The Sublime


It's Sublime--but is it God?

A renewal of interest in sacred space is growing  among the Gen-X and Millenial kids from Christian homes. They’re so bored with Church, and who can blame them? It seems their parents never led them into The Revolution, the way one of them tells it:

“My church tossed out windows all together. Instead the walls are grey, with strange modern designs on the canvas walls. We have chairs like those in movie theaters, minus the cup holders. The lights are typical stage lights, during the service they spot light worship leaders. In fact, the entire focus is the stage rather than the upward feel of a cathedral. It seems sometimes that everything is revolving around the stage, instead of God.” — Architecture and Faith—Photo Contest in Relevant Magazine (for Gen-X/Millenial readers).

But then she discovered The Sublime while visiting a cathedral:

“A sense of holiness hung thick in the air, my steps echoed as I walked forward. Flecks of every color caught my eye. They hung like colorful stars on the towering columns. My gaze drifted from the floor slowly upward, my neck craning. There before me was Jesus, shining in all His stained glass glory.”

Imagine that! In a dark place, and suddenly, “Jesus shining in all His…glory!” (Heart, please settle down…)

It isn’t nice to be so irreverent about other people’s beliefs like this, I know, I know. I just can’t get to it.

Is The Sublime in any way connected to The Revolution? Does The Sublime mean anything to anyone, really? What’s the difference between The Sublime and The Sublime One worshiped in Buddhism?

Sublime means, “of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.”  It also means something which “changes directly into vapor when heated,” for chemists, but it also fits a cathedral experience as well.

I love art. The architecture in the picture above is absolutely stunning. I would love to own a mansion with such windows. But is it not fair to distinguish between art and spiritual life? Art is sublime, but spiritual life is Joy. Art is beautiful and nice, but spiritual life is Revolution.

The Sublime is the product of human genius; The Revolution is God’s genius.

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8 thoughts on “The Sublime

  1. lbeech

    When I was young, I attended a church where there was this cool stained glass mosaic of Jesus. Being a bit goofy at times (and perhaps a bit bored by the sermon too), I would gaze into the eyes of the image. They followed me. Freaked out, I would immediately get back to the task of listening to the minister. Funny how the imagination plays a part in how we perceive where we worship.

    Another silly thing – we had stained glass windows to the east of the room. The morning sun with illuminate the glass. Once again, I would wander – counting all the people colored blue from the filtered sunlight. I would imagine that they were either somehow special or that they were being pointed out as marked. I had to make sure the blue light never fell upon me!

    It is just amazing what the mind of the “worshiper” can conjure up while soaking up the sacred space. I was always trying to create a sense of other-worldliness – this sense came from myself – not from the Spirit. I am glad that my understanding of worship has grown throughout the years.

  2. kmcc

    Wow, that’s spooky — the Jesus eyes moved! That’s always happening in those old horror films: a picture on the wall, eyes following the victim…

    Funny story Lisa.

  3. jeremiah ramsey

    The real tragedy of that kind of experience is that you will end up believing that Jesus’ glory is relegated to the limitations of stained glass. Or pen-and-ink, or your musical tastes, or whatever.

    This trend seems to really point to the idea that “when you don’t have standards, it is easier to exceed them.”

    These young people are leaving a stale environment which did not contribute to their growth and entering another environment which they deem is better- not because they actually begin spiritual growth- but because it is more fashionable and has the benefit of being retro. They feel like they’ve taken an active part in ensuring they are not spiritually sidelined but unfortunately all they did was change venues.

    It is a false sense of productivity manifested differently, that’s all. They’re still searching. They’re still interested. They’re still hopeful. They might be less sure that Christ is the answer to their life’s question, but since they found groovy new surrounds they’re willing to stick around for awhile longer until they’re bored with that as well and toss the whole thing out as a phase they went through.

  4. jeremiah ramsey

    I really have a deep desire to reach out to these young people who are wandering around in that tomb, looking for Jesus. They need someone to tell them “He isn’t here, for He is risen.”

  5. kmcc

    “Toss the whole thing out as a phase they went through…” Indeed, this is the very real threat. Although people will make amazing claims about the cathedral experience, the facts prove their attendance is spotty and non-committal.

  6. b

    “They need someone to tell them “He isn’t here, for He is risen.””

    I don’t know Jeremiah; I’d probably get scared and run if you came and said that to me as I gazed into Jesus’ stained glass glory.

    Just walking around, checking out cool colors and boom –

    “WOE son of the LORD, thee Lord of thou Heavens above hast risen and undoubtedly so isn’t not present in thou cathedral”

    I’d probably crap my pants.

    An easier way to get them out of there is – “Hey dude this is lame, come check out my group thingy!”

  7. kalie.b

    Christianity Today is promising an article on the spirituality of church architecture next month (May). Should be horrifying…

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