Snobbery and Sensual Worship | Andrew Goins – Blue Ridge Christian News

Snobbery and Sensual Worship

By Andrew Goins

Watauga CountyAndrew Goins


“A wandering beauty is a blade out of its scabbard” ~ John Crowe Ransom

I am a snob: I cannot drink coffee out of a dorky mug. The coffee tastes only as good as the mug. If the mug has a cliche “#blessings” or franchise advertisements, the coffee tastes platitudinous and chintzy. It is as though the off-putting truisms seep into my snooty coffee. I prefer pottery mugs with earthy glazes that remain in fidelity to the clods of clay the mug is made from. I like to see the stamp of the potter, marking his or her unique seal. It feels like a letter from the potter; it is personal. The message is beautiful and compelling. The large corporation’s advertisement message tries to conjure a desire for products. It manipulates. The message from the potter is quietly dazzling; I can hear the faint whisper of earthy New Creation; the dusty, Spirited-forth flesh of Jesus was resurrected from the dead; what happened to his dusty, Spirited-forth flesh will happen to my flesh and all of creation. I sip this quiet, and dazzling message from the potter as I hold the mug-letter. The message from the corporation is after the green stuff in my wallet. The message from the potter is after my imagination, brewing a fancy for heavenly things.

Yes, I am a snob. There is no getting around it. Nevertheless, the impulse is right. The instinct for listening to heavenly messages in earthen vessels points to something true: aesthetic matters. Beauty matters. Does an advertisement-clothed mug tamper with the taste of my snooty coffee? No. It is psychological–a matter of the brain. My brain sees it as fitting and proper to drink from an artistic earthen vessel to honor the planted seed, the harvest, the sun that crisped the bean, the nose that smelled its pleasing aroma, the machines that roasted the bean, my hands that ground the bean and brewed the coffee. There was labor that went into this coffee. From planting to picking, baking to brewing, it was crafted with precision and excellence. I drink from a pottery mug because it is appropriate and proper. Yet, the impulse to drink a well-crafted drink in a well-crafted vessel goes deeper than psychology—it is a matter of theology.

Genesis depicts creation as a cathedral filled with light and darkness, a firmament filled with finches and robins, and dry ground crawling with snakes and bugs, bulls and sheep. The crowns of this cosmic cathedral are iconoclastic humans, made in the Creator’s image. Aesthetic matters to God. I think of the tabernacle—the place where God dwells with his people—in all of its extravagance: garnished with gold, bronze, blue yarn, woven cherubim, and onyx stones. Some people might call this frivolous but I call it fitting. The extravagant aesthetic of the tabernacle was appropriate. Yehezkel Kaufmann calls the tabernacle “a priestly-prophetic vehicle with the prophetic, the oracular predominating.” The tabernacle was prophetic.

Two flaming torches were standing like cherubim holding flaming swords, guarding the Tree of Life. These torches prophesied the danger of encountering the God of glory, yet ignited the imagination to apprehend the Edenic character of the tabernacle, because God’s presence was there. The Tabernacle offers us a sensual and bodily vision of worship; the eye sees the danger and delight (for Eden is Hebrew for delight) of dwelling with God; the nose smells God’s incense scent; the skin feels the texture of costly sacrifice in a knife slicing through the skin of a bull; the ear hears the Levites singing hallelujahs outside of the tabernacle.

Lewis Mumford wrote, “to starve the eye, the ear, the skin, the nose is just as much to court death as to withhold food from the stomach.” Aesthetics is the food of the soul, by which we court life, and there is nothing more vivifying than worshiping the Triune God because that is what we were made to do. We must gorge ourselves on God’s glory by feeling its texture, smelling its scent, hearing its still small reverberating boom, as we say with Moses “now please, show me your glory”. When we worship God sensually (with our senses), our faces will resume their image-of-God, iconoclastic glow because we have seen God’s glory.


Andrew Goins is on staff for a campus ministry at Appalachian State University called Ratio Christi. He also works as a youth leader and worship leader at Arbor Dale Presbyterian Church in Banner Elk.

Andrew is committed to simply and thoroughly loving his wife Bethany, growing in his bible nerdiness, delighting in good books (theology, poetry, and select fiction), music, photography, creation, and in gathering people together for bible studies, a shared meal, or making music.

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