Years ago, I was having the initial meeting with a bride to be and her fiancé. The wedding was quite away off and I wanted to talk about the Biblical concept of marriage and what God intended it to be and see how it fit in with her and her fiancés notions. That is always an interesting conversation but she wanted nothing of that. She wanted to talk about the ceremony, the music, the vows, the order and the ritual. He didn’t seem to want to talk about much of anything.

We got off on the wrong foot when she wanted the song from a current movie which meant at that time a paean to teenage hormonal craziness. She wanted three songs and only one of them was even close to being lovely and uplifting, let alone a witness to Christ, or about marriage for that
matter. She said that she knew I would be stodgy because I had baptized her and that made me old. I said it wasn’t baptizing her that made me old, but that a baptized child of God would think that kind of music was OK in the church was the kind of thing that made me old. I brought up a tag line from when I was growing up and said, “just because it has a good beat and you can dance to it doesn’t make it ok for a wedding”.

I said the conversation was getting old and we should go through the rest of the ceremony and come back to the music later. She said, “I don’t know what you are getting all upset about. They are symbolic.” We went through the invocation, opening remarks, lessons, the sermon, the places where songs would be sung (maybe), and when I got to the spot where the ring ceremony would take place, I skipped it and went to the vows.  She jumped on that right away. I said we were going to skip the ring ceremony at which point she really got wound up. I let her rant and rave for a while and somewhere along the line I said, “I don’t know what you are getting so upset about. It’s only a symbol”. She got quiet and her eyes got big and we had a wonderful meeting after the that. The importance of symbols, like everything else, are in the eye of the beholder. This last week was all about symbols. Flags and flyovers and fireworks, tanks, tennis shoes and, wait for it….tattoos. A congressman had the Betsy Ross flag tattooed to his arm in reaction to Nike and Kaepernick. As a symbolic action that might take the cake. Symbolic reaction to a symbolic action against a symbol.
It would be fun to get into the difference between signs and symbols, types and antitypes, icons and image but…maybe for awhile let’s thinkabout what the word symbol means. It comes from the Greek and means “thrown together”. What does that mean in the symbol of rings, wedding candles, the cord of three strands, and the symbol (mystery) of Christ and the church as Paul says in Ephesians 5? Who are we thrown together with and why? Now, how about flags and anthems as symbols? Who are we thrown together with and why? Maybe it is summed up in the words
Christian folks mention from time to time, that we get thrown together for correction and reproof, for mutual consolation and support, for building one another up. Antagonisms come and go, but symbols have seemed to last. Maybe that is why we have had the push lately to get rid of as many
symbols as we can. There is a symbolism in those acts too.