Symbols (Pt 1)

deer iconGood Morning Brothers…

I can always tell upon entering another home whether or not they hunt. Sometimes it isn’t always immediately evident, but sooner or later, I’ll be ushered into the room containing the “heads”. Often times, my host, will take great pleasure in recounting each story for each “head”. Recapping time of day, location, weather conditions, and their weapon of choice. Many believe that these “wall hangers” are trophy’s designed to prop up our ego, but I disagree. If I really wanted to brag about my deer mount, I would hang it in your house…not my own. Saying that, I’m reminded of the numerous sporting good stores and their penchant for displaying mounts taken by local hunters and identifying “said” hunter with a plaque bearing their name. That may be bragging…I’ll have to ponder that a bit.

I think of these “heads” as memorials, or remembrances. When I look up at the different mounts within my own home, I remember that time and place. I can feel the chilly inhalation of a frosty morning in my lungs, or see the setting sun as it dipped below the tree tops. The sounds of the forest, in that moment, come back to me and I find myself remembering life as it was. I remember the ages of my kids, my work schedule, the last conversation with my wife…I am transported back in time to that moment. That mount…becomes a symbol of the moment. Furthermore, the mount seems more like a symbol than a picture does. Think about it this way…a picture of the mountains serves as a visual reminder to my time there, however, the picture doesn’t contain anything of the mountain itself. The deer mount is a symbol with skin on it (or hide) an actually displays the antlers of the animal. It serves as a picture with substance beyond the visual image. It is a symbol of a moment in time, when something physically happened, which causes my memory to anchor into that event. This is why the practice of purchasing mounts for decorative purposes is frowned upon in the hunting community. You can’t purchase another guy’s “symbol” of his moment. You just can’t…!

The CROSS is such a symbol.

I’ve often wondered why the Cross has become the symbol of our faith and not the empty tomb. I mean, lots of people died on the cross but only One died their and then rose again. I’ve wondered if we, Christians of all kind, have fixated on the death of Jesus, and through our use of symbols, forget the empty tomb. Now…I know we haven’t forgotten the empty tomb, but think about all of the houses of worship we have been in…how many empty tombs have we seen? Honestly, I can’t think of too many. This disparity in our symbolism caused me to research the use of the cross as a “symbol”. Theology aside (and there is a lot) the Cross is a symbol of victory. Before Jesus died on the Cross, it was already a symbol of death. Roman culture understood that people went there to die, just like our culture understands that the electric chair is a symbol of death. It serves no other purpose. When Christ walked out of that tomb, bringing salvation to all who believe, He changed the Cross from a symbol of death into a symbol of life. Death was defeated, death lost its sting, death…died that day. Death has been hanging on that Cross ever since.

The Crucifix is a Cross with the corpus (Latin for body) of Jesus fixed to it. If you are unfamiliar with the Crucifix, please understand that the corpus is not actually Jesus’ body (remember the empty tomb). It is the artists interpretation of the emotions of Jesus while He hung there. Some show Jesus looking defiant and majestic as He takes on the sins of the world and defeats death once and for all. Others show Jesus with head bowed in submission and compliance to the will of God the Father. Some even show Jesus in agony in order to highlight the pain and suffering He endured for our sakes. These different artistic representations of Christ on the Cross, all reveal the artists spiritual understanding of that moment.  Above all else, the Crucifix symbolizes that the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Messiah…died there. The Cross and the Crucifix is a symbol with skin on it. It serves as a picture with substance beyond the visual image. It is a symbol of a moment in time, when something physically happened, which causes our memory to anchor into that event. I am sure that the early followers of Jesus would look toward the hill at Golgotha, after Jesus had ascended to sit down at the right hand of God, when the Romans were still executing criminals by death on the Cross…and they remembered. Christian symbols are important to our faith, they are not empty of meaning nor empty of Presence. They cause in us stirrings of the Spirit which help us remember life as it was, life as it is, and life as it will be.

When we look upon the Cross, when we look upon the Crucifix, we see a symbol of Christ’s willingness. He was willing to take our sins upon Himself. He was willing to die there in order that we may be free from the bondage of sin and death. He was willing to suffer that we may have life…and have it abundantly. He was willing…to love.

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