Religious imagination and Cosmic Jesus

I began writing this article while at General Assembly in Salt Lake City. A trip to this town wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Mormon Temple at the city’s center, a few blocks from the convention center. Apparently many UUs had the same idea and the visitor’s center was filled with people wearing General Assembly nametags. I felt a little sorry for the mostly teenage tour guides as I overhead some of our loaded questions.

The best exhibit for me is something I am calling Cosmic Jesus. As you climb a long spiraling walkway with walls painted with planets, stars, and galaxies, you come into a central chamber. There surrounded by the cosmos, a 20-foot statue of Jesus stands with outstretched arms greeting the whole of creation.

To me, it’s about religious imagination. I imagine the artist working to convince the center’s curator’s of his vision for the room. Then he arrives for the first day of work, arranging his brushes and assembling scaffolding, working to put what is in his head onto the 100-foot circular wall. Months later: Cosmic Jesus.  What fascinates me about the extraordinary facility the Church of the Latter Day Saints put together for us visitors is its scope: elaborate relief maps of the holy land showing Jerusalem of the early Christian; beautiful wall-sized paintings depicting the life of Jesus in America; expressions of a faith I do not understand but would like to understand better.

It made me wonder about our own capacity for religious imagination as we move into this exciting new year of growth for our church.

What will we build and in whose image will that be? Do we build for ourselves, our city, our world, or some delicate and deliberate combination? As the Board focuses on describing a mission and vision that will guide its decisions, this church year is certain to be filled with conversations about what this church means to you. Stay tuned; there is much to explore!

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