Symbols We have Seen on High

Symbols are an important part of Reformed worship. We use light and darkness, crosses, doves, shepherds and sheep to help us see God, who in Christ and through the Spirit is redeeming us. We do this because as Reformed Christians we believe that life and worship are one. A variety of media is appropriate in the Reformed worship service. Increasingly, wood and glass, architecture, inspiring banners, paintings, musical compositions, and liturgical dance are being used to touch our hearts and to help us sing God's praise.

Mobile with a Message

Convinced of the importance of symbols in worship, the worship committee of Coquitlam (B.C.) Christian Reformed Church planned a mobile that would enhance worship during a four- week series of services on the incarnation.

Because the committee wanted to involve as many members as possible, they made the mobile large: approximately twenty feet wide and ten feet tall. Suspended from a thirty-foot sail pole on the ceiling of the church, the mobile was equipped with a pulley for lowering it to floor level. The symbols were designed from colorful pieces of felt.

On each of the four Sundays the mobile was lowered to floor level. Then members of the congregation, representative of all age groups, explained the significance of eight new symbols and hung them on the mobile. When the symbols were in place, the mobile was raised again to its full height. After four weeks, thirty-two symbols circled gracefully above the congregation, catching everyone's attention and inviting contemplation on the richness and profundity of God's work throughout salvation history.

The Symbols and Their Meaning

The four worship services were unified by one theme: Christ came to earth to fulfill God's promises. Each service focused on one aspect of that theme. And in each service eight new symbols—four from the Old Testament and four parallel symbols from the New—were added to the mobile.

The first week the congregation saw Christ as the healer of a fallen world. Old Testament symbols included a globe, representing creation, and an apple, the sign of humanity's fall into sin. From the New Testament came the star of David, a "bright and morning star" over a fallen world, and the Tree of Life, with leaves for healing a world ruined by the fall.

The service for the second week centered around the patriarchs and the revelation they were given of the future Redeemer of life. A ram reminded the congregation of Abraham's sacrifice on Mount Moriah. A lamb pointed to the greater sacrifice of God's own Son. A ladder represented Jacob's vision at Bethel; an angel, another communication of God at the birth of his Son, Immanuel.

In week three the congregation looked at the early leaders and kings of God's people and contrasted them to the Redeemer King. They chose an oil lamp to represent Samuel, the judge who served in the tabernacle and brought some light in a dark age; and a sun to remind them of Christ, our greatest light, the light of the world. A crown reminded them of Solomon, the

wisest and wealthiest of rulers, who was still tarnished by sin; and a scepter, of Christ, the perfect Lord of lords and King of kings forever.

The fourth week contrasted Old Testament priests and prophets and kings with the perfect prophet, priest, and king. The group added an altar to remind them of Zechariah's offering for the sins of the people; a cross for the greatest of all sin offerings.

Worth the Effort

The project, which involved a great deal of time and incorporated the thoughtful participation of many people, is an example of what ordinary worshipers can do to enhance the beauty of praising God. The wonder of the incarnation became more real and poignant for the Coquitlam congregation through the use of colorful symbols that pointed to God's glory.

Helen Breems is a member and director of music at Pullman Christian Reformed Church in Chicago, and is choir director at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois.

Reformed Worship 1 © September 1986, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.