I must admit, my gentle snowflakes, that I have never understood the amusement usually generated by trite church signage. For me, each and every encounter with these one-liners of doom is a profoundly distressing experience, since behind every saccharine and/or heretical utterance stands a confused soul utterly convinced that cranking out weekly maxims for the edification of ongoing traffic is their own pivotal contribution to the eschatological fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. (As an aside, I should like to note that the quality of the content of the average church sign is a direct result of the quality of the theology dispensed at the average Sunday School, which, as the late Charles Merill Smith observed, “ranges from fundamentalist pietism to salvation by thinking gorgeous thoughts, with both extremes frequently included in the same lesson by the same teacher, with no one bothered in the least by the inconsistencies”1.)
Surely you will understand my chagrin, then, when I spotted a church roughly a half mile from the interstate exit that I would usually take on my way to work whose transgressions in this regard are beyond number. (Their most recent offering: “Smile. It increases your face value.”) Since I have often come perilously close to crashing into oncoming traffic upon seeing each new weekly message, it is doubtless in the interest of my personal safety that I have found a new, more pleasant route to work that also mercifully avoids the offending sign. As is my wont, however, I have thought long and hard about what sort of message I would like to convey to the masses were I in charge of such a sign. Needless to say, vapid platitudes would be right out; but then so much of what one can say in a single declarative sentence is necessarily vapid. How to convey in a single short sentence the greatness and awesome holiness of God, the terrible foulness of sin, the ineffable saving, cleansing, and transforming power of God, his glorious rule and ultimate victory over sin and death? And then it hit me: it’s right there in the Bible. Thus I’ve come to the conclusion that I would probably echo the author of Hebrews2 in saying:
OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE.
And if I were in charge of such things, my friends, that sign would stay up until Kingdom come.
2 Cf. Hebrews 12:29, which in turn is quoting Deuteronomy 4:24.