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Sign - Monday Musing, November 9, 2020

Dear Church,

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 Th