“Hope is the thing with feathers” is one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson. In this poem she compares hope to a songbird that sings within one’s soul in the midst of the storms of life. As an English teacher I love metaphors. Taking an abstract concept and marrying it to a concrete noun enables heightened understanding of that difficult idea. Not only do we find metaphors in literature, but they pervade our daily lives, particularly within our faith life. Scripture is filled with metaphors. Jesus refers to Himself as “the bread of life” (John 6:35), “the good shepherd” (John 10:11), and “the light of the world” (John 8:12). God reveals himself in metaphors to make the mysterious foolishness of Christ crucified something we can grasp onto.
“The Lord is my rock” (Psalm 18:2) is a metaphor that is woven throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament we see the Lord’s faithfulness, steadfastness, strength, and power revealed within this metaphor. In Deuteronomy, Moses wrote, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just” (Deut. 32:4). And in 2 Samuel 22:47 we read, “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!” We take comfort in knowing that He is trustworthy, righteous, and true. God, our creator, is the rock upon which we stand. And so when Peter references the rock metaphor in Acts 4:11, saying Jesus is “the stone the builders rejected, which has become the capstone,” he is pronouncing the divinity of Christ. This understanding that Jesus is as the same rock who upheld Moses and David, who is God eternal here on earth, is the foundation of our faith. It is this confession upon which Christ built the church in Matthew 16:15-18: “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” The belief that Jesus is both God and man who died for our sins cannot be compromised, for it is to be our stone foundation. Upon this rock we build our churches and our schools. Upon this rock we write our lesson plans. Upon this rock we see the students in our classrooms as redeemed children of God. Upon this rock we find assurance of salvation, strength for the day, and refuge in a dark world. If only I could go back and explain to Emily Dickinson that the song her bird sings in the gale is the song of the Lord. Christ crucified is the rock upon which our hope is built.
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