Los Alamos Church of Christ
Look at the following symbols. Note your emotions as you observe them…
--Give each of them either a thumbs up if you feel positive.
--A thumbs down if you feel negative.
--Thumbs sideways if you feel nothing.
(Nike swoosh, stop sign, poison, dollar eye, fish, Starbucks, flag, swastika, McDonalds arches)
The point of this is not whether or not you like McDonald’s. Rather, the point is that we are surrounded by symbols. These symbols play on the internal connections we make between the symbol and the reality. Each of these symbols represents something. we instantly make the emotional connections between them. The flag is nothing but cloth. The swastika is only black lines. But the realities that are behind these symbols are real; some are holy; some are evil; but they make connections. We make connections, within us, between symbols and reality.
This human characteristic of association… this ability to make connections… this automatic emotional link… is the power behind the third of our nine temperaments. This morning we are going to attempt to learn how to use symbols to find more sweet spots of worship. This morning we begin to explore the Temperament of Traditionalist.
Traditionalists connect to the LORD through symbol.
Throughout the Bible God has used symbols to connect to his people…
--Tree of the knowledge of good and evil
--Rainbow after the flood
--Circumcision to Abraham
--The Tabernacle… with the Ark of the Covenant
--The Temple covered in gold and purple.
--Listen to this passage…
ESV Joshua 4:1-7 When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, "Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, 'Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.'" Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, "Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever."
--These twelve stones formed a symbol of a faithful God who brought them miraculously in the Land of Promise… a symbol… a memorial… forever!
--Through the prophets there are…. Altars, lightning strikes, pots, wheels within wheels, bones bringing people back to life and torn robes… symbols connecting to YWHW.
--Then in the New Testament… Jesus is the way… the door… the blood of the covenant… the bread of life… the water of life… keep going…
--All the way through to the book of Revelation… Lamb of God, Crystal Sea, 666, New Jerusalem, Lake of fire… all are used by John to connect us a reality behind each symbol.
God created symbols. God has always used symbols. Traditionalists connect to the LORD through symbol.
The major symbol of Christianity is the… cross.
Look at the crosses… on your handouts… Scan down the different crosses.
If this jazzes you then you are connecting as a Traditionalist.
There is a rich history of Christian symbols which can connect us to the LORD.
Traditionalists connect to the LORD through such symbols.
One form of symbolism is ritual. Ritual is symbols in action. For the traditionalist rituals provide a way for us to enter into God's glory and still be protected from a force that is too great for human experience. Rituals connect us to an act of God, a story that tells us about God. Rituals use the physical to represent the spiritual. Things done in routine can connect us to the spiritual realities. Through the story, remembered in ritual, we connect to the heart of God.
Our traditions, here at the Los Alamos Church of Christ, are certainly not like many high churches. Our building is kind of plain, except for the upstairs’ hallway. We don’t wear robes or have choirs or do very much with crosses or incense or much of that kind of thing. But I want to advocate that we too have our symbols and rituals which are precious to us.
One of our core beliefs is the priesthood of all believers. We believe that all of us are able to connect to God and help each other connect to God. So, we have sort of a reverse symbolism.
--I don’t wear a robe… as a sign that we are all one.
--We don’t use titles such as reverend, or brother, or pastor… we are all reverend…holy.
--Any of us can offer the blessing of communion… because we are all priests. We pass it to one another because we are all holy in the body.
--Our kids gather the collection because of such is the kingdom of heaven.
--We do our prayer and praise time together as a symbol of our family.
--When we do baptisms often a parent or teacher does the baptisms… why... because we are all priests.
--We do our family circle to symbolize the unity of family.
--We sing acapella to emphasize… we all can stand before the throne as the angels singing Holy, Holy, Holy!
--Our baby dedication is important as we invite a new life into the body. Kids… of such is the kingdom of heaven.
--We don’t really have members… like a roll our an official in and out of our church. We believe in the church as the entire body of Christ.
Our beliefs are reflected in our rituals and symbols or lack of them. So…
--When we pass the plate to another… connect to that priest of Christ.
--When we sing Happy Birthday… know that person is a child of God.
--As you hear of Aunt Susie’s cancer… offer a quite prayer because you are priest in the sanctuary.
--As you listen to readings of scripture from some who are not professional readers… connect to the heart of the person speaking the words of God.
--As a kid disturbs your concentration… think… for such is the kingdom of heaven.
--When we sing… know your voice is going to the throne of God
My point is… we do have symbols and rituals with which we need to engage to find those sweet spots of worship.
Now let me make the opposite point. Someone who is high in the traditionalist score is probably going to want more visual symbols and more historical rituals. I think, even though we are not high church, we can as a church and as individuals, work on making this a more meaningful venue of connection. That is the challenge we will explore over the next few weeks.
But now is the time for us to take the Traditionalist Temperament Test.
Traditionalist Temperament Test
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 describing you…
1. I follow the rituals of the holidays… I decorate Christmas trees. I have turkey on Thanksgiving. I watch the fireworks on the 4th. I decorate Easter eggs. I dress up on Halloween. I do many of the things associated with the Holidays. If this is true give yourself a10. Or, If you say bah-humbug a 1.
2. I am moved by patriotic symbols… I stand up for the National Anthem. I say the Pledge of Allegiance. I respect the flag. I am upset when others don’t.
3. I pray written prayers. I can quote the Lord’s Prayer. I write public prayers when called upon to pray. I connect to old prayers.
4. I have or would like to have a meaningful tattoo. Think about it. I see the value of a tat as a symbolic connection.
5. I connect to old hymns. “Amazing Grace”, “Old Rugged Cross”, “A Mighty Fortress”. The old songs are the best.
6. I visit old church buildings. When I enter a stunningly beautiful church, just the loveliness around me lifts my heart to God. Not as a sensate who connects to the art, but I connect to the symbol.
7. I connect to the rhythm of church services. If we did the same order of worship every week I would be content. I have enjoyed saying the Shema every week this year. I really don’t like to try new things at church.
8. I enjoy deciphering stained glass windows. Symbols catch my attention. I am going to read the handout about the crosses.
9. The use of candles, flowers, or decorations helps me sense the presence of God.
10. I love weddings for the ritual. All of the ceremonies, the traditions, the symbols show the importance of marriage. Don’t answer as a romantic or sensate… But the ritual of marriage is important.
Let’s find out our joint score of the Traditionalist Temperament. Over 50, over 60, over 70?
We are made in the image of God. What? We are symbols of God. Mind blowing thought. I am a symbol; an image; a ritual-life pointing to my God! We represent our Holy God to the world. Symbols are important to our relationship to God. Rituals remind us of who we are. Traditions connect us to the past. Ceremonies move us closer to our God.
Let’s do one… Let’s do a ritual… Stand and join me in reciting The Shema.
ESV Mark 12:29-30 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
My temperament is God’s gift to me.
My temperament is my gift to God.
My temperament is my gift to the body.
My temperament is my gift to the world.
March 20, 2016
Los Alamos Church of Christ