Friday, January 25, 2008

What a Badge Symbolizes

I'm someone who can be pleased with rather simple things. What others find part of a routine function I will instead, find strangely and abnormally uplifting. The taste of good chocolate, a cool breeze that offers a waft of crisp air, cozy jackets and my children's giggling all are "joy bombs" thrown into my bunker (or what Thomas Kinkade calls "glow points"). For this reason, I often will contemplate how one thing symbolizes even greater joys. Others may not be aware that I'm so elated by such symbols when they observe me, but it's true. I'm bust'n my buttons.

A few weeks ago, as part of his routine distribution of insignia and supplies, the Fate Fire department member in charge of such things (Scott Miller), handed me my new badge as Fire Department Chaplain. I thanked him, and accepted it as a symbol of my duties to the department. However, as I have glanced at the badge from time to time, I feel the joys welling up again as I realize that it symbolizes not only my duties for the department, but also my participation in the community. In a sense, it symbolizes my duties to the community, materializing my calling as a pastor into a gold shield.

Throughout history sacred relics have emerged as a symbols of greater realities. As Protestants, we rightly applaud the Reformation for seeking the destruction of relics as a means of divine favor, yet we must allow that relics can remind us of divine favor. Relics do not contain blessing, but relics can symbolize blessing. They do not conduit God's favor, but can remind the relic holder of God's favor. A badge is a relic that an archaeologist, 3,000 years from now, will dig up from a "postmodern" stratigraphic layer and suggest that it symbolized the official duties of a community servant. When I stare at the badge handed me, I imagine that it symbolizes God's calling of me to the land and the community in which we live and serve. Just like the slogan for the Fate Fire Department goes:
our community - our citizens - our department.

From an archaeological perspective, the badge handed to me represents someone's future discovery that this community was served in this way. I don't know if all professions that carry badges look at their symbols in this way. But if they do, there's a lot of people out there who, whether they know it or not, are walking around very grateful for God including them in his benevolent care of a community... a nation... a world.

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