Thursday, April 21, 2011

There Goes the Sign - Again!

To those of you familiar with the ongoing construction to widen the road by East Cobb United Methodist Church, some of this is not news. Others who read from around the world will wonder  why I'm writing about our sign on Maundy Thursday. Well, read on. I hope there is something both groups can take from my ponderings on this holy day.

We had an old, big monument sign that was in place for many years, until the highway department said it must come down to make way for the wider, better road. So they destroyed it, and we had a temporary sign made heralding who we are and our worship times. Since then, I have lost track of the number of times that temporary sign has been flattened - several times by severe weather and several times by the highway department, accidentally or on purpose. Recently, they closed our exit for construciton, and today they built a traffic island at our only open entrance. (They assure us we will have the exit open for Easter.) It seems odd that the routine work to improve the world is interfering with the celebration of the holiest of time of the year. No, it was not calculated this time, but it is not the first time the world has tried to stop Easter.

On a night like this, Jesus met with his disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover. He washed the disciples' feet himself, as there we no servants there to do so. When they were appalled that he would do such things, he gave them a "new commandment" or mandate (mandatum  in Latin from which we derive "Maundy," the name for this day. "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos." ("A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you" - John 13:34), Near the end of that meal, he took bread, gave thanks to God, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you." After the meal, he took the third cup of the Passover, the Cup of Redemption, gave thanks to God, gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take, drink, this is my blood of the new covenant poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me." With that, everything changed. They were no longer curious followers, but they had become commissioned ambassadors for a cause they did not yet fully understand.

I'm still disturbed about our pitiful sign. It is not up and may never be again. Who cares? Because I now know I have it all wrong. I have been focused on what the world is doing to us and why that is so wrong instead of what Christ has done for me and what that means. If I add up every pressure the world puts on us, it could become overwhelming. We should be overwhelmed by the grace and wonder of God's love for us - that he would endure humiliation and the most awful death imaginable to take care of my shortcomings. Because we don't love like that, we can't understand that kind of love. Then it dawns on me: That's why the sign is destroyed over and over! The commandment was not to put up signs or even to build a church building. The command was to love! Maybe our preoccupation with our space in the world is interfering with finding our place in the world. Maybe we are the only signs God needs. After all, there is no message of love on any if those old beat up signs - just a statement of who we are - East Cobb United Methodist Church. Maybe who we really are and who God really wants us to be cannot be put on a sign. Just maybe it has to be lived out wherever the church is tonight - and tomorrow- and... well, you get he idea. So that wherever we go, there goes the sign!