“Discerning signs has to do with comprehending the remarkable in common happenings, to see portents of death where others find progress or success, but simultaneously, to behold tokens of the reality of the resurrection or hope where others are consigned to confusion of despair.” — William Stringfellow
The above quote by lawyer and social activist William Stringfellow provides his description of the nature of doing theology. On one side, “to see portents of death,” is a call to serious social critique, to name the sources of decay and degradation in our world. On the other, “to behold tokens of the reality of the resurrection,” is a charge to look for new possibilities rather than molder in despair or cynicism.
Kate Bowler, a Canadian historian, writer, and cancer survivor, reflects in her own way on beholding tokens of the resurrection in part of a recent poem.
“Right in the midst of the pain and fear and uncertainty,
may we hunt for beauty and meaning and truth … together.
Not to erase the pain or solve the pain,
(though surely that would be nice),
but to remind us that beauty and sorrow coexist.
And that doesn’t mean we’re broken or have been forgotten.”
What tokens of the reality of the resurrection do you see, even where pain, fear, and uncertainty dominate? Here are some places I’ve seen such tokens of late.
- Kindness in the face of grief
- The smell of petrichor (look it up!) after rain this week
- Bridge-builders who overcome social divides
- Flowers growing in sidewalk cracks
- Perseverance in the midst of pain
- Friends sharing a road marked with suffering
- The guileless hug of a child
- Gestures of simple kindness
- Receiving hospitality from an unexpected person
- Laughing till you cry at something ridiculous
- Cooking with friends on a cold evening
- The comforting touch of a trusted friend
In seasons of distress and grief, as well as of joy and delight, may we as followers of Jesus behold tokens of the reality of the resurrection. Or as Kate Bowler concludes her poem above:
“In our hope. In our disappointment. In our joy. In our pain.
God is here and we are never—were never and will be never—alone.”