This sermon written and delivered by Sonya Brown.
We can all think of symbols that are significant to us, our culture, and communities we are part of. There are symbols that are recognized on a national and global level as well. You see a golden arch and you know there’s a McDonalds. A red cross usually identifies humanitarian aid medical treatment. Symbols are significant from what we read in books and in movies. An example is the three finger salute by Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games. Katniss holds up three fingers to the camera after the passing of Rue and you see District 11 hold up three fingers as well. This gesture became a symbol throughout the series. This three finger salute more recently has become a symbol of resistance and solidarity for the democracy movement across south-east Asia.
Sometimes symbols can change meaning. The swastika symbol has a negative association and is desecrated by Hitler and his Nazis regime. In my Navajo culture, this symbol is the whirling log that represents well being, good luck, and protection. You could find this symbol on artwork, baskets, Navajo rugs and blankets, and clothing prior to World War II.
We also can recognize symbols when we read Scripture. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit during Jesus’ baptism. The dove also represents peace during Advent and the Christmas season. We may have ornaments of this to adorn our tree or cards during this season. There’s the symbol of the pillar of cloud and fire from Exodus that represents God’s guidance for the people of Israel. The symbols within Scripture are significant when we understand why they have meaning. The symbol of the cross is recognized worldwide. Even if you don’t know much about Scripture or who Jesus is, you usually know when you see a cross on a building, it’s most likely a church. Or, if you see someone wearing a cross, they’re most likely a believer of Christ.
But the cross has also been a symbol of terror. European soldiers marched under the banner of the cross during the crusades. The KKK burns crosses to terrorize people of color. More broadly, we as Christians are not always known for looking like Jesus. In a Barna poll from 2007 found that younger generations see Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, too political, anti-gay and more. For them, the Cross is not a symbol of liberation and life.