A Tale of Three Church Signs
Attend if you will to my tale. In the small humble neighborhood of Blaine, there live three churches of distinct variety. I have not visited any of them, nor do I comment on their denominational affiliation. However, the approach of each church to the Lord and Savior is writ large upon their church signs. It is this part of the tale on which I do make so bold as to comment, yea verily and remark I will.
As to the first church, it might be said that they are of the kind that makes the dew of the lemon seem overly sweet. Written each week on their sign is their loving message to the community at large, its basic portent is thus - you are going to hell. A lovely sentiment; made especially ironic by the fact that the church’s name is Blessed Hope. I’m uncertain which part contains the hope, the assurance of your hellbound state or the fact that you will soon pass this sign at 40 miles per hour which means you will only be able to absorb half your daily allotment of condemnation. To a fellow Christian, it is like one of those horrific car accidents that your brain absolutely compels you to look at. By the end of the week, be assured that you will know the full context of the scorching coals of judgment being heaped upon you. One must be careful not to be sipping a libation when passing said bastion of hope, as one might accidently inhale the contents while gasping at the audacious use of scripture. For example, the warm and caring message to us all for Christmas was not the sweetness of the Virgin Birth, nor the beauty of the heavenly host’s singing a message of love, it was instead a miniature diatribe about how the glorious heavenly Father knows his own. The subtext was obvious. Those of you who aren’t among the chosen known, should sniff the air carefully, for that IS brimstone you are smelling.
The second tale is the one that pains me most. A bright spark has gone from the Christian lexicon. Where once the sign was clothed in clever pithy sayings that would cause even the hardest of atheistic souls to squeak out a laugh; alas, now it has de-evolved into the kind of trite tripe that we Christians are so delightfully known for. This particular sign is just down the road from the Domain of Hope and the juxtaposition of the two never ceases to amaze. All of the aforementioned signs and even the last of them, are of the laborious plastic letter-by-letter affairs that some poor soul has to change and figure out how to make an M into that ever-present extra E. Even after the fall of man, oops, I mean signage, the messages were at least happy…ish.
The favorite epigrammatic offering came late in the summer and was of such an unexpected ilk, that this writer nearly drove off the road. After a delightful season of witticisms and drollery, the sign simply said “Sign Broke…Come In for Message”. Brilliant! Many a time I almost called to tell this church what a light they were. For truly, what can be more liberating, more community building or more loving than the apt application of humor. For one shining, even sparkling moment, we band of merry Christians were not the doltish, lugubrious lot that we are so oft portrayed. Instead we were transcendent and even winsome. Then came the end…sigh. Overnight, like the fading of Brigadoon (obscure musical reference), the wit disappeared. The galaxy lost a shining presence and alas, we Christians became, once again, culturally moronic. The sign the very next week said, “What’s the best vitamin for Christians? B1” I hesitate to tell some of the later offerings, lest some convert to Buddhism out of shame – the Buddhist’s temple being right across the street and easily within reach of the distraught.
After the tales of the first two, one might be hesitant to approach the third, for fear that one might completely loose heart. Fear not faithful one, there is hope. In all of my wanderings, there is one sign that has set itself so completely above the others, that my pen fails to find a reference pristine enough to grace them. Their name is Kingswood Church. Without fail this sign contains nothing but blessing and the sweetest morsels of thanksgiving and praise. So far I have seen every church in the neighborhood graced with the following “God Bless (insert name) Church” and the delightful “Come on in, we know you’re curious.” Oh I am.
When they are not busy blessing their “competition”, their sign proclaims the frequent meals and groceries that they give out to anyone in need in the community. If you know the church world, wishing God’s best on another church, especially one in the same denomination, is tantamount to the Green Bay Packers praying for the Vikings before the big game. A simple tale, but one that leaves a pleasant taste.
In the vein of Aesop’s, what lessons do we take with us from these three signs? Perhaps just this, even as there are many types of people in this world, there are just as many varieties within each category of people. There are great doctors, there are terrible doctors, there are noble drive-thru people and there are the ones that can’t be bothered to look at you. Thus it is with Christians. We come in all manner of clothing. There is the Blessed Hope kind who wear undergarments so tight that their righteousness squeals every time they move. There is the second kind whose underwear went from Victoria’s Secret to red flannels. Then there is the third kind at Kingswood who don’t worry if you have holes in your underwear when the ambulance comes. They know that it is really not about underwear at all, but instead is about genuinely loving a Savior with arms wide open, stretched out to receive. It’s more important to them to make sure that you know that your life matters. Your life matters not only to the one who created you, but your life matters to them. They may be rich people, they may be poor people, they may be white, brown, purple or blue, but whatever kind of people they are, they know how to love and surely, that sign, points to God more than any other. Period. End of story.