A Choosing to Preach excerpt, p. 109.
When God commissioned his tabernacle, he wanted a beautiful building, which is a little surprising to some of us. I was raised in a conservative denomination, heavily influenced by the Puritans. Our buildings were never beautiful; they were utilitarian but never physically attractive. These days I visit the old cathedrals of Europe, and I marvel at their majesty. I know, of course, the danger of worshipping structures and how a building can be more a testimony to the builder’s ego than a gift of worship to creator God. Still, a large part of me longs for a sense of beauty in the places that I worship.
The sermons I grew up listening to were not beautiful. Just like the buildings they were offered in, the sermons I heard were more functional than they were inspirational. They offered ideas and precious few images. Hey worked on my head but offered very little for my heart. The sermons were meaningful but they were not beautiful, and I think we were the poorer for it.
God exceeds my attempts to understand him. While he honors and encourages my exercise of intellect, my finite mind has its limits. There are aspects of God’s character and will for which there are no words. At such times, we come closer to understanding him with an image or with words that describe a picture. There comes a point when all I can do is stand with my mouth hanging open, lost in wonder, love, and praise. At times like this, only these images of awe, the language of the affections will suffice.