Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gateway Arch and Westward Expansion

Well, yesterday I found a wireless hub out in Missouri that didn’t charge $10/day for the service. Unfortunately I only had a few minutes to use the network, and didn’t get a chance to blog. So I’m trying to make up for that today.

Monday we started driving at around 5AM, and arrived at our destination late Monday night. We passed through a few cities, but probably the most famous was St. Louis. (Interestingly, we also passed through Louisville a few hours earlier. I guess when the French acquired the land the really were trying to honor King Louis--after all, much of this area was acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

So while driving down the road I was able to get this shot of the gateway arch. I had no idea, that this monument was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vision of westward expansion. Isn’t that the way with so much of our life though. We see symbols all of the time, and they have a degree of familiarity, but we don’t take time to contemplate what the origin of a symbol might be. We enjoy landmarks, but don’t really take in the appearance of the landmark beyond it’s aesthetic.

When you think about the gateway arch, it symbolizes the westward expansion of America. But often we don’t think about the cost. We don’t think about the lives lost, the lives, displaced, and the lives enslaved that made that expansion possible. We don’t take in the fullness of what a symbol represents.

The cross is a similar symbol. Many people wear crosses for aesthetics, they take comfort in seeing the cross. But how often do people fully consider all that the cross represents. Do we think about the cost of the cross? What exactly did it mean and feel like for Jesus to “become sin”? How utterly excruciating was the suffering that He underwent? When we say we are thankful for the cross, how often to reflect upon what exactly that cross meant, and how deep our gratitude should be?

When we use symbols, we are attempting to pack a robustness of meaning and sentiment in a simple way. It’s kind of like a picture being worth a thousand words. I encourage you to reflect on the cross, and I also encourage you to take a look at the signs and symbols that surround you. What are they communicating to you? What does the cross tell you about you? What does it tell you about God, sin, love, mercy, beauty, and sacrifice?

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