Posts Tagged ‘symbolism’

Let us give meaning to the Bread and WineJesus loved to speak in stories, symbols and metaphors. The supernatural world is indescribable otherwise. Our language is unable to represent something we do not know or understand. The meaning is revealed over time.

I Corinthians 11:26
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt. [The Message Bible]

Bread and wine were used throughout Jewish history, from manna to unleavened bread to the Temple showbread. But, at the last supper, Jesus takes bread and intentionally breaks it and shares it with the disciples (and probably everyone else who was in the room, since I believe there were women and servers there as well, and it was not a “private” event as is so often depicted). He is setting up a symbol to be repeated and to have meaning throughout history.

So often, we think of the “bread” (what we now call communion bread) as something he is doing for us. We are consuming it, we are gaining. But today, I am thinking about the implications for him. He is symbolically cutting up his body for the sake of others. His death and sacrifice begins that night.

And all that He asks is that we remember and keep remembering. “Touch me, smell me, eat me, drink me, and be whole,” He says through the sacrifice. The Jewish rituals of old had prepared people for the New Covenant. It was still the same: sacrifice for sin, offerings for forgiveness, awareness for new beginnings.

Contemporary Christians have lost the deep significance in the consuming of Christ’s symbols of body and blood. Plastic drink cups and dry crackers are poor substitutes. In this regard, it’s very possible that “high church” folks have it right.

On Memorial Days, we consider the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives. It’s holy and solemn and thoughtful. Should Christ’s memorial be any less from week to week or month to month?

The body and blood, the bread and wine, has the power to transform us. I want to remember. I want to really remember today.

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Tree outlined by the sunSt. Augustine wrote, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.” There are so many symbols, motifs and archetypes that were intended to prepare the people for the coming Messiah. I wonder if this isn’t true for every life?

I Corinthians 10:1b, 3-4
. . . our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. . . . They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

I am not a theologian or an academic and I haven’t actually studied all the correlations between the Old Testament and the New. But Paul alludes to these relationships directly in this passage from I Corinthians 10 with his clouds and water and food and rocks. These words are powerful representations of presence, power, eternity, strength, and much more.

But what is the application of this passage for me? Were there clouds and water in my own short history before I came to the revelation knowledge of the Christ in my life? Did I eat God-food before I recognized it for what it was? Did I lean on a rock that was higher [Psalm 61:2]?

There are so many people and experiences that pass through a life outside of our control. Oh sure, I chose to go to New York to acting school, but I had no control over the makeup of the student body. Tom, who introduced me to the Bible as a living, breathing document, was part of that group. And maybe New Age stuff or fantasy reading may not be the best influence on an impressionable young woman, but it did set my mind on the “other world,” the world of Spirit where truer battles are waged, won and lost. In high school, I chose my friends, but how could I have known that it would be some of their parents who would impact my beliefs for a lifetime. I attended a predominately black public high school during some of the most tumultuous years of black history, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. As a result, I became much more sensitized and aware of cruelties and disparities between people, race to race, poor to rich, old to young. Later, in New York, I would go to school with his daughter, Yolanda, and my circle of understanding grew richer.

Symbols of meaning for me today that grew out of my past: small white lights on a Christmas tree, flowing waters of a stream, winter trees outlined by a setting sun, the purring of a cat, the smell of pine, unending circles like wreaths of fresh flowers or dancers or people holding hands, candles lighting a dark place, rain, stuffed bears, smooth stones, . . .

All of these have come to have much greater meaning to me as an adult. They can take me quickly into the secret place where I can commune. If I feel or hear or touch any of these things, I am with God. And I can only believe, back then, somewhere, somehow, God was with me before I even knew there was a God.

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What is it about this word, “righteousness,” that makes me recoil? Surely it must be the other word: “self-righteous” that jumps up into my mind instead. But they are actually direct opposites.

Romans 1:17
For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith]. As it is written, The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by faith.

The thesaurus is most revealing for the word righteousness: devotion, devoutness, godliness, holiness, piety, reverence, sacredness, saintliness, spirituality, worship, zeal. These synonyms make more sense when Paul says that righteousness is revealed and springs forth from faith.

Faith is the roots of the tree and righteousness the growth above ground. As the tree grows up, the roots grow down deeper into the soul. The entire tree grows stronger and healthier. Both the roots and the trunk are needed for a healthy tree. They strengthen each other.

I think the self-righteous are those who have no roots. They are only concerned with the trunk and the branches of their tree. They have the appearance of righteousness, but it’s really only form, a skeleton. With the first storm, this type of tree will fall.

Over and over again, the tree image keeps coming back to me as a word picture for my life. My maiden name, Berzins, means “little birch tree.” In years past, I have planted many trees as a testament and thanksgiving for “place.” I have prayed under certain trees near the Susquehanna and found peace there. I had God-inspired visions and warnings of my life as a tree that had moved away from the living water. I am deeply grieved when trees are cut down nonchalantly or broken by wind and lightning. I am grateful for the trees in the woods behind our home. They are sources of beauty all year round from buds in the spring to full foliage in the summer, autumn rainbows, and skeletons in winter outlined by the sun that sets behind them each day. Trees are symbols for many faiths and beliefs.

Today, the tree is my personal symbol for uniting my faith with my actions. Amen.

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