Archive for October, 2010

The “Art” of Worship

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 by Dale M. Coulter

I have been reflecting on the meaning of icons and art within the Christian tradition. This reflection was prompted by looking at the icons of several Orthodox churches. Recently, I have had the chance to visit several Orthodox churches and see the role of icons in worship, particularly in the iconostasis.

In brief, the iconostasis is the screen of gold and icons that separates the main sanctuary from the “holy of holies” where the Eucharist occurs. In the middle of each iconostasis is a set of doors leading to the bread and wine. After consecration the Orthodox priest will bring the wine and bread out through the doors as the final act of worship for the congregant.

To the right of the doors, one always finds the icon of Christ, the pantocrator or creator of all. To the left of the doors resides the Mary the Theotokos with the infant Jesus. Immediately to the left of this icon is the icon for the saint after which the church is named, or an icon of the Trinity, if the church is named Holy Trinity.

While there is much theological significance to the icons, what has struck me recently is the way in which they convey the communion of the saints. When an individual worships in the midst of icons, there is a strong sense that one is approaching the Triune God in and through the cloud of witnesses that testify to His glory.

Worship is never a solitary event. It always occurs in the communion of the saints as we join our voices to the chorus of those who sing with the Seraphim, “holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are filled with your glory.” Icons remind us that we are together caught up into the presence of the Triune God. They also remind us that God catches us up into His presence in and through other human beings who become channels of that presence precisely because they are joined to Christ who is the source of salvation.

As the source, Christ pours out his gifts to the human beings in the power of the Spirit who then become channels of divine life to others. In the midst of this fellowship, this communion, we embrace God as the Father reaches out to us through his two hands, the Word and the Spirit.

Icons also remind us of the importance of art as a way of making sense of our world and of redeeming life. The iconographer is not simply an artist, but a worshipper because she uses the materials of creation in order to depict God and God’s action in the world. Worship is an act of life, and when the artist captures life she captures the God of life, not simply in its triumphs but also its tragedies because all Christians follow Christ from cross to resurrection. By connecting life’s events to the cross and resurrection, the iconographer redeems the world and places all events within the frame of God’s acting in time—history becomes salvation history.

As those who hold fervently to a theology of encounter that claims God always desires to transform believers by catching them up into his presence, Pentecostals and Charismatics should be firmly committed to artist expressions as acts of worship. This is how the artist becomes an iconographer and thus a gift to the church. She channels God’s presence into her art as her “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2) before his throne. Worship is not a solitary act, but one done in the communion of the saints as we together become conduits of God’s presence. In these acts of worship, we can make sense of our world and redeem it.

Urban America, Getting Ready for A Great Awakening

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 by Antipas Harris

Today, many people reject religion because they do not see what they consider to be its advantage in the face of injustice, lack of peace, lack of love, etc. This past weekend, however, I was blessed to visit the Dream Center in California. This innovative ministry expresses multiple outreaches to redress urban ills of Los Angeles. During our tour of the facilities, a guide explained that prior to the Dream Center, over the span of a year that area experienced an average of one shooting per three minutes. Gangs, prostitution, violence and poverty dominated the area. In a little time after the founding of the Dream Center, however, crime in that area reduced more than 75%. The ministry gives more than a million pounds of food away each month. I had the privilege of traveling with the outreach team to the Huntington Hotel in the heart of the city for the purpose of giving food, praying with and talking to very low income residents. These are only a drop in the bucket of the many outreaches Matthew Barnett’s ministry has at the Dream Center.

Approximately, 16 years ago Pastor Barnett felt a call of God to “build up people and not a mega church.” In response to the call of God, he set his feet to the pavement. Now, sixteen years later, God has blessed Barnett’s church, Angelus Temple Four Square Church, with a monstrous facility and many outreach efforts to share the love of Christ to victims of urban evils– from prostitutes, to homelessness; from victims of the economic recession to Hollywood celebrities in search of filling the emptiness that money and fame can not fill (only Christ can!); from gang bangers to drug cartels; from young people to the elderly who are seeking to overcome addictions and pain. I have not seen ministry so massive and targeted on urban revitalization as Matthew Barnett’s unique Dream Center. Read the rest of this entry »

Desiring the Kingdom

Friday, October 1st, 2010 by Diane Chandler

Recently, I read the book entitled Desiring the Kingdom by James (“Jamie”) K. A. Smith (2009).  As a philosopher, Smith attempts to provide a critique of current Christian worldview parlance and approach by offering another model in which to view the human person, formation, faith, and the role of the Christian college or university.

Rather than a book review, per say, I want to offer my reactions and recommend that you consider reading it yourself, rather than simply reacting to my comments.  While I do not agree with all that Smith advances regarding formational approaches to the human person, I believe that his perspectives are worthy of consideration and offer those in Christian higher education and the church a perspective worthy of discussion and dialogue.

Overall the book attempts to rearticulate the telos (or goal) of Christian education from being one that relates to establishing a distinctively Christian worldview through the development of the cognitive domain to being one that views education as formational and guided by what we love and desire, as fostered through worship.  What he aims at is the differentiation between education as informative and education as formative.  As you can well imagine, this topic greatly interests me. 

Smith critiques an understanding of the Christian faith as being reduced to a set of ideas and principles, which creates worldview thinking at the expense of our calling to be passionate followers of Christ who love rightly both God and neighbor.  Smith argues that we are oriented to the world by the primacy of that love. Therefore, Smith offers Christian worship as the most profound practice that shapes our identity and takes us beyond a mere belief system to a fully embodied identity as loving God and neighbor. 

Read the rest of this entry »