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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What do you see.....image and worship

Across the town square in Prague (Czech Republic) near the tower of the old city hall are 27 white crosses in the pavement.  They mark the site where 27 Protestant nobles, merchants and intellectuals where beheaded in 1627 and ultimately putting an end to Czech autonomy for 300 years. Jan Hus (1369 - 1413) who lived a hundred years before Luther was himself burned at the stake for his desire for Reformation--that the people be allowed to receive both the cup and the bread and communion and be able to read scripture.  It is said that Hus on his death foretold a 'bigger goose who would come in a hundred years whose body you will not be able to fry!"    Why mention this?  Walk across the Charles bridge to a baroque church founded by the Jesuits in 1703 and you'll find one of the most ornate, gold encrusted, gaudy churches in Europe--St. Nicolas.  It is a wonderful example of high Baroque architecture which is over the top--intentionally.  Like the statues on the bridge there is an implicit counter-reformation agenda.   Take a look at the photos of the statue of the Jesuit leader crushing the man underneath with his books.  To get a sense of how big these statues are look at the one next to it with Kelly standing below for scale.  The image in this place of worship is "The Church knows best and will crush anyone who gets in the way!"  And given the historical reality of the time...Protestants (and Lutherans) beware...God does not like you and you will be stopped.

Now come with me to Wittenberg and look at this altar piece painted by Lucas Cranach in 1547.  This is in the church where Luther often preached and ordained reformation pastors.  Luther is on the right, the people of Wittenberg on the left and Christ crucified is in the center.   Luther is pointing to the crucified Christ with one hand, the Bible is open on the pulpit.  If you came to worship every week and looked at this picture, what would it tell you?  Now let me be honest and say there is certainly a REFORMATION AGENDA at work in this piece of worship art.  And although I'm more in tuned with its message, it sends a message nonetheless.   As Lutherans in America we constantly underestimate the power of the image.   What do you see at Our Savior's Lutheran Church on Sunday morning?  What don't you see?  What images (images aren't always art...sometimes they are placement of people or even empty walls or other symbols) are unconsciously presenting ideas to you?   What images should be there?  Are their images that might be important but don't really belong in a worship space?   Image and worship.....more to follow.

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