This week’s Primary Passage: Matthew 16:1-23
The exuberant 60s band, Five Man Electrical Band, exclaimed these lyrics in their hit tune, Signs:
Their message relayed a protest about all the signs that existed to keep people out and to divide and separate…..signs that were exclusive and limiting. In our primary passage, religious authorities test Jesus. They demand a sign. Jesus responded by saluting the fact that they, like most folk, understand there are signs all around us that help us interpret Mother Earth’s movement along with clues from the celestial bodies. What the religiously entrenched want to know is Jesus really who others claim that he is. Jesus’ terse response concerns the ‘sign of Jonah’. With signs all around, what does this one really mean? Well, I venture to guess that no matter how hard anyone tries to toss overboard, nail up or bury love it will never be drowned, neither defeated nor silenced.
When we are firmly in touch with the God of love then the signs we see point towards inclusive grace, transcendent peace and unlimited forgiveness. But Jesus warns of the battle at hand. The poisonous diatribe and the caustic behavior of those who reflect ‘arrogant certainty’ will be relentless.
Jesus knew the signs of the time and he wanted us to fully understand that power corrupts and will go to any length to eliminate the voices of hopeful love and genuine justice! The consequences for those who have the courage to speak truth to power can be treacherous. But, is there any other way to get a glimpse of the mystery of the kingdom……to be fully alive?
William Sloane Coffin once said, Rules are at best a signpost, never a hitching post. Personally I doubt whether there is such a thing as a Christian rule. There are probably only acts that are more or less Christian depending on the motives prompting them. And if we exalt freedom as Christians, we must remember that freedom is grounded in love. He who loves does not remains in death.
And the sign said, “Everybody welcome.
Come in, kneel down and pray”
But when they passed around the plate
at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and paper
and I made up my own little sign.
I said thank you, Lord for thinkin’ ‘bout me.
I’m alive and doin’ fine………….
Tim Willis is retired Chaplain at Clemson University, and currently works in the Intentional Interim program for churches seeking a pastor. He is also a true barbecue connoisseur, and will one day write the definitive book of barbecue across America.