Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

What’s your sign?

What’s your sign?

It’s an odd choice for the front of a sanctuary.

But then again, we are in the Outer Banks. As my wife and two of my grown kids peruse a bookstore, I wander over to a small church with an obvious “OPEN” sign out front. As you may know, I have a partiality for open church buildings, so I quietly enter and look around.

Despite the annoying Southern Gospel Muzak, it’s a pleasant space. My attention quickly lands on the stained-glass window up front, with its prominent pelican.  I’m tempted to write this off as catering to the location – a church version of seashore condo decorating. But then a vague memory of a pelican as a Christian symbol flickers in my brain.

I look it up. It’s true. Long ago, when hasty observation formed thoughts on nature, it was decided that a pelican fed its young from blood taken from its breast. So, it was linked to a God who gave of himself for the sake of his children.

Below it is another sea-based symbol.  An anchor is, again, Scriptural imagery – though only used once metaphorically. In Hebrews 6:19, hope is a “sure and steadfast anchor for the soul.” (ESV).

This is one reference more, however, than scallop shells.

All these simple symbols have me wondering: what’s mine? What metaphoric image would I use to visualize my relationship with God? There are so many to choose from. Scripture is full of them, thankfully. Once, I developed a whole year of adult Sunday School lessons based on them – a different one each week.

But this morning, while reading Psalm 92, I came across this:

14They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

I’m tempted to focus on the tree image at the start of verse 14. (I’ll return to that in a coming post.) But surrounded by so much sand this week, the concept of God as a rock -- a sure and unaltered foundation to my life -- is so powerful.

Too much has been shifting, both culturally and personally. On the cultural level, I’m grieved by how much the concept of righteousness has morphed. Wickedness has been redefined as anything that keeps you or another from self-actualization. In my own life, my perspective on my life and purpose keeps shifting with aging.

It is so comforting to feel the solid rock of God’s unchanging nature underneath my faith.

Ultimately, the cross the most all-encompassing symbol for the Christian. Nothing else sums up so succinctly God’s eternal love, power, and grace.

How blessed we are, though, to have such a rich treasury of metaphors in the Word to which we can connect.  Those tangible objects, yes, anchor us to spiritual truths.

You’re on your own for the pelican one.

Lord, we thank you for all the rich symbols you embed in your word.  Work them into the way we think of you and ourselves.

Reader: What’s your sign?  (Took long enough, didn’t it?)  If you would choose a symbol for where you in are your life of faith – other than the cross – what would it be?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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