Earlier this week, our increasingly creaky van was in the shop for some maintenance and repairs. Which meant that it needed to be dropped off two point seven miles from our house. I could have asked the missus for a ride back, I suppose, but it was lovely and snowing, just about perfect for a brisk forty minute walk.
Way I figure it, why hit the gym for cardio? I've got the entire planet as a treadmill.
So having dropped it off, I walked back home, through flakes of fluffy puffy snow, on backroads and through neighborhoods. When the time came to go back and pick the van up, I returned on foot.
In one of those neighborhoods, I passed a little church, tucked away on the corner of a nowhere street. Given the age of its construction, it had probably been some flavor of the old-line back in the 1960s. Now it was Korean Presbyterian, a little independent jobbie, not affiliated with any particular denomination. At the front entrance leading to the parking lot, there were a batch of signs in a neat little row. Most I could not read, given my incapacity with hangul script.
But three I could read.
One smiled pleasantly. Be faithful, it said. Be encouraging!
I will assume, from my admitted ignorance, that the script above the English said exactly the same thing as the text I could read.
One of these days, I'll have to get one-a-them funky new instant translator apps for my phone. So funny, this whole "living in the future now" thing that our culture often has going on.
But then there were two other signs, right next to the happy blue smiley sign.
Those two had a slightly different flavor. Well, OK, a completely different flavor, a taste that is
"If you park, and you are not one of us, you will be towed, and then billed for your towing. Do not come here. This belongs to us. This is not yours. We are watching you like a hawk.
And if you'd like to hear this message again in Spanish, please press one now."
Though I've certainly encountered this mentality in congregations that rose out of the Korean American experience...sweet Lord Jesus, but have I...it's hardly limited to that sub-community of Jesus-folk.
It is, in fact, very much the way many Christian gatherings express themselves into the world.
On the one hand, we have what we claim to be good news, our story of a powerful and transforming relationship with our loving Creator, written into being in the person of Jesus, and moving among us through the power of God's own Spirit.
On the other, we're kind of obnoxious about things. We're tight with our stuff. We get mean. We're territorial. We're often cruel. The way we live our lives in the material world in which our souls are rooted bears no resemblance to the stuff we say.
And this is important, because our every action is a sign, pointing out to others what it is we value and what it is that defines us. When we set those signs out, people do notice.