Monday, March 05, 2012

You Shall Not Make Any Graven Image

Pastor Wiest told the story of chatting with a few Wiccans one day. They had noticed his funny-lookin' pastor-clothes, and so they asked him about his crucifix and what he believed. One of them, having been raised Christian, knew the passage from the ten commandments (Exodus 20) about not making "graven images." The gals asked if his crucifix wasn't a graven image and wondered how that fit with the prohibition against worshiping false gods. His response was not what I expected. He said, "But this isn't a false god. This is the true God."

A friend asked once, "Who is the man in the picture with you, on the sidebar of your blog?" I told him, "That's my dad." That's what he expected me to say.

Those Wiccans knew that Pastor Wiest didn't think that the little piece of metal hanging over his heart was, itself, his god. They knew he meant that it depicted his God. Just like you and I know that my dad is not an arrangement of electricity and pixels on a computer screen. He's a flesh-and-blood person who begat me and taught me to bowl and ate supper with me. Still, we say of the photo, "That's my dad."

That was the only response I ever had for the iconoclasts (the people who disapprove of crucifixes, icons, stained glass windows in churches, and creches at Christmastime). But a friend's blog yesterday mentioned something from the 700's. St John of Damascus (whom we Lutherans might know because of his hymns "The Day of Resurrection" and "Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain") said that we can make graven images now.   (Aside: I'm not saying I agree with everything at this link. Some Orthodox writers talk about icons as representations of salvation history and the saints, while others talk about icons as a way to have a mystical encounter with the saints. Representations I understand; it kinda creeps me out to hear talk of icons being a means to communicate with those who've gone on before.)

Anyway, back to John's point.    In the Old Testament times, God did not have a body. But in Christ's incarnation, God took on flesh. And if Jesus has a face, we are able to draw pictures of it, based on the pictures drawn by the guys who hung out with Him a couple of millenia ago. If God has a body, we can make a statue depicting it, especially when it shows what He has done to save us.

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