Prophetic Witness 4: The use of symbols and symbolic action.

Prophetic Witness 4: The use of symbols and symbolic action.

The missiologist Carlos Cardoza Orlandi posed an intriguing question to a group of us gathered in Bolivia. He asked us to identify and suggest a symbol of justicce that could be used in our time and context? I struggled to find such a symbol. After a few days, I bought a plumb line in a small shop. I still hang this symbol in my home office. It was first used by the eighth century Hebrew prophet Amos. And that is the weakness. A plumb line is not current.

My reading of the prophet Jeremiah made me attentive to symbolic actions that communicate God’s message. They are like parables in that they need to be interpreted. Jeremiah walked through the streets of Jerusalem wearing a yoke designed for oxen. He shattered a jug of clay before leaders of the nation. He bought land during a time of crisis. He buried a loincloth and then returned to dig it up and show that it was ruined.

I think we are challenged to discover and to use symbols or symbolic actions as a prophetic dimension to our mission. I wish I could suggest what they might be.  Here is Canada, I wonder if some of them will be the gift of our Indigenous neighbors as we work towards the healing of the wounds of colonialism.

I am inspired by an American woman named Marcia Owen. I wrote about her in Seed Falling on Good Soil. Marcia Owen was an AIDS community worker who moved from the eastern USA to Durham, North Carolina. She was overwhelmed by gun violence. She met mothers that put their children in bathtubs at night to protect them from random drive by shootings. Maria Owen responded by starting prayer meetings at each site where there had been a killing. Prayer invoked God’s presence in places of violence. People that prayed drew near to Jesus who offered his example of love overcoming violence. The number of participants in these street prayer meetings grew. These symbolic acts became the foundation for the Religious Coalition for a Non-Violent Durham.

I wonder if there is room for prophetic symbols and symbolic action in Canada and the USA. Let me ask my readers: What symbols or symbolic actions would you choose at this time?

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