Diving Deep into Signs and Symbols

Photo by Walter Zamojski.

By Bryon Hansen, Pastor of Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA

During Lent those in the catechumenal process enter into an intensive time of baptismal preparation. As guest blogger Bryon Hansen suggests, it’s a fitting time to reflect on the role of our faith symbols and signs. For more on PRLC’s catechumenate click here.

“Walking wet” is a phrase I’ve heard many times over the years. It was shorthand for living out our baptism. For me, it was a great image but seemed to be nothing more. I often wondered what it really looked like to walk wet. Was it simply a nice phrase or just one more concept for which I had to crack open some kind of “meaning?”

I think when we speak of walking wet we must return again and again to the primary signs and symbols through which God speaks to us and touches us. Otherwise the Christian faith can so easily fall into the realm of the abstract.

This is why we must be bold and even messy in our use of holy things. We drench people in water. We anoint them lavishly. We give lighted candles dripping with wax. We share a real loaf of bread and drink from a large cup. We receive water splashed on our bodies. Life in Christ touches the whole person – body, mind and spirit.

One of the big reasons I am such a proponent of the catechumenate is its engagement with the primary signs and symbols through which God touches us. We go deep with them in worship and through the catechumenate we reflect upon them as a primary means of discovering who we are and who God calls us to be.

The process of welcoming newcomers into our midst revolves around and points back again to God’s living word and life giving touch. In the catechumenate relationships are built, the Scripture is placed in the very center of reflection and prayer, the movement of the Spirit is honored, the Christian life is demonstrated in works of mercy, and the things of worship become real in everyday life. Participating in the catechumenate is less about concepts and much more about encountering the living God who chooses to touch us through holy things and holy people.

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