Walking the other day in Nashville brought me, quite serendipitously, to a recreation of the Parthenon. Seeing that sight brought back memories of taking church folk to Greece and Italy as recently as a couple of years ago. I remembered fun times traveling with friends and discovering new things.
It also reminded me of some of the quirks of the original building. It was designed to look like a massively solid, perfectly square, structure. Massive it is but square it’s not. The floor of the building slopes down towards the corners. Why? To make the massive columns look straight when viewed from a distance. The columns themselves don’t stand perfectly straight. They are ever so slightly tilted to, again, give the appearance of a perfectly linear building when looked at from a distance. Even the columns themselves were given a little bulge in the middle because pillars can appear to get skinny in the middle when viewed all together.
Crazy, isn’t it? Architects and historians have speculated about why they did this. Did they do it to give the temple a sense of breathing, of being alive? Or was it about the optical illusions? The more commonly agreed on reason is that they were “striving to achieve… true perfection; a quality of perfection worthy of the gods.” (ref.: greece-is.com).
All Christian cathedrals have been built with that idea – that you offer to God the best that the architect, and the builders, and the people financing it, have to offer. I get that. I want to present myself as perfectly before God as I can. After all, Jesus called us to be “perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). But do I alter the outward
appearances, hiding the appearances of imperfection, to give the appearance of perfection? Is perception more important than reality?
I really got stuck on this in Greece. And it turns out that in Nashville the architect charged with making the Parthenon a permanent structure replicated all these visual tricks as well. He did a great job. So is it perfect?
At the end of the day, what I want in my life is for God to measure not the appearances, but the truth of my standing before Him. Are my decisions and thoughts right? Are they straight at right angles, or do they just appear so from a
distance? Upon closer inspection do they tilt off in one direction or another?
I marvel at the architecture in Greece and in Nashville. In Nashville they built the thing on a slope! In Athens it lies on the flat top of a knoll. In both places it’s really cool to look at. Both of them made me think of my relationship with the Lord. Is that not the purpose of a temple in the first place?
Our church is a little more modest. But its purpose today is the same. Will it be a place where we can encounter God, a place where we entertain grander thoughts, a place where we understand ourselves small in relation to the God we
worship, but immensely privileged to be provided for, and loved by that amazing one true God?
That’s what brings us together. Let us worship Him. In Spirit and in Truth, and with a little wonder.
Still working on that perfection thing,
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:46-48