August 31st, 2009

Last week in this space I wrote about “the worth of remembering” as we prepared for Sunday’s 50th building anniversary.  I think I’ll call this meditation “the perils of remembering.”

As a part of Sunday night’s anniversary service, I preached on “The Beauty of Holiness.”  The phrase is borrowed not only from the Bible but from a book titled Angels in the Architecture: a Protestant Vision of Middle Earth, by Douglas Jones and Douglas Wilson.

As I said in the sermon, the authors believe we moderns are missing a lot that the medieval church had right – including the ability to appreciate and create beauty.  In chapter 1, the authors admit that defending Christian medievalism is difficult.  But they insist the church of the Middle Ages had it more together than we do today.  In addition to loving beauty, they had a higher view of God, a better grasp of joy and laughter, a more holistic view of feasting, a more biblical view of the church, a holier vision of sex and marriage, and more.

OK.  Some of their points are valid.  But I wouldn’t want to go back to living in twelfth-century Europe, would you?  The authors go so far as to advocate for the King James Version of the Bible (which wasn’t published until 1611, but has a medieval flair to it, I suppose), and to say that the Holy Roman Empire (marriage of church and state) was a better way than ours.  On those two points, and others, I disagree.  The sarcastic side of me wants to say, “If you like the Middle Ages that much, why didn’t you hand write all the copies of your book?”

Remembering is good.  But it’s also dangerous.  We can too easily overlook the faults and deficiencies of a different era.  That doesn’t just mean the Middle Ages.  It could be last year.  Or our own childhood.  Or fifty years ago, when our church building was built.

There is great worth in looking back.  But only so that we can learn and move forward.  I’m ready to start the next fifty years.

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