I was listening to a preacher expound on the commandment prohibiting the creation and worship of ‘graven images’. He described his simple and unadorned church where there were no stain glass Saints or depictions of God but only a simple cross to remind folks of the centrality of the cross to our faith. I found myself both disagreeing and agreeing with him. Certainly the worship of images and icons would be in opposition to worship of our “jealous God” but icons, as any computer user can attest, can open windows, and stained windows can teach the Gospel as can hymns and sermons.
I found myself though reflecting on the use of the simple cross in our churches and culture. Many years ago I was given a beautiful gold cross by a dear sister. I am not much for jewellery at the best of times but I wore this gift in thankfulness to my dear friend. Several years ago I watched the film “The Passion of the Christ” and I was terribly convicted that our culture and me in particular, had debased the cross by making it a beautiful adornment rather than a horrid instrument of execution!
I am not advocating the abolition of crosses. The problem is not so much an outward one as an inward one. The familiar gold or brass cross-images, like most familiar things, can breed a contempt for the horror of the real thing. I put my cross in a little felt box and I look at it from time to time and remember in church I train my mind to click on this icon to open a window to the reality that lies hidden behind it. In doing this I am taming my judgemental iconoclastic temperament.
Perhaps I am growing up (I hope so) but I am finding that others who may be mostly wrong, in my opinion, are probably at least partly right. The challenge for me is to seek out that part and try and incorporate it. It also means that when I am right, again in my (entirely correct) opinion, there lies a possibility that I am wrong at least in part. My task then is to seek out what part that might be and my exorcise it.
The difficulty comes in that this practise requires objectivity and I am incapable of the required level of it. I need God to help me in this exercise and I need a community of people who can and will show me (sometimes painfully) the truth, and it is after all the truth that will set us free!
Isolation sets my opinions in concrete and following God in community sets me free, within borders, to grow and change.
On another note my friend and member of our growing community, S. was unfairly expelled from his government housing and needed to move coming up with his first and last month’s rent on very short notice. A couple who are very supportive of Street Hope Saint John stepped up to help him. Out the goodness of God. This unfortunate circumstance was thus used to increase my friend’s faith and he tells everyone about the goodness of God.