“Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.” – Donna Tartt, The Secret History
Michaelangelo’s “David” is arresting when viewed in person. It is far taller than one would expect, and the tall dome of the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze seems to extend that statue even further. The statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial is similarly startling. One time I visited some friends in DC and, after a late night on the town, decided to pay a visit to President Lincoln. It was some time after midnight and there were few people on the streets. I’ll never forget cresting the stairs and being confronted with Abraham’s massive visage. The Georgia Marble seemed to come alive in contrast to the darkness surrounding the building. I stood near the statue and found my place in the universe of the monument, a flickering star standing against the burning center of the room. I felt swallowed up by the sober, ominous glory of the statue. Mr. Lincoln both beautiful and terrifying.
When Isaiah receives his vision from the Lord, he writes: “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple….And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” In response to this, Isaiah pronounces condemnation upon himself, saying “Woe is me! For I am lost…” Rather than destroy Isaiah, however, a seraphim touches his lips with a burning coal and tells him “…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” In God’s presence, Isaiah came in contact with the terrifying, overwhelming reality of His Lord. However, in the midst of this holy terror, Isaiah experienced the beauty of God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Christian faith depends upon a correct understanding of cosmic proportion and scale. It thrives in the Christian who, along with John the Baptist, says “He must increase, but I must decrease.” In this, the Christian ascents that sin causes a fundamental disorientation in which Man is seen on the throne and God viewed in relation to him. On the converse, Christian faith languishes when life is lived, as Saint Augustine and Martin Luther described it, “incurvatus in se” (curved inward upon itself). When one’s life is constantly looking inward, God is relegated to a secondary role, a supporting cast member to the drama of one’s own life.
This Sunday, we see that the Christian life is one that is yielded to Jesus. Rather than chasing after the desires created by inward living, through the power of the Holy Spirit we submit our lives to the reign of Christ. Because of His work on our behalf, we will be able to stand before the overwhelming presence of the Father and, like, Isaiah, experience grace and beauty.
Scripture: Luke 19:28-46
Sermon: “Yielding to Jesus”
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
“It is important that we should not narrow the symbolism of baptism. Baptism does not symbolize any section or part of salvation, but the whole of salvation. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for instance, do not divide the field between them, each symbolizing one element in the broad process of salvation or one exercise in the complex enjoyment of salvation. They are two ways of symbolizing salvation as a whole. Salvation is cleansing, salvation is ransoming. Baptism represents it from the one point of view, the Lord’s Supper from the other. Whichever sign and seal we are thinking of, it marks us out as sharers in all the benefits of Christ’s redemption and pledges them to us. Baptism therefore symbolizes not merely the cleansing of our sins but our consequent walk in new obedience. This, let us never forget, is not only symbolized for us but sealed to us, for baptism is given to us by God as an engagement on his part to bring us safely through to the end. In receiving it, we receive upon our persons the seal of his covenant promise.”