Did you realize that while it may take you a few minutes to hang that new picture just right or a few hours to determine color patterns or how to arrange the bedroom, the Church has 2,000 years of history of design consultation?
One author described it this way, "…A symbol is a sign. It is an object or picture we can touch, which is substituted for something else...to convey an idea or belief. In Christian symbolism we must learn to not merely look at the symbols but to look through them to the truths which they express."
For instance, maybe you have noticed the different colors on the table or the different banners hung on different Sundays. Of course, if I’d picked it, it would have reflected Star Wars or hunting, so I’m sure you’re glad my opinion didn’t play a role. But they aren’t because I called an interior decorator either. These are symbols and they all have meaning.
*White: color of purity. Commonly used on special days during the year for events in the life of Jesus. Also used at weddings and funerals.
*Red: color of celebration and festivals. Used on Pentecost and at ordinations.
*Blue and Violet: color of royalty. Used during Advent before Christmas to remind us of the coming of Jesus.
*Green: color of life. During the time between Pentecost Sunday and the beginning of Advent.
These colors are important in reminding us of the special times and events in the life of the church Jesus' followers have honored for centuries. They are markers to point us toward the work of God in our past and in our midst.
But these aren't the only things that are important - once the color scheme is determined you still need the furniture right?
Crossroads, like almost every church, styles our place of worship off the Jewish temple and synagogue. Our attention is drawn toward the primary furnishings in the chancel, (that is fancy name for the front of the church) that is the area set-apart for the leading of worship.
The INSTRUMENTS and WORSHIP TEAM lead us in the music of worship. Music is important to God and is to be a part of our time given to God. The earliest Christians were Jews and came from a tradition of music and percussion. The focus of the six verses of Psalm 150 emphasized this point. Paul wrote to the early Christian churches at Colossae (3:16) and Ephesus (5:19) to sing and make music.
Each week our young people who serve as acolytes, draw our attention to two important symbols when they bring in the BIBLE, the book of our faith. And the CROSS, the primary symbol of our faith. Both of these come to the TABLE, the center of the worship. And it is here that our story begins to take shape.
Matthew 21:12-16 GNB Jesus went into the Temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the stools of those who sold pigeons, 13) and said to them, "It is written in the Scriptures that God said, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer.' But you are making it a hideout for thieves!" 14) The blind and the crippled came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15) The chief priests and the teachers of the Law became angry when they saw the wonderful things he was doing and the children shouting in the Temple, "Praise to David's Son!" 16) So they asked Jesus, "Do you hear what they are saying?" "Indeed I do," answered Jesus. "Haven't you ever read this scripture? 'You have trained children and babies to offer perfect praise.' "
When Jesus comes to the Jerusalem, it is the week he will make the ultimate sacrifice before God. But today, God's Son comes to the temple, the place of prayer and worship, a place God envisioned to be a place where all people will come to know Him. Does Jesus find the people of the nations in prayer? Does he find the masses welcomed? Comforted? Aided by the priests and pharisees to understand and learn the way of prayer?
No. No, here in the temple Jesus finds corruption and exploitation! This is not the way the followers of God are to act! Not to take advantage of those who have come from around the world to worship but to make room! To share the Way to God! And the anger of God is stirred in the heart of Jesus. If he is to give his life on the ALTAR as the perfect sacrifice, then ALL should be welcome. Jesus looked through the symbolism to the truth and truth demands action.
Through the actions of Jesus Christ, from the clearing of the temple to his death and resurrection, the ALTAR became the TABLE. Here is where we celebrate the communion meal and renew our faith. Here is where baptismal font reminds us of the forgiveness and cleansing offered to us in Jesus Christ. It is here that we place the BIBLE, the book of our faith. It is at the table we find the CROSS, the reminder of why Jesus came, for you and for me, that we might know God.
The logos of businesses and corporations help us remember so we’ll shop. But the symbols represent truth and remind us, teach us, convict us, and challenge us to stay connected to Jesus and to seek after Him daily. That is why each week it is the children who Jesus says, “have perfected praise,” who take out the Bible and Cross. And this too is a symbol, a symbol that reminds us, what takes place here, is intended to be taken to a world out there.
So when you look through the symbols, just what do you see? Pictures or objects or the truth, that God indeed loves the world? But the question becomes, what will you do with the truth you know? And will you follow the lead of our children and take the truth of Jesus to the world? With Christmas around the corner, people are looking and hoping to find God. They’re looking for imitators, and our neighbors are looking to Crossroads.
May I Ask?How will you be an imitator; a symbol to the world of God's love?
May I Suggest?Maybe it is with a Wii angel for Murphy-Harpst. Maybe it is taking an invite card and passing it on to a neighbor and inviting them to a service.
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