I hate taking pictures, but I do love the power of pictures. Many of us keep pictures so that we can rehearse the past and retell old stories. It’s a way to let the past invade the present and even steer the future; it’s where nostalgia comes from.
In the bible God uses pictures as signs to signify what he has done for us and for our salvation. From circumcision and the Passover under the Old Covenant to baptism and the Lord’s Supper under the New Covenant, God takes these pictures and tells us his story.
With the Noahic covenant God gives us the sign of the bow, which reminds us that God will preserve his creation, the stage where redemption is worked out. In a similar and more luminous way, Ps. 89 reminds us that God aligns the Davidic covenant with the sun and moon.
Both covenants have faithful witnesses and both covenants say, look up! Ps. 89 points to the sun and moon, and asks, are they still shining? Are they still hanging high? Have they ever moved? As certain as these realities are, so is the throne of David and the so is the Son who sits on the throne.
In the same way, whenever we participate in baptism and eat the Lord’s Supper we are seeing water, bread, and wine as pictures. And pictures as we know have power; power that renews us, strengthens us and gives us reason to continue living. This is holy nostalgia. And it’s nostalgia that will one day give way to permanence. In the act of having water move over our head, bread through our fingers and wine on our palate, we are bridging the past, present and future. And as Paul says with the Supper, we are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes again.