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  • Writer's pictureFather Benjamin von Bredow

All things are signs.

A Catechetical Sermon

February 8, 2023 at Solemn Evensong


In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ☩ Amen.


Welcome, again. As I said last week, this time will be for a short reflection on some essential themes of what is going here, in this service, in this church, and in the Christian faith, so that you can reflect on how those themes speak to your experience and your sense of spiritual need.


Last week I also identified two fundamental “intuitions” from which Christian thought and Christian spirituality start: that life and creation are good and should be received with joy and gratefulness, and that somehow we have fallen short of that gift and have a tendency to do wrong. This week, I will focus on the first of those two intuitions.


Christians believe that the world is made up of signs. All things are signs. A sign is something which has a form of its own, but also has something written on it which points to something else. All things are signs because, even while they remain themselves, they point beyond themselves to the God from whom they came.


We can draw many analogies between God and nature. For example, if we say, “God is my rock,” we mean that God is a safe and steady place that keeps us feeling secure. That is one way that we can talk about the world as “full of signs,” but actually we are talking about something deeper.


The very fact that things exist is a sign, and not because we can reason backward, and say “If things exist, they must have had a creator.” That logic may be good, but it’s not what we are talking about. Instead, everything we encounter shows us—right here and right now, they show *to our eyes*—the miracle of existence. Every tree and bush, besides all the other things they say, shout at us all the time, “I am! I exist!”


Does it ever strike you as a miracle that things exist? Imagine for a second that no things existed. Just darkness, coldness, emptiness. Nothing to love. Nothing to be thankful for. Nothing to enjoy. Now place yourself back into this world where there are birds and bees, apples and acorns, mountains and oceans, and human beings. Every one of those things is a marvel. Simply by being, they are showing us the miracle of existence itself.


They are a sign that existence, not emptiness, is the fundamental reality. Every individual thing that exists is a sign of the great Existence which they show us. Every individual fact is a sign of the great Fact which makes them possible.


I’ll give another example. How are living things signs? What do wheat, and whales, and human beings show us? They show us life. Imagine with me again. Think of a world of rocks and water, miraculously existing, but unmoving, still, irrational, desolate. But now populate that world in your imagination: fill it with things that move, and desire, and grow, and reproduce, and chatter, and sing, and reason. The fact of life is a wonder and a miracle. And so every living thing is a sign at there is a great Life at the heart of reality. They come from it, and they point back to it.


We can come up with many more examples. The existence of rational beings is a sign that the world is founded on some great Rationality. The existence of powers and forces, both physical forces like gravity and spiritual forces like willpower are signs of a great Power underneath it all.


And if all things are signs, they are also gifts. Existence gives being to all things. Life gives vitality to all things. Reason gives order and structure to all things. And so all things are beautiful, wonderful, and valuable, because of what they have been given. They show us what God is. That is what it means that all things are signs.


To have a relationship with God, at the heart of it, is to understand what the signs around you are saying. When you look out at nature, and when you look into your inner self, if you see there gifts and signs from God, what do you do? You give thanks. You marvel. You worship.


Christianity begins from recognizing that we and the whole world have been brought into existence so that we can have a relationship of awe-filled thankfulness for the gift of being. So when we say that Christian thinking starts with the intuition that life and creation are good, this is what we mean.


In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ☩ Amen.

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