…about signs. Last week, while driving here, I paused for a moment at Forest and Midway before turning south, and noticed a rather large, obvious sign that said, “No Turn on Red,” complete with a picture of a red light. “Funny,” I thought, “that must have just been put up.” I don’t think it was, of course, but rather, I think I hadn’t noticed it and should have, but now I do, and I stop until the light turns green. I even find myself hesitating when approaching the intersection, even if I have the great green go from the signal. This is a regular response in the human brain—once something is brought to our attention, it is substantially harder to ignore it or go back to the former ignorance and/or acceptance of the way things were. For example, I can tell you right now that unless you make a conscious effort, your jaw isn’t closed even if your mouth is.
It’s the point of signs, obviously, to relay a truth or idea that one perhaps did not know to begin with, and in the height of protests all over the world over government, religion, the economy, etc., I have seen some brilliant ones. “What do we want? Time Travel! When do we want it? It’s irrelevant!” I also appreciate “What do we want? Respectful discourse! When do we want it? Now would be agreeable to me, but I am interested in your opinion!” My favorite may be one from a protest in Canada over a new pipeline that simply said, “I am a little upset.” There is only so much room on a piece of poster board, and it needs to be read from far away, so arguments and ideas and theories and stances get boiled down into the important thrusts of the matter. The sign at Forest and Midway does not say “Do not make a right turn against the light, even if no one is coming and you’re in a hurry, which would probably be all right, but you can never be sure.” There is no room for nuance or discussion. So perhaps signs are dangerous.
As Christians, whether we have a sandwich board or not, we are a sign of what Christ is doing. If someone knows you profess Christ, everything you do informs them on who your God is, what that God requires, and where they stand in relationship to that God as well. Whenever I see fundamentalists on street corners with long lists of the kinds of people who are going to Hell, it makes me sad now (instead of zealously angry), because if someone who does not know much about the faith, or Church, or Christians, sees that sign, that is their impression of the church. If someone who is mad at God, mad at the Church, mad at Christianity, sees that sign, they feel justified through that misrepresentation of the Gospel. And usually, if someone who is a pretty laid back, open and affirming, kind and loving citizen of the Reign of God sees it, we get upset, or sad, or righteously indignant, but what do we do in return besides hem, haw, and return to regular routine?
What is your sign? What are you conveying as a truth in the way you live, in the way you act in relationships, in the parts of your life that are indisputably central to who you are? What is our sign? What can we do to be out there, open, honest, and true to the Gospel so that maybe, just maybe, when someone passes by a preacher of hate they recognize the Church is actually about love? What can we do to show God is working in this world through us and through others so clearly?
This week, this question may be addressed along with many others in the final installment of Improvising the Fifth Act, as we look at Act Four: The Church! I look forward to seeing you Sunday, and I hope I will.