Signs of the Time

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 

Matthew 7: 21, 24-27

–By Michele S.

In the interest of transparency, I want to talk about the signs that the church leadership (vestry, clergy, ministry leaders) would like to display on St. John’s walls, possibly on banners, to express our renewed commitment, as a church community, to doing the will of our Father, in these days of troubled racial relations.

The first sign is a shortened version of Micah 6:8, a beloved verse for several of us: “Do justice, Love mercy, Walk humbly with your God.”[1] These words describe the witness of our Christian faith summarized in righteous actions, righteous hearts, and righteous relations with God and our fellow human beings. Karen, Tristan, and Natalie created this sign.

The second is the “love your neighbor” sign that I worked on. The design with the twelve squares echoes that of the new, heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation 21 that has twelve gates inscribed with the names of the tribes of Israel. But the twelve languages on the sign are also meant to evoke the passage in Revelation 7:9—the vision of the great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne of God. I had some help from vestry members in choosing the languages. I tried to make sure all global regions were represented but not always by the dominant language. Many languages represent the prevailing immigrant populations here in the New Haven area. Some reflect the culture or affinity of people in our own congregation or who are our friends (Can you identify all the languages that have a personal connection to our church?).

The third (not depicted) is the Black Lives Matter sign which, for some, may be a controversial choice. But in our vestry discussion, Rev. Chuck said something that struck me for its prophetic insight. He said that sometimes we must have the humility to accept how a movement defines itself from the inside, even though it might make us feel a little uncomfortable. I don’t think most of us know a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement—how it started and what it stands for. More recently, it has become accepted by people with different opinions across the political spectrum. Jennifer, who is well-versed in Black History, explained a little about the movement in an email discussion:

“BLM does not advocate violence, but they are not Christians; so, they do not approach things from our perspective. Non-violence for them is a strategy, not a guiding principle. If anyone is interested, this article compares the BLM movement to Dr. King’s movement.

While Dr. King never advocated violence (and, obviously, neither do I), he did understand why some people resorted to it. As he famously said, “… a riot is the language of the unheard.” The conditions that caused the riots of the mid to late 1960’s still exist in many Black communities today. King addressed the issues of race and poverty in his speech The Other America. (…) [This article] is worth a listen (or read).”

(Thanks, Jennifer, for keeping us honest.)

The Matthew 7 scripture above was given to me yesterday in a daily meditation recording. I was deeply touched by the direct link Jesus made between obedient action—hearing his words and acting on them—and the building of a strong house. It is not enough to say “Lord, Lord” (Is this a reference to empty prayer?) to enter his kingdom. But it is as we obey his teaching in the sermon on the mount, as we act justly and compassionately, out of a love for our neighbor, that we, together, as a church family, build a strong house, founded on the rock. And this house will withstand all storms, with the help of Jesus, our Savior.

And so, I see these signs as our prayer that Jesus help us to stand together in the struggle for peace and justice. 

Tomorrow, Saturday 27, begins the “Seeking Racial Justice, Part 1: Christians Listening” series on Zoom. You can find detailed information about it on our events page and a description of session 1 here.

Additional resources (a growing list!) are also available here.

1. The full verse reads:
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?”

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