Sign - Monday Musing, November 9, 2020
Sign. I was biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail the other day, and I noticed a sign along the trail near a footpath. It’s not unusual to see signs along the trail, pointing to bike shops, food establishments, as well as hotels. This one, however, was quite different. Mounted on a slanting metal pole was a rusty professional-looking red and white sign (like a town No Parking sign), which read, “NO Trespassing – We’re Tired of Hiding the Bodies.”
I have probably passed this sign countless times over the years (the rust gives it away). Why hadn’t I taken notice before? Perhaps the empty trail with no tourists to avoid plus the dropped leaves made its appearance more noticeable. We chuckle over such a sign, assuming its posting is intended to amuse (let’s hope the sign is not accurate!). As I biked, I thought about how the sign represents division.
You may recall the Five Man Electric Band song, Sign, which was released in 1971. Here is a portion of the lyrics:
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house
“Hey! What gives you the right?”
“To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in”
“If God was here he’d tell you to your face, Man, you’re some kinda sinner”
The song highlights class divisions and property rights issues of the day (Another lyric: “Long-haired freaky people need not apply”). Today’s political divide is hardly anything new. COVID-19 and an overwhelming number of mail-in ballots resulted in our having to wait four days before the results of the razor-thin Presidential election were known. Can the President-elect claim a clear mandate attaining 50.7 percent of an unprecedented number of total votes cast last week? I think the percentage confirms that we are a deeply divided nation.
We post signs to keep people out. We erect fences and build walls. We draw lines on a map and only “our kind” are allowed entry. We separate ourselves into nations, communities, parties, tribes, possies, PAC’s, and denominations. Everywhere we turn there is divide and partisan attitudes. If one is not part of the tribe, they are one of “them,” whoever they might be.
Division is nothing new in the church. The early church had their issues, and the Apostle Paul addressed division with the church at Corinth. At the time Paul wrote his epistle, many famous philosophers and public speakers visited Corinth. Large numbers of the townsmen would turn out to hear them. The visiting celebrities tried to win a following for their point of view. In this way, different factions developed, and each supported a different guru.
Paul writes, “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose (1 Cor 1:10, NRSV). Unity of purpose – a tall order for a deeply politically-polarized country that has grown more partisan.
What about us at The Federated Church of Orleans? Can we claim unity of purpose? What is the sign that we are united in our purpose?
In yesterday’s message I said, “Our mission and ministry is not simply going TO church, but rather to BE the church in this community and the world.” During this global pandemic, we can’t worship in our building (yet), but we can serve the One we follow, demonstrating acts of service in and on behalf of the church. Our unity of purpose is played out in many ways – unity does not mean uniformity.
Jesus tells us, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt 22:37-40). What our love looks like may not be uniform, but we are united in purpose by making our love known. Jesus’ ministry embodied the love of God and that is our calling as well.
What acts of love are printed on your rusted sign? – I don’t want to miss it the next time I ride the Cape Cod Rail Trail.