I never know what to name my blog posts. So, I end up with stupid titles like this one, and think of all the cheesiest ways to relate it back to the intended blog message. I am not going to do that to you.
Before I begin talking about Symbols, and why they have been a recurring theme this week, please take a minute to stare at "symbol" and "cymbal." What an odd conjunction of letters. It only takes four seconds before I think they are misspelled. Weird words.
Really though, Symbols.
Monday night my Marion Spring Break team went to the Community School of the Arts and met with the director. He was a dynamic, talkative guy who somehow got on the subject of not feeling comfortable in churches. He doesn't like the raising of hands or "making a show" in church. I understand that. I started thinking about how potentially a lot of artists might not feel very comfortable in church settings. Most churches have cultural symbols that they get attached to and stick to. They are inherited symbols, and because they come from the Church, we don't question their purpose. We can tell that this is true when we go into churches in which we know that the regular order of worship hasn't changed at all since the Grandmothers were toddlers in the very same church. This isn't bad, maybe. This is just an observation. Unless we create them, or discover something detrimental about the old ones, symbols in churches rarely change--even our language doesn't change.
I can see why this would be a problem for the artistic crowd (and thus should potentially be a problem the church must address). Artists create symbols all the time. It is their mind's work to find new ways to represent truth and beauty and goodness in some powerful manifestation. It is the refreshing and readjusting of these symbols that keeps our minds renewed. After all, a symbol is not an end in itself, it always represents something. If we are creating symbols that are true to what they represent, then we should not be worried that a symbol change will skew the true of the message. When we worry about symbol renewal, we worry about breaking out of tradition, we worry about "not doing something the way its always been done." And, in my personal opinion, this often leads us to worship the symbol instead of that which it represents.
This is a difficult task in a church. After all, many powerful symbols have already been created, and are GOOD. Communion, baptism, songs of worship, etc., are all good, and quite important, really. But, not as important as what they represent. If we do not need to renew these symbols, then we do need to renew the way we see them, lest they become dead practices of a dead people.
I do not know how all of this works, but I think that the people of American Christianity (for that is the only culture of Christianity I know), hold on to many a symbol, in many a denomination, and have become partial to and partisan about their symbols. This does not mean that we should go out and start new churches in cities where there are already hundreds, but it does mean that we should come into who we are a creative beings and breathe new, God-given life into the symbols and traditions in the buildings we meet in every Sunday, of every week.
After all, would it be too terrible if a Methodist Church recited a liturgy, or if we learned to powerfully use everyday language instead of "Christianese" when we talked with people? Sounds crazy, I know. Sometimes, though, I think we need crazy to wake us up from complacent rhythms of everyday life.
(This thought process was spurred on by a visit to an Episcopal Church in Marion during this Holy Week. Each service was VERY powerful to me. I had never really experienced liturgy before, and was VERY impressed by the power of the new symbols I was witness too).