or read the Bible…or even try to sustain a conversation…
Beauty: The human environment and human interactions are increasingly, utilitarian, selfish and unattractive—sometimes even plain ugly. This is true of international relations, politics at every level, the workplace, neighborhoods and sadly, even friendships and families. We need beauty for as Elaine Scarry has put it:
The absence of beauty is a profound form of deprivation…but when we see something beautiful we undergo a radical decentering and a transformation takes place.
Beauty as I talk about it here is not an elitist statement about those who can afford to mill about the worlds great art museums. It is a statement about all created beings that were put in a garden of immense and profound beauty—as their natural place of being. In beauty we come alive—we find assistance in becoming human as God intended.
Thoughtfulness: the world has never been more complex. Of course he past dozen generations could have said the same thing. Nevertheless, what we feel and experience viewing our daily news feeds are real: the world is struggling right now; wobbling from ethical, political, economic, racial, tribal, religious and medical challenges—looking in vain for leadership to help us find grounded-ness and hope.
So…we need quiet. We need the arresting intrusions of beauty. We need a thoughtful way to think about our world as Christ-followers. Quiet, beauty and thoughtfulness are great allies in our followership of Jesus—wonderful servants carrying the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us. But in commending these ideas, I often feel like a mother saying to young children, “eat your vegetables!”
I know I am thinking straight and have my desires in order when I crave these things rather than resist them in favor of other “medications”. I have a hunch the same is true for Holy Trinity Church: we at our ideal best when…
We are led beside quiet waters that refresh our souls…when we are still and know that God is God…and that in quietness and trust is our strength… When beauty inspires holiness and creativity…when it becomes a voice calling us think about those things that as St Paul said: are lovely, commendable and worthy of praise.
When quiet and beauty lead to a kind thoughtfulness that enables us to not be conformed to this world, but as ambassadors of God’s kingdom to love and serve our world…