Thursday, 7 January 2010

an iconic presence

an iconic presence robin in winter

Make that two presences. Ever since I was little and first enthralled by the magic of winter, fresh snowfall and the Robin have been etched into my mind as classic icons of this season in Britain.  You can imagine my simple sense of delight this morning when I took these photographs of a Robin as it was attracted to the fresh supply of nuts, seeds and sultanas which I had just put out in our garden for the birds. Here was a truly iconic combination just waiting to be appreciated.

robin in winter garden with snow

The images simply and unmistakably say ‘British Wintertime’.

So if we ask the question, ‘what are the iconic images which unmistakably say authentic faith / authentic church’ , what might your answer be? Having followed the bible readings set for the Christmas Season it seems to me that the presence of the Holy Spirit is as fundamentally iconic as that of the Robin. From the first shimmerings of promise to Mary through to the Baptism of Jesus the narratives are as laden with the activity and presence of the Spirit of God as the skies over Barnetby continue to be laden with snow.

Such an iconic presence is apparent when people discover hope, belonging, meaning, purpose and direction. When they awaken to the fact that they are beloved of God and cherished, when dignity and self-respect are birthed in those least likely to expect them and when loving kindness and generosity well up, something iconic is in our midst. When structures of oppression and division are challenged and when the whole creation is appreciated as a precious gift to be conserved and tended well, an iconic presence is at work.

Christians are intended to be iconic too, each of us visible reminders of the deeply loving reality of divine presence. In these chilly and bitter times it is more than ever vital that it is this above all which the world associates with the followers of Jesus.


  1. Lovely. As the thermometer drops to -29F tonight here in North Dakota, USA, your message takes on special significance. At our bird feeder we have dozens of gold finches hanging in there for the winter trying to eat enough to stay warm. They certainly are icons of hope. Sister Pam OP

  2. The heart ... is the CHRISTian icon for me.

    i know that it's the indwelling SPIRIT Who causes me to see heart shapes everywhere (in blobs of paint i'm using, in the clouds, in the videos of worship songs at church that most can't even see, in floor dirt/lint, on people's outfits and jewelry, in two pieces of rice stuck together, in leaves and flowers...and on and on).

    Every time the SPIRIT nudges my eyes to see a heart, it makes me brings a glow to my heart. And the heart is the icon for GOD Himself...for everything in the Bible and in His creation unmistakingly declares His best loved character -- His indescribable, unfathomable, perfect, infinite Love...

    And the heart icon is JESUS described. You can't be more loving than when you lay down your life for a person who's not even your friend... but for a worthless sinner.

    So to answer your question, "what are the iconic images which unmistakably say authentic faith / authentic church" -- the heart of an authentic who loves others more than himself and shows it in everyday simple acts of selfless service, without a blaring trumpet announcing his good deeds... one who'll "wash dirty feet" without complaining... one who'll forgive 70x7.

  3. I wonder what the effect would be if we were to truly look upon one another as iconic?

  4. P.S. on "iconic"

    It's interesting how certain human beings become living icons, embodying deeper meanings and symbolizing bigger truths than themselves.

    All of us on earth are as living icons -- representing our deeper personal truths and life values and belief systems. How we live our lives allow everyone to see the deeper part of us. So even though we may be clothed from head to toe, we may as well be naked -- for our actions speak louder than words, and our lives speak volumes without a single sound.

  5. Thankyou for reminding me of the iconic presences......familiar to me from my earliest days in the foothills of the Pennines until today in the Weald of West Sussex. The robin is by no means the only visitor to our bird stations....we live in the middle of a wood after all.....but she/he is a most welcome 'winter' presence.


  6. Thanks to Sister Pam, rln!, Sally and Allen for being kind enough to comment so encouragingly. It is good to be connected together by the beauty of the iconic Robin.