Some of the best questions have more than one right answer. Some of the most iconic symbols have more than one meaning. Philosopher and Christian thinker, Paul Ricoeur, observed that our most famous symbols and emblems have the ability to carry “a surplus of meaning” on their broad shoulders.
Take, for example, the American flag. What does it mean? Ask that question, and you will get a whole wheelbarrow full of legitimate answers in response.
I might speak of the thrill that went with raising the flag one dawn at Boy Scout camp. Someone else might wax historical, citing the Flag Act of 1777. Someone would, no doubt, talk about the meaning of the fifty stars and the thirteen stripes. Someone would note that there are people in the world who despise the American flag. Someone would talk about freedom and democracy and principles worth protecting. Someone would speak with pride and sadness about the flag that sits in a polished, triangular case in their living room. Someone would tell the story of Francis Scott Key asking, “Oh, say can you see?”
The best symbols evoke strong and thoughtful responses in us. They pull at history and memory. They tug at the difference between hope and reality. Symbols can be the subject of fierce debate, but they can also unite us. They can unite us precisely because they allow us to approach—to gather around them—in so many different ways.
This coming Sunday, we will be talking about and participating in the sacrament of communion—the Lord’s Supper—in worship. Now, to be clear, I believe that the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup is more than a symbol, but like a good symbol, the table we set in God’s house has a delicious surplus of meaning.
This morning I am eager to hear: “What does taking communion mean to you?” If you have second to jot down a few thoughts, just a sentence or two, and would be willing to post them to my blog, I would really appreciate it.
Other than that, I encourage you to come hungry for the bread of life this Sunday!