This Sunday we’ll be in our third week of our worship series entitled Sanctuary. Sanctuary — the word brings to mind a place of refuge or safety. We even use the term for nature reserves, which are safe places for animals. Of course, in our context, we think of the worship space that we call the sanctuary. In this series, we’re looking more closely at our beautiful worship space, seeing the symbols there and tying them in with scripture.
This Sunday our theme is “Inspiration.” Our scripture reading is Luke 6:12-16, the naming of the apostles. Above the chancel area and in other places you will find the shields of the apostles. Each shield has a symbol that says something about that apostle:
1. Two Keys crossed in the shape of the letter X: Simon Peter. The keys are his most common attribute, being the keys of heaven Jesus promised him, in the shape of an inverted cross, representing the manner of his death.
2. Three Scalloped Shells: James the Great, son of Zebedee due to his extensive missionary travels abroad. Pilgrims carried scallop shells to scoop drinking water from the streams and brooks that they passed.
3. The shield bearing a chalice out of which a snake appears: John. Comes from a legend that he was challenged or tricked by a high priest of the goddess Diana at Ephesus to drink a cup of poison. He drank. He was unharmed, as if the poison escaped.
4. A cross in the form of an X: Andrew. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross. To prolong his suffering, he was bound, rather than nailed – although it is said to simply give him more time to preach the Gospel to the crowds around him.
5. Two Loaves of Bread pictured one on each side of the cross: Phillip. The cross is symbolic of his likely crucifixion. The loaves of bread remind us of when Jesus feeds 5000. On seeing a crowd approaching, Jesus turned to Philip and asked how they were going to feed them. Philip replied that eight months’ wages wouldn’t buy enough food.
6. Flaying Knife: Bartholomew. Said to be flayed alive. Flaying knives were used to skin animals when slaughtered. A symbol of martyrdom. He is now the patron saint of tanners and leather workers.
7. The Carpenter’s Square and a vertical Spear or Lance: Thomas. Some writers say he built a church with his own hands in India, hence the symbolic square. The spear refers to his martyrdom.
8. Windmill: James the Less. Distinguishing him from the brother of John. He was believed to have been a missionary to the low countries of Europe.
9. The Battle-Ax: Matthew. It is symbolic of his martyrdom said to have taken place in Ethiopia. Also there are money bags, symbolizing his former life as a tax collector.
10. Carpenter’s Square and a Boat Hook: Jude. Said to have traveled a great deal by ship. Also believed to have been a fisherman. The former signifies his traditional, widespread building activity.
11. A Fish on a Book: Simon the Zealot. An indication of his success in fishing for men through the gospel.
12. Blank Shield of dirty yellow: Judas Iscariot. Treasurer in the group of twelve. The symbol of his sin-marred life and betrayal of Jesus.
The word “apostle” means one who is sent. These disciples were sent out to minister in the name of Jesus, so they were called apostles. Each apostle was a unique person with his own gifts and his own liabilities. We can learn a lot from them and be inspired by them in the way we live out our own faith.
I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday — live in-person and online from the sanctuary at 11:00 am.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Luke 6:12-16, Common English Bible (CEB)
12 During that time, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night long. 13 At daybreak, he called together his disciples. He chose twelve of them whom he called apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter; his brother Andrew; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; 15 Matthew; Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus; Simon, who was called a zealot; 16 Judas the son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.