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Why Beauty

As this issue of Reformed Worship moved from concept to reality, I readily shared with people my excitement about doing an issue on beauty. This news was most often met with a quizzical look. “Beauty?” people asked. I received this reaction so often that I took a step back to rethink the theme. But then I began to wonder more about the responses themselves.

Why did the theme of beauty so perplex people? Let me suggest a few possible reasons.

  • Discussions about beauty often revolve around physical attributes of people, fashion trends, or the latest supermodel. Those discussions are definitely not worship-related.
  • People say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Since most people can’t really define beauty, they wonder how any statements about beauty could apply to our diverse worship settings.
  • Conversations around beauty usually reside in an art class or a philosophy class on aesthetics. The people I spoke with may feel that beauty is too esoteric a discussion to have in a journal that offers practical resources for worship.

I am sure we could come up with other reasons why a theme issue on beauty might not be a natural fit for Reformed Worship. But to all of them I say, “Phooey!”

The Holy Spirit uses beauty to provide a window to God and to the shalom and flourishing that God desires for all of creation.

Our God is a God of beauty.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
(Psalm 27:4)

Not only is our God beautiful, our God is the creator of beauty. If God is beautiful, and God created beauty, and as Christians we are to concern ourselves with the things of God, then it follows that we should concern ourselves with beauty. It also follows that since worship is a dialogue between ourselves and God (who is the epitome of beauty) the more beauty we can bring into the conversation, the more fully we can grasp the character of God.

In this issue you won’t find definitions of beauty or do’s and don’ts for redecorating your worship space. What you will find is an invitation to join a conversation that some, like Makoto Fujimura, have already started.

We are invited to consider how we might reconnect beauty not only to our common life but to worship (see Phil Schaafsma’s “Beauty Revealed”, p. 20). In “Strength and Beauty Are in God’s Sanctuary” (p. 11), Lisa DeBoer points out what we can learn about liturgy and art from the excellent work of our Catholic brothers and sisters. William Dyrness encourages us to allow “images of Scripture to stimulate our imaginations and animate our worship experience” (p. 27), while Kari Reeves reminds us of the beauty and power of words (p. 34).

We haven’t completely forgotten the practical. “Striving for Beauty” (p. 30) shares wisdom from a variety of worship leaders and pastors about the role of beauty in their worship, and “Beauty in Children’s Worship Spaces” (p. 24) contributes many good ideas for transforming everyday spaces into worshipful environments for the young ones in our midst.

In our increasingly godless world, I am convinced that we need beauty more than ever.

The Holy Spirit uses beauty to provide a window to God and to the shalom and flourishing that God desires for all of creation. Let’s join the redeeming work of the Spirit and become more intentional about recognizing beauty in our worship as we glorify our beautiful God.