Can Things Mean Whatever We Want?

I was wearing this necklace recently and someone asked, “What does it mean?”  I wonder if – because she knew I was a pastor – there’s an assumption that everything I wear (or at least the jewelry I wear) means something.image

If we wear a cross or a Star of David  or a little Buddha (does anyone do that?) people assume it means that we are of that respective faith.

Or maybe it doesn’t mean that at all.  Remember when wearing bejeweled crosses was a thing?  A fashion thing?

I love this necklace.  I bought it because it was pretty and light.  It’s a silver fan, according to the Stitch Fix receipt.  So . . . because it’s a fan – I could create a meaning for it:

  • “It fans me/cools me down/reminds me to slow my pace.”  
  • “It’s worn as a spiritual discipline to remind me of Sabbath.”
  • “It reminds me of my life verse:  ‘For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.’ ”  (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV)

Or I could wear it because I want to.

So it goes in our post-modern culture.

It used to be true that preachers taught doctrine (“This is what we believe . . .”) and now preachers are more like group spiritual directors.  In growing congregations, people come into our gatherings from a wide array of faith traditions/experiences.  The parables of Jesus, for example, are all fraught with meaning, but what it means to the person sitting in worship who grew up Missouri Synod Lutheran just getting out of an abusive marriage is different from what it means to the person sitting in worship who hasn’t been in a sanctuary since he was baptized as an infant.  Good preachers paint pictures and ask questions and inspire personal reflection with a solid core of (in my tradition) Reformed theology.

Increasingly it seems that we live in a culture in which Things Mean What We Want Them to Mean.  The choices for meaning are endless.  But because this is true, there is the temptation that nothing could mean anything.

Such are the thoughts of one pastor on the day we commend the ashes of a brilliant man –  whose brain lost its capacity for meaning – to the LORD.

This is post is dedicated to DES and his family.

 

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2 responses to “Can Things Mean Whatever We Want?

  1. I like the idea that pastors are (can be) like group spiritual directors rather than teaching doctrine. Especially “paint pictures and ask questions and inspire personal reflection with a solid core of (in my tradition) Reformed theology”. Holding each member of the group within the sacred arms of love and trust, within a safe and broad place, allowing Spirit to direct each one’s individual journey, is the desire of group spiritual direction, yes?

  2. Wendy Shelley

    Have always loved everything you ever preached about, and still do. Does this mean that this poor man is finally out of his misery and that lovely (suffering) family can truly start a new life? I’m sorry that such a young man, husband, father, son is gone, but he’s much better off as a budding angel. My thoughts for K.

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