Symbolism

May 24, 2017

As I attended the revival service at St. Stephen's on Tuesday night. I pulled out my phone to video part of Rev. Oliver’s sermon for Facebook.

 

As I filmed I became very aware of just how much stuff we have in our sanctuary.

 

There was Rev. Oliver in a simple white robe standing at a simple wooden lectern. 

 

There was a banner on the wall. There were paraments on the lectern, the eagle, the pulpit and the altar. There was the Paschal Candle, candles on the altar, candles behind the altar, and the candelabras on each side of the altar. There was the carved altar, and the carved wood reredos. There was the stained-glass window. 

 

And that was just what I could see in the screen of my hand-held phone.

 

I probably wouldn't have noticed, except that I've been thinking about stuff.

 

Also on Tuesday while I was on phone hold I started looking at an on-line catalog. One item caught my attention, a necklace with three attached crosses. The description read "The Trinity Cross is a graceful jewel with a symbolic meaning. It signifies the Holy Trinity and has been consecrated by the Pope. Many consider the Trinity Cross to be a magic amulet."

 

I sincerely hope that those who consider the Trinity Cross to be a magic amulet are not the same ones who will care that it has been consecrated by a Pope.


But it got me thinking about stuff, symbolism, and importance.

 

We have things in the church which have great importance. We learned last week about the symbolism of the design of our baptismal font. But the font isn't just a symbol sitting in the middle of the church. It is a physical reminder of our baptism. We have our cross, a simple empty cross reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection for our redemption.

 

Candles are wonderful. The flickering can be mesmerizing. The Lutheran church has an amazing set of rules concerning candles: the number, the placement, the order in which they are lit. (Ok, early 20th century Catholic rules are even more amazing.) Will our summer worship in the chapel be any less holy when we have only a single candle lit on the altar?

 

Our paraments tell us the season of the year via the color, and show us the symbols for several of the different names for Christ; the trefoil, Alpha/Omega, IHS. Will our summer worship in the chapel be any less holy when we have an altar covered with just a simple cloth?

 

The stained-glass windows in our sanctuary tell the story of Christ, from birth through crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Will our summer worship in the chapel be any less holy with plain-glass windows where we can go watch the world go by?


Don't get me wrong, I love our sanctuary. It was what I first fell in love with at St. Stephen's. But I do wonder if our worship wouldn't be just as meaningful if we had a little less stuff surrounding us during worship and could focus a little more on simply sharing the word of God through word and music.

 

- Ann Warner


 

 


 

 

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