Saturday, July 31, 2010

Signs, signs...

"Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs. Blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this. Don't do that. Can't you read the signs?" That is a song that Tesla released in 1991 as a cover of the song by the Five Man Electrical Band in 1971. It's a great song, if you're a rebel, which I've been accused of being. But everything they are singing about in that song points to something bigger, which is exactly what signs do...they point to something other than themselves.

"And the sign said, 'Long haired freaky people need not apply, so I put my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why." This sign was pointing to a prejudice that the shop owner must have had against long haired freaky people. Well, ok, aren't long haired freaky people also created in the image of God? I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud.

"And the sign said, 'Everyone welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray.'" That sign is pointing to something bigger than all of us. It points to someplace, maybe even just an ideal, where everyone really is welcome, even long haired freaky people. (I was thinking of getting my big boy hair cut for the summer, but I think I just changed my mind)

In today's Life Journal reading, John is talking about a sign. On the surface, it's just a wedding where the host had miscalculated the number of folks who would be there, or how much wine each would drink. The wine ran out, and that's not good. So, Jesus, being the rebel he was, took a bunch of jars that were used to hold the water for their ceremonial washings and turned them into wine jugs holding real wine. It's just a sign, don't get too torn up.

I mean, we could go into that if you want to. It was real wine. Jesus made it. Therefore real wine can't be all bad, but I'm not going there today. This is bigger than real wine verses grape juice (and by the way, without refrigeration, grape juice will turn into real wine all by its little lonesome). This is about a sign pointing to something bigger. The Gospel of John is full of them.

This was an act, the first public act in John's gospel, pointing to Jesus, who he really was, and what he was about. This sign pointed to the fact that he was, indeed, the Son of God and that his divinity was just as real as his humanity. This sign would be the beginning of his public ministry, and we can all read about what happened after this point.

You can tell a lot about what a writer, especially a gospel writer, thinks is important by looking at the first thing they record about Jesus. For John, it was the fact that Jesus was coming to bring God's kingdom right here, right now. The cool thing is, it started at a wedding nearly 2000 years ago, but we still get to be part of that today.

So, the question then becomes, what do the things we do, say, and stand for point to? Do we get hung up in the minutia of things like "Was it real wine"? Or, are we focused on the fact that prejudice still exists, oppression still runs rampant, brothers and sisters in Sudan are still being martyred, and right here in the good ol' United States, we have people sleeping on the streets and eating out of trash cans and soup kitchens? Those things cannot be part of God's kingdom on earth. Jesus gave his life fighting against the system that kept those things in place, and we have accepted our place as Jesus followers, so our signs must be pointing down similar paths.

Personally, I'm not ok with the status quo. Our brothers and sisters in Sudan, long haired freaky people, the oppressed, the hated, the snubbed, the outcast, and the homeless are all God's children and I long for the day, and am doing what I can to help, when those things cease to be a way of life and the signs of God's kingdom come are everywhere and everyone has a place where they know they belong. I guess this is one of my passions, and gives credence to why I am the way I am. I despise suits and ties and have no patience for politics in the church. My heart breaks when I see someone that I know must live on the streets, and will go out of my way to let those long hair freaky people know that God loves them too.

So, if you're going to hold up a sign, make sure it's one that God would be pleased with. Fight for the underdog, love the unloved, stand up for the weak, touch the untouchables, and welcome the outcast. That's what Jesus' sign must have been pointing to.


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