On Icons and Symbolism

Last night, I had a conversation with a friend who comes from an orthodox tradition, who described a wedding, and her experience as the maid of honor. I had been to one of the churches in that denomination for something, and I remember later asking the question of “where was Jesus?” One of the other attendees explained all the symbolism, and said that it was a beautiful service. I was willing to learn different ways to honor God, at the time, but I remember thinking that was a lot of trouble just to invite Jesus into the marriage.

Probably 30 years have elapsed since then, and as my friend described her duties as maid of honor, holding a heavy crown over the bride’s head, while managing the bride’s train as they walked around a small table, holding the crown with a napkin because the crown was holy, and shouldn’t be touched. She saw beauty in all of the symbolism. I was still left with the feeling that I still didn’t get it. Why don’t you just invite the One you are remembering to reveal Himself to the hearts of those present. I may be a simpleton, or a little child, but, if I want to truely be a child, and not a mere simpleton, I need to know that my heart is not proud, nor my eyes highly regarding my own ability to understand. (Ps 131)

I compared it to the simple wedding that I had, and still strongly preferred the focus on the marriage convenant that was being made, and the God who separated man from woman was the only one who could bring man and woman truly back together, and keep them that way. Especially, since both man and woman may be already redeemed, but not fully restored. Walking in the Spirit and not the flesh is something that seems to be something that needs a lot of exercise, and is a difficult and long transition that Holy Spirit is more than willing to patiently walk with us, giving us grace over our lifetime (Rom 8:4-16)

This morning, I asked Jesus “Why do people use symbolism?” And, He replied that it was a way of repeatedly remembering Him, gaining a blessing apart from directly engaging Him.

I am reminding the oft quoted line from Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (referring to Aslan, the allegorical representation of God), “He is not a tame lion, but He is good”

It is a problem that the western institutional church faces over and over, how do you repeateably produce encounter with the living God, and blessing for the people with a lion who seems to walk away when He wills. Pastors face that every Sunday morning. Will the Lion of Judah reveal His presence in the worship, the sermon, the offering, … ? What about the people and what they desire and expect?

I believe that icons, and symbolism are something between a gift and a tool. Remembering Jesus is a very good thing. Remembering that He longs to engage us so much that He gave His life so that we could engage Him, and His Holy Spirit was sent to dwell in us continuously, so that we could experience life with Him.

God is very patient, from my experience, with the use of things to remind us of him. He used a bronze serpent in the desert to save the people from the deadly bites of serpents. Later, as they venerated it as something special God did “back then”, King Hezekiah (Yah strengthens) cleansed the land of idol worship, and broke in pieces the serpent image that Moses had made (2 Kings 18:4), regarding it as a thing of brass Scripture notes that the people of Judah were burning incense to it. So the brass snake was useful, to train the people to look to God for healing, through the way that God chose.

God choosing was important to the backstory of how the snakes came to be sent to the children of Israel that they might be delivered from a different evil, lightly God, and lightly regarding leader/intercessor whom God had chosen, Moses. (Num 21:5-8)

So since even as the law was a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ” (Gal 3:24), the goal is important. But it is not good to lightly regard the ways that The Father lights the path to His Son, Jesus. And it is not good to lightly value His children who are on that path.

Even as I write this, Holy Spirit is calling me to “do likewise”, not just write about my understanding of the revelation that He gave, but to take time to actively engage Him. Lord, what do you want to talk about this morning?