Pam and I visited another church yesterday. It was a mixed bag. The music was uninspired. The congregation was whiter than a Chamber of Commerce picnic in Des Moines, Iowa. But, I heard one of the most intelligent and beautiful sermons I've heard in years.
First, the music. Pam says that I'm always going to hate the music in any church unless it features the thirty hymns my mother loved. This is a pernicious lie! While it is true that I dearly love many selections from the Broadman hymnal, as a musician myself, I have no problem with any church music genre if it is performed well and the lyrics have some discernible theological message. Yesterday was practically a textbook example of everything that makes me cringe in church. The worship leader, strummed his stratocaster gently while asking us to join him in worship. This dude was movie star handsome in his skin tight t-shirt, bulging biceps sporting not one but two tattoos...suggesting perhaps an edgy past! In all, four songs were performed by his tight band, none of which I knew...which is fine. Pam rightly points out that one of the reasons I don't know any of these songs is because I don't listen to Christian radio. Point taken. She does. She knew one of them. Anyway, all four of them seemed to be churned out by the same songwriter, minor keys dominating, with Hallmark card lyrics like..."My soul will dance on the wings of freedom"... not exactly "a mighty fortress is our God" but this place didn't have a pipe organ either so... Bicep Guy bayed out lots of ocean metaphors. Life is like an ocean apparently, lots of scary waves and what not. But, the musicians involved were talented and performed each selection flawlessly. As I looked around at the people around me, only a handful were singing. Maybe they don't listen to Christian radio either.
Then the pastor stepped forward and blew me away.
The topic of his thirty minute sermon was...the Trinity, not exactly stem winder material. But towards the end of his wonderfully reasoned and presented message he used an illustration that I have been thinking about a lot since. He told us about when he spent a summer in Japan. While there he became fascinated with the culture of this ancient civilization, in particular a form of art there called Kintsugi, which translated means making beautiful art from broken things. Kintsugi artists take broken pottery and solder it with gold. The results are quite stunning:
Then the pastor observed that this is exactly the opposite of what we Christians do with broken things. If we attempt to fix them at all, it is with clear epoxy so when finished nobody will be able to tell it was broken in the first place. In other words we try our best to hide our imperfections. We plaster on a fake smile to hide our own brokenness, no place more so than at church. Then he made the beautiful point that Jesus Christ is the gold that mends us and makes us greater, more valuable than we were before. It was brilliant and made a lasting impression on me.
When we return from Maine, we will go there again.