Monday, October 11, 2021

Substantial. . .

Some church buildings have furniture that is the antithesis of what happens there.  Think here of altars that are barely more than card tables.  Their lack of substance and presence only diminishes what happens there.  The same is true of baptismal fonts that hold little more than a tea cup of water and look as if they were an ash tray (remember those?) with legs.  How does that furniture befit what happens in that water by the power of the Word?  Or pulpits that fade into the background and look as if their only purpose is to hold up sermon notes.  Isn't the Verbum Domini Manet In Aeternum worth more than a small easel?   Even the lectern, perhaps the latest piece of furniture to adorn the chancel, deserves to be more than a stick with a shelf.  For from this is not the Word of God read into the hearts and minds of the hearers?

These things do not have to baroque in style or costly beyond measure but they should be substantial.  To offer them in something less also affects how we value what happens on them or in them.  There was a time when we knew better than to fade the pulpit into the wall with plexiglass or put the Lord's body and blood on a spindly little table.  Modern architecture seems to have forgotten this and left us a legacy of unworthy furniture for the things that God does at them, on them, or through them.  I have no particular design in mind but do suggest that we make sure that these pieces of liturgical furniture are worthy of the things that God does for us on them and through them.  They need to contribute to the whole picture and not detract from it.  That is the point of it, isn't it?

Though I have never served where one is, I think of the lecterns shaped like an eagle.  Though elaborate and quite large, they demonstrate the significance of what happens on that wood and display in form the Word sent forth, the eternal Gospel of Revelation, in which redemption alone is to be found.  And I think of the old altars with carving and stature.  Though elaborate and often dominating, they give us pause to consider what it is that God does on that altar in giving us the body and blood of His Son to eat and to drink.  Fonts should be substantial enough to signify the water of life that flows to us from Christ and claims us for Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I wish that fonts were large enough to immerse an infant if desired.  The pulpit needs to be raised because it is elevated speech -- not the pastor's opinions or his hobby horse for the moment but the Word of God preached in all its fullness for the saving of many and the encouragement of the faithful to everlasting life.

If you are building, consider my words.  If you are remodeling, consider them as well.  Make sure that this furniture is substantial and gives a weighty appearance to the very weighty things God does on them, in them, and through them. 

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

Maybe the remodelling can make a church look more like the Cathedral of Córdoba, which was remodelled from a mosque into a Christian cathedral in the 13th century.