A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

January 22, 2014

Reblogged from: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

”A picture is worth a thousand words,” the saying goes; although it’s a bit of a misnomer. Words themselves, are pictures. For example, if I say the word, “duck,” what do you see? Are you running to get under your office desk or are you getting bread to feed a mallard? Here’s another example. What does the following say–”Godisnowhere.” Are you a hopeful optimist understanding that “God is now here?” Maybe you’re going through a dark time, and you can only see “God is nowhere.” The dark squiggles on the white background are certainly important, but equally important is the “negative space” in-between making sense of the letters. ”The importance of negative space” is another sermon for another time. I say this because reading scripture is never boring, especially when we try to make sense of words written thousands of years ago in a different culture and different language.

So, the church has found a powerful shortcut, if you will: symbols. Instead of saying, “The Triune God; Father, Son and Spirit, in mutual and shared adoration,” we draw a Triangle. Instead of saying, “The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, incarnate Word of the living God,” we draw a Cross. Instead of openly asking a friend if he or she is a member of an outlawed group of Christians, those in the early church would draw a fish in dirt.

Symbols surround us each and every day: the golden arches, the hidden FedEx arrow, the blue Facebook f, the green, yellow, and red of a traffic signals. The list goes on, and when you think of it, it’s maddening.

What are the symbols of the Christian faith? Some are easy–the cross, the dove, the chalice, but what about a King Cake or a fleur-de-lis or a Pelican? Many of our favorite cultural symbols have roots in the church.

What symbol speaks to you? When you think of God, what do you see? Is God an old man with a white beard sitting in the clouds? Maybe God defies symbolic description, at least, that was part of the point behind the commandment to have no graven images–nothing made on earth can quite capture the divine. Maybe your picture of God is like picturing “justice,” or “freedom” or “love.” In other words, you really can’t define God; rather God must be experienced.

May you experience the abundant life of God in each and every day.