SPIRITUAL MATTERS: Famous prank a pillar for faith

FRESH out of college, a country boy headed for the ‘big smoke’. London was where the jobs were.

It was a radical move. Huge buildings stood where the ‘green grass of home’ should have been. Heavily-trafficked arterial roads lined with houses and shops replaced the single-lane country roads flanked by tall hedgerows. Where cows and sheep should have grazed, thousands of human bodies competed for precious space on tube trains and buses, parks and squares.

Social distancing was but a figment of an over-active imagination - impossible for the sane person to conceive. Everything appeared different and exciting.

This was the beginning of the tourism boom and visitors poured into the UK capital to compete with the locals for space and to gawk at impressive, historic buildings – like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Oh, and St Paul’s Cathedral near Piccadilly Circus.

That magnificent cathedral was designed and built by the famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren. But maybe only a few know that Wren also built the splendid Windsor Guildhall – also known as the Windsor Town Hall.

The interesting thing is that when he designed the interior of the Guildhall in 1689, he incorporated a ceiling supported by a number of pillars around the perimeter.

But he then ran into trouble with local dignitaries when they inspected the building upon completion. These bureaucrats couldn’t accept that Wren’s concept and design of the pillars was sound. In their wisdom, they decided more pillars were needed to support the weight of the ceiling. So they ordered Wren to add another four.

England’s greatest architect of the time was confident in his work and calculations - convinced that the number of pillars he’d specified were exactly what was needed. But he knew he wouldn’t win an argument with the pompous City Fathers, and was annoyed that they were questioning his professional competence. So he reluctantly added four more pillars – except that he made sure they were ineffective by not reaching to the ceiling!

An optical illusion managed to fool the municipal authorities however. They remained happily ignorant of the trick the architect had played on them.

So today, many a tourist will visit the Windsor Town Hall and gaze at one of the most audacious stunts perpetrated by a defiant professional in the face of uninformed opinion.

There’s a clear message in this story – for we’re often inclined to mirror this scenario by dismissing or ignoring the words of the consummate teacher - Jesus. The modern way seems to be to accept that everyone is entitled to an opinion and encouraged to express it. As long as it passes the ‘pub test’, it must be right.

However, the reality is that the only safe test is the God-test. He’s the one who created us, knows us intimately, and can guide us unerringly along the right path through life. He’s the architect who knows what is best for us and is confident in his design and purpose for humankind.

If we think we know best, and consequently stray from his blueprint, it’s an audacious rebuff to our creator.

Fortunately he doesn’t easily take offence, but instead, tolerates our prideful foolishness. The scriptures say it plainly: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”.

Unlike Wren, God doesn’t try to fool us by building sham pillars that have no purpose other than window dressing. Instead, he sent Jesus to teach and correct, lead and serve, and show that the Father knows what he’s doing - what’s absolutely necessary in life. For you and I.



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