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Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Tag Archives: image

Mercy Seat

I was reading the story of the wilderness journey and the construction of the tabernacle and it made me think about the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.

Whilst initially, the construction of the gold-covered wooden box with cherubim either side might look like Israel’s version of an idol, this building directive is in stark contrast to the culture around them at the time, a culture of images / idols carved out of wood or cast from precious metals.

The difference that drew my attention was this:

Then make a mercy-seat from pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. Make two cherubim out of beaten gold. Make them at the two ends of the mercy-seat. Make one cherub on one end and one cherub on the other end. Make the top of the mercy-seat, with the cherubim at each end, of one piece. The wings of the cherubim should spread up over the mercy-seat. Their faces should be toward each other, and toward the mercy-seat. Put the mercy-seat on top of the box. Put the Law which I will give you into the box. I will meet with you there. Between the two cherubim which are upon the special box of the Law, I will speak to you about all the Laws I will give you for the people of Israel.

Exodus 25:17-22 (New Life Version)

God requested a seat to be made for him to come and meet with the representative of the people. (at this stage it was spoken to Moses but later on it would be the high priest).

God didn’t want anything to be made to represent Him, or something that could be worshipped in itself, he wanted somewhere to ‘sit’ while he talked with the people.

It’s fully in keeping with both the God who says ‘make no image‘ and also the God who comes to live in and with us, first through the person of Jesus (John 10:38 / John 14:10+11) and then for those that choose to have relationship with Christ, in and through us (John 14:20 / John 17:21).

The box is not the important bit, nor is the ‘mercy seat’, but the one who comes to sit on it and be with his people.

It reminded me of a ‘voice of the day’ from the ‘God’s Politics’ Sojourners web site.

The resurrection of Jesus was simply God’s unwillingness to take our ‘no’ for an answer. He raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that he himself has now established permanent, eternal residence here on earth. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick prisoner brothers with him.

Clarence Jordan

God came to be with the people of Israel as he sat on the ‘mercy seat’ (mercy being a good word worth looking up yourself), in amongst the grime and muck of a wilderness nomadic community.

God sent His only Son, who emptied himself (Philippians 2:7) of himself and filled himself up with his Father, into a world full of the grime and muck that came with roman occupation, torture, military dictatorship etc.

God promises to come to the earth again (Revelation 21), (not that he has ever left – “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” – Ephesians 4:6) not to whisk people away to somewhere else, but to live with them and be their God in and amongst them, initially at least – in and with the grime and muck of the 21st century, in all the mess that we have allowed our world and lives to get into.

That’s a pretty significant forward-looking symbol in just a wooden seat covered in gold!

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Message & Media (part 5) – Postmodern Trends

The current trend in our postmodern culture is toward image based communication.

Just think about any major company or product. Most of them don’t show the whole name of the company, they either have a few letters or just a logo – an image, see the image below as an example. Most major brands we can identify by their logo or first letter due to the font / style.

corporation-logos

However, in this prevailing image culture, this changes our thinking, images aren’t good at articulating arguments, categories or abstract ideas. They present concrete realities (regardless of how much they have been airbrushed!)

Images can speak louder than words

The Words ‘Poverty’s Child’ are Propositional & Sequential, Rational and linear (L brain), It is Abstraction without Experience.
The picture below is Presentational & Holistic, It is Intuitive & Non-linear (R brain), It shows us a Concrete representation of experience.

poverty

Another example would be the new (imported) concept in UK of the televised political debate. – The local government candidates are voted upon not on their merits or policy pledges, but more on how well the leader of their party – broadly not voted for directly by the voter – comes across as a public debater & arguer! It’s becoming a subjective, intuitive evaluation of the image we see of the person as opposed to careful, left-brain analysis and evaluation of what they are putting across.

I believe in the future, this will be remembered the age of electronic culture, the age of the image and of technology. The overwhealming likelihood is that the display screen will become the ultimate relic of the electronic age. We can’t get away from them, they invade our homes, cars, pockets. We are addicted to the flickering pixels of the backlit or projected computer display screen.

So, what are the lasting effects of electronic culture?

Lets examine it with the McLuhan analysis tool.

What does electronic culture enhance?

Intensifies ‘right brain’ encounter with God, encourages a corporate approach to faith, increases reliance on intuition and experience in ‘knowing God’

What does electronic culture reverse into?

Relativism, reverses capacity for abstract thought and critical reasoning.

What does electronic culture retrieve?

Eastern orthodox & Catholic spirituality – contemplative icons & the ‘story’ aspect of the Gospel. Jesus’ centrality to faith.

What does electronic culture obsolesce?

Belief in metanarrative, belief in conversion being a one-time event, the role of abstract propositional faith and the full impact of Paul’s letters.

Clearly here we are not saying that electronic culture removes completely the impact of Paul’s letters, more that it changes our perception of the meaning / use / importance of the letters.

I believe that culture and the way people receive messages is changing, the trend from the onset of modernity – the age of the printing press – was from an experiential, visual, communal, holistic model to an individualistic, highly rational concept of the gospel. With the continual march into and through post-modernity, we are seeing the trend reverse towards a much more communal, experiential concept again.

How do we feel about the possibility of our methods and thus our message changing due to this paradime shift in thinking as a result of the postmodern, image-based, electronic, technological culture in which we are living and our children are growing up accustomed to?

Comments on the above question please!

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