August 4 – Against a Bare and Empty God

As you enter the Sanctuary for worship on Sunday, you will notice a new banner hanging above the chancel.  I like the new banner very much.

This past March, right before Lent, a couple of Trustees repositioned a bank of spotlights to better illuminate the “banner wall.”  As a new banner was added each Sunday in Lent, and then the Easter and finally the Pentecost banners appeared each in its own turn, that dark paneled wall came to life, symbols painted in cloth and thread reminding us of the stories of our faith.

Pentecost Sunday came and went, but we let the red Pentecost banner with its white dove fill the now illuminated space until this week. This week a new banner arrived, the one you will see on Sunday and which I like very much.  The new banner is meant to do more than fill the dark paneled wall on which the spotlights now shines.

As you will see on Sunday, the banner is a rich and deep green and its design is painted in gold and white cloth and thread. The design itself is simple, old, and important.

The green of the new banner goes well in our Sanctuary as it hangs against the dark paneling of the chancel wall.  We picked a green banner, however, with more than aesthetics in mind.  Green is the color traditionally assigned what is called Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar.  Simply put, Ordinary Time is filled by the days between the seasons of Advent and Lent or not otherwise designated as festive days such as Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost or Christ the King.

I love ordinary time, for it is in ordinary time that we live out most of our lives, giving ordinary witness to the grace of God by our worship, devotion, and service.

For many years LPC has marked Advent, Lent, and Eastertide with banners that fill the dark paneled wall in the chancel, each design and symbol bearing in it a chapter in the story of God’s grace. Ordinary time was marked by a dark empty wall above the chancel. Now the new green banner will fill the wall during the long periods of ordinary time.

The gold and white symbol on the rich and deep green of the banner is a reminder of Trinitarian nature of the God whose grace and love we meet in the story told in the pages of Scripture. The one gold circle with its intertwined white triquetra reminds us that the One True God is always and only Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The One God cannot be other than Trinity.

John Calvin writes of the God in Three Persons, “God also designates himself by another special mark to distinguish himself more precisely from idols. For he so proclaims himself the sole God as to offer himself to be contemplated clearly in three persons. Unless we grasp these, only the bare and empty name of God flits about in our brains, to the exclusion of the true God.”

The rich and deep green banner with its triquetra of gold and white will do more than fill an empty space on a dark paneled wall during the many days of Ordinary Time.  It will teach and remind us – children, youth, and adults – that God is more than some bare and empty name flitting about in our brains. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the One God creates, redeems, and sustains.  This God, whose story is told in Scripture, is the lover of our souls, the savior of our lives, the good and sovereign King.

On all those ordinary Sundays when your restless mind is tempted to leave worship for a daydream or a glance at your Facebook feed, look instead at the dark paneled wall in the chancel.  Ponder the gold and white design on the rich and deep green field of the banner hanging there. Consider that the only God worthy of our worship is not some bare and empty name flitting about in our brains, but the God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity.