A World of Symbols
Our world is filled with signs and objects which stand for attributes, concepts, or abstract ideas. Wedding rings remind us of love and commitment; product brands speak to us of style or quality. Emblems identify organization; Oscars and Emmys and academic cords connote excellence. Portraits, statues, and photographs depict historical events and thus help us preserve our cultural, national, and personal memories and heritages. We hold tightly to different religious traditions and rituals and symbols because they represent deep aspects of our beliefs. Some of us find meaning in the “atomic whirl”, others in lotus flowers and banners. Some of us fly prayer flags or burn incense while chanting mantras; others of us have prayer rugs and bow deeply as we pray facing Mecca. Some of us have dream catchers and ceremonial dances. Some of us light Menorahs, wear skull caps and phylacteries and rock when we pray. Others of us have rosary beads and icons. Some of us sing doxologies and share the wine and bread of communion and rejoice over baptisms.
However, we all share the beauty and grandeur of the heavens and the earth. Lying behind the mysteries of our cosmos’ magnificent and immense complexity is a transcendent power, a greatness, and a precise and caring creativity which should at least raise the question of God’s existence. Scripture says creation is definite proof of God’s existence and leaves us no excuse for unbelief. (Romans 1:18) And King David prayed, “ Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.” (from a prayer of King David in 1 Chronicles 29:9-20)
Inspired by a hilltop view of a church spire and the Avon river running through the countryside, F. S. Pierpoint wrote the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth. Each stanza is followed with the phrase; “Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.“
“For the beauty of the earth/For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth/Over and around us lies,
For the beauty of each hour/Of the day and of the night,Hill and vale, and tree and flower/Sun and moon and stars of light,
For each perfect gift of thine/To our race so freely given,Graces human and divine/Flowers of earth and buds of heaven,
For thy Church which evermore/Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore/Her pure sacrifice of love,”
The beauty of flowering plants, a bright and clear blue sky, and a new England Church steeple pointed toward the heavens and topped with the symbol of Heaven’s grace to us is a reminder of Sovereign God. Crosses atop many Protestant and Catholic church spires prompt thoughts of incomparable, divine, redemptive love given us in the sacrifice of Christ. They symbolize the possibility of salvation, ultimate victory over death, and eternal hope for all who choose to believe.
“Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”