#BeyondSundayMorning: Be the Sign

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These are the days.

Natalie Merchant came on over the radio as we sat and sipped wine in the brightly lit kitchen that first night. Ministers gone wild is what Jim, one of our hosts, would call the weekend as his wife, Heidi filled up our glasses. Conversations about raising kids and remembering the first week in the church and then lamenting at the exhaustion and hearing how that does change a little when the kids go to school.

When they go to college?!?!? I shrieked, thinking, there’s no way I’m going to make it.

No, no, no, when they go to kindergarten, Heidi laughed. Oh. Thank God.

They talked more about their days, how these days go by so unbelievably fast, and stories of struggle and uncertainty, so human and thankfully real, and that made me think, I’m living those days right now. Truly, these are the days. These are the moments.

***

O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving-maid.
Show me a sign of your favour,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
-Psalm 86

There are days though that I long for a sign of God’s favor, whatever that might mean right now. I’m not in need of anything dramatic like something thundering from the skies or flaming trees, maybe just a whisper, an inkling, even a peripheral ghosting of that divine and human. Something that makes me breathe and remember and see in new ways, and point me in the right direction.

“But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” -Aslan in The Silver Chair

Thankful for these words – and thankful for the reminder from the preacher that maybe I’m the sign. Maybe the people gathered together are the sign. Maybe the candles we light together and bread and cup we share together are the signs.

***

I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. -Ezekiel 34

Promises. They’re signs, too. When I feel like perhaps we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere it’s the promises of God’s presence and provision that helps me to see the road marked out in front of me. Even if the road is through valleys, even if the path looks like it’s going straight into an ocean, even if the road is covered in brambles and thorns. The promises are glimpses of that future utopia – a word that I take from Jose Estaban Munoz – an approach to hope as a critical methodology that can best be described as a backward glance that enacts a future vision (from his introduction in Cruising Utopia). To embody hope as perspective, posture, and pursuit – to embody the reign of Christ – to perform it, to enact and live it out – and I’m brought again to the church. How we are called out to do hope – it’s who we are as we have scriptures and stories rooted in resistance. Hope is the stuff of resistance. And so, we gather together weekly, and in gathering together around Word and words, sacrament and song, prayers and peace-passing, we resist the darkness. We receive God’s salvation.

And I will light candles tonight. For Marissa Alexander. For Michael Brown. For John Crawford. For Tamir Rice. For Akai Gurley. For Trayvon Martin. For countless others. For Emmett Till.

We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. Psalm 64

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