Summary: So this morning we are going to talk about proportion in the Christian life. To guide our thoughts our primary text will be Titus 2:11-14.
Holiness is Healthy
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
February 20, 2005
Third Sunday of Lent
One of the books that in recent years has caused a ruckus inside and outside of the church is The DiVinci Code by Dan Brown. The seed for the story is an ancient myth that suggests Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married – or at least madly in love – and she was pregnant with child. When Christ died on the cross, the true church helped Mary escape Palestine and resettle in Gaul – what is today France.
Brown does a masterful job of tying this legend with legends about the Holy Grail and what he termed the true nature of the grail. Tapping into feminist theology, he casts the womb as the grail and the goddess as the true object of worship. In the end, he constructs a very interesting and intricate mythology – but at the expense of historical and theological accuracy.
One of the more fascinating pieces of evidence he uses to persuade his reader about the legitimacy of his theological position is called the golden section or the divine proportion. Now I am not a mathematician by any stretch of the imagination, so as I try to explain this, if I don’t make it clear enough, I’m going to ask you to trust me. If you can’t trust me, then ask Mike, Jerry, Bruce or someone else who is good at math. I see Monica is with us this morning, I know she is a math-wiz, maybe you can ask her.
The divine proportion is found when the division of a line segment into two segments is such that the ratio of the original segment to the larger division is equal to the ratio of the larger division to the smaller division. Here is a picture to help explain it further. [show slide] It is a ratio or proportion defined by the number Phi (f=1.618033988749895...). It is known as the divine proportion because it is found everywhere in nature. Here are just a few examples. [show slide]
And mankind has discovered this proportion again and again throughout history. Evidence of phi is found in the pyramids, in Greek architecture, and in Leonardo DiVinci’s works, including his painting The Last Supper. [show slide].
We find proportion attractive, don’t we? Bodies that are well proportioned draw our eyes like steel to a magnet. Science shows that even the way our faces are proportioned influence how attractive others find us. One of the more amazing meaningless bits of information I have ever heard is that the most successful actors are the ones whose heads are of a particular proportion in relation to their bodies. The ones with slightly larger heads – not extraordinarily so – are treated more kindly by the cameras and so are often perceived as more handsome or attractive. How that works, I don’t know.
Nonetheless, it remains true that we like things in proportion. Some even live their lives by it – “All things in moderation.” What does that mean except, “All things in their proper proportion?” So it shouldn’t surprise to us find out that proportion is important in our spiritual lives as well.
So this morning we are going to talk about proportion in the Christian life. To guide our thoughts our primary text will be Titus 2:11-14. We will first survey the text briefly to understand where Paul is coming from when he writes this to Titus. Then we will talk a bit about what it looks like when our spiritual lives get out of proportion. Finally, we will talk about what a healthy, well-proportioned Christian life looks like – what we would call a holy life.
You may remember last week that we talked about Titus, the young associate of Paul. Titus is the one that Paul sent with the “painful letter” to the church in Corinth as a sort of spiritual enforcer. Apparently, his tough-minded, tough-nosed faith earned him other such assignments because Paul sends him to Crete – an unsavory place and people by Paul’s account in Titus 1:10-12,
There are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; 11 they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach. 12 It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.”
Just a few verses down from this he refers to them as “unfit for anything.”
Into such a hornet’s nest, Paul sends Titus to “put things in order and to complete what was left undone.” In particular, he wanted Titus to train and install elders in the church, to shore up the weak spots in their doctrine, and to bring into tow those who were beginning to stray.