Flags

Flags are flying all over town today—of course. It’s our nation’s independence day. I put my own out. There will be the requisite parade; the theme this year is heroes. I will sit on our church’s float handing out lollipops to kids and fliers to viewers about our hero, the Rev. Ted Howden who died on the Bataan death march because he gave away his rations to others he thought needed them more. We will smile and wave and feel very patriotic.

Flags—banners—insignia, markers of territory, identity and allegiance…the ancient Roman republic had a flag. Some sources claim that the ancient Egyptians flew flags. Flags hang in political and religious buildings. Some flags combine the image of the “axis mundi,” the axis of the world that anchors heaven and earth represented by the flagpole, with the society gathered around that axis, represented by the colors flown. Flags call us to something greater than a piece of colored cloth on a pole, greater even than the political entity they represent. They call us to recognize that at the core of any people there is a common conception of a Truth.

Cooke’s Peak is a flag of a different sort. She flies to 8000 ft. plus. She is the axis mundi to a hundred kinds of life that live on her flank. She has stood as an ensign to passing peoples from ancient times to recent. Rising from the Chihuahuan desert around her, her colors come in the bands of creosote brush, scrub-oak, sotol, and then high alpine grasses and flowers that cling to the crevasses of her massif. She, too, calls us to a community and to the Truth that human life is not all there is to creation—in fact our time on this planet compared to the most ancient rocks is mere seconds on the clock. I see her and smile, and feel quite young and foolish.

What is the flag of my heart? How do I anchor heaven and earth for myself and for others? What are my colors? What is the great Truth on which I stand? Hear me: I am a bridge-builder between heaven and earth, gathering peoples around one another and the ancient wisdom of the Christian faith in communion with the earth. I am not the only bridge-builder, but I am one, and in me I hope people see all such bridge-builders and the possibility of building bridges themselves.

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