Friday, June 29, 2012

Sacraments at the Ryman

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianityby Ben Howard

I don't know how to start this.

I don't know how to convey to you what I want to say.

I want to share an experience with you. I want to tell you about what I felt, both physically and deep in my soul. I want to explain to you how I could feel totally alone and special while at the same time feeling like I was in total communion with everyone around me.

I want to let you feel something so profound profound that someone else who experienced it with me said it, “made me feel human again.”

I've heard sacraments being described as a time when heaven and earth overlap. When we are able to witness the beauty and peace of heaven, but only for a moment and only through a veil, darkly. Typically, we refer to sacraments in the traditional sense. Eucharist, baptism, perhaps marriage. But there are other moments, moments when beauty eclipses our surroundings, when the world becomes more than the sum of its parts and we can feel the vague shapes of a hope and a coming dawn.

The experience I'm referring to was not religious in nature, at least not in the traditional sense. It was a concert by a moderately well known band called Explosions in the Sky, but this night they were something else. They were a vessel through which I believe we who were present were able to experience a taste of heaven. Just for a second. Just enough to leave a faint impression.

Keats once wrote that “Truth is beauty and beauty is truth.” The essence of the Christian journey has often been called a search for truth, so why not a search for beauty as well. All too often we focus on the idea, the theology, the hierarchy, the meaning, the argument, the purpose and miss the mere beauty of the experience, the transcendence of the aesthetic.

This isn't to say that we should tailor our religious expression to artificially create a feeling. We aren't chasing a spiritual high. But we do need to make room for beauty for beauty's sake; room for organic moments of art and brilliance that move us in ways that we could not have realized.

Below is a video for an Explosions in the Sky song titled “Your Hand in Mine”. There are lyrics, the band is entirely instrumental, but I want you to listen to the song as a prayer. Just let the song wash over you.

This may sound ridiculous to you, and that's okay. It kind of feels ridiculous while I'm writing it, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.


You can contact me on Twitter @BenHoward87, via email, or feel free to comment. :)

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