Daily Devotion 14 December 2020

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.
Ezekiel does some acting! He publicly packs a bag as if for exile, digs a hole in the wall of his home, covers his eyes as he exits through the hole and leaves the city at dusk (Ezekiel 12: 3-6). These actions are interpreted as follows:

Ezekiel 12:11-12 ‘A Sign in Your Midst’

11 Say, ‘I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.’ 12 And the prince who is among them shall lift his baggage on his shoulder in the dark, and shall go out; he shall dig through the wall and carry it through; he shall cover his face, so that he may not see the land with his eyes. 

The ancient prophets sometimes used sign actions as visual aids to convey God’s urgent messages across to their sceptical audiences (e.g. Isaiah 20:2-4, Ezekiel 4:1-8, Jeremiah 32). If our church leaders copied any of these strange and weird sign acts we would be asking some questions!

When a visual sign becomes a means of reminding, remembering, challenging or changing us, it takes on added significance. ‘Sign’ and ‘significance’ – these two words surely have linkage. ‘Sign acts’ are significant because they point beyond the obvious. They illuminate real life situations, needs and emotions.

Picasso was inspired to paint his prophetic, shocking anti-war painting of ‘Guernica’. In our day, Banksy’s contemporary murals usually express a mixture of social awareness, compassion and humour. Flowers at memorials, candles at vigils, visual aids/drama in worship or the media and banners at peaceful protests can also be powerful ‘sign acts’. Likewise, the seasonal displays of poppies for Remembrance and Christmas stars in the forecourt of our church are also ‘sign acts’ conveying a non- verbal message to passers-by.

Driving past a huge block of flats in Manchester, I noticed a very long banner draped along the length of the building. Its considerable size enabled these words to be read by many passers-by:
“Jesus walked on water. He must have practised in these flats!”. The flats had an ongoing problem with damp which was not being addressed by the Council.  I was reminded of the song line by the songwriters Simon and Garfunkel who sang “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls”. Yes – and even some graffiti can be a ‘sign act’!

‘Actions speak louder than words’ says the motto. Little acts of kindness are ‘sign acts’ that we can all practise. I believe that Emmanuel’s Monday morning Foodbank collection on the Green Street pavement has also been a ‘sign act’ in its own way. Thoughtful gifts or well-chosen cards, expressing thankfulness, celebration, encouragement or support can also be visual ‘sign actions’.
Come to think of it, as followers of Jesus, each day of our lives has the potential for ‘sign act’ moments. Now there’s a thought for Advent!

Prayer:

Lord, as we learn from you,
may our words and actions be as a sacrament…
‘an outward and visible sign of an inward grace’. Amen.

Address and Prayer © 2020 Gordon Harrison.
Image is freely available online.
A printable version of this Daily Devotional can be downloaded from here

All material within this order of worship is reproduced by permission under CCL 1226356