You could not stand before the building without looking up. It was one of those massive European cathedrals, built in the age of religious fervor, whose architects seemed to have one message - look up, look way up. Every line of the structure flowed toward heaven.
As I melted into the stream of people entering the church, I could imagine the throngs who, centuries ago, crowded into this cathedral to hear God’s word. It did not take long for that illusion to disappear. A tour guide with a voice like a megaphone began his litany of historical facts: how long it took to build the structure; where the stone was quarried and how many men it took to finish the job; who commissioned and who designed the works of art.
As we entered the sanctuary, the atmosphere changed as the building opened into the massive open area supported by pillars and framed in stained glass. For a moment I had the sense of history again, a sense of understanding the purpose for this edifice. The tour guide’s voice again broke through as he began to lead us toward the altar.
It was at that point that I frowned. From the back of the large group, I watched the guide lead the people up a short flight of stairs onto the platform, where a priest was in the midst of celebrating the mass. The megaphone voice was lowered slightly as the group passed behind the altar. I noticed some of the other tourists at least had the courtesy to look sheepish. Caught in the flow, I continued with the crowd, feeling as though we were all participating in a crime. When I think back on that moment, I realize we were.
When I think of it now, I realize at times we still are. In the presence of our God, we remain aloof. We stand back and gawk, yet remain indifferent and unmoved, failing to rejoice, failing to call others to see and be amazed.
Some time ago a cartoon appeared in the pages of many Canadian newspapers. To Canadian baby boomers, it had immediate significance. One of our childhood television heroes, The Friendly Giant, had died. “Friendly” always began his program with the words “Look up, look way up,” as the camera moved up from the toe of his large boot to his smiling face. The newspaper cartoon echoed those words and showed a large hand reaching down toward him.
But it is not only in death that God tells us to look up. Like the architects of old, He designed our world to make us turn to Him. He put a yearning in our hearts to worship and made us into His church. He put a yearning in the hearts of writers to record and express the experiences of life and to proclaim His glory. All the lines of life say, “look up, look way up.” As writers of faith we must often ask ourselves, are we just touring the cathedral? Or are we striving to look up and reach for the glory of God in every word we write?
“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20