If Not Now, Then When?

By Pastor Ashley 

 

Several weeks ago, as I pulled up to the Chapel’s garage, I noticed new graffiti. This isn’t an unusual occurrence.  The building gets tagged all the time. All the time we show up to these new creations: sometimes offensive, sometimes weird, often unintelligible. 

Last spring, splashed across the front windows in blood red paint for all the world to see were the words: Jesus is a Tranny. 

 

That got washed off fairly quickly.

But this new graffiti is different…It’s inconspicuous. Non-offensive. And like moss on a rock in the Pacific Northwest, it’s growing on me.

 

It says, in a boxy and clever arrangement of letters: If not now, then when?  The same letter N is shared by two words. 

 

I wondered the first time I saw it: how are we, the church on whose backside these words are now tattooed, meant to read the phrase? How are we to understand it?

 

Is it a plea? If not now, then when? 

 

Is it like the famous prayer of that psalmist, “How long oh Lord?…How long will you hide your face from me?” 

 

I could picture someone in our neighborhood praying that way. God, if not now, then when? I left it at that for a good while. It’s an artful prayer from someone who needs God to show up. And don’t we all? 

But then Lent came around. And my candidate dropped out of the presidential race and the corona virus keeps spreading and UW shut down and my allergies kicked in and on Saturday I saw someone puke at the bus stop. 

 

And now I can’t help but think: Maybe it’s not meant to be read that way. 

If not now, then when? 

 

Because for Lent this year the phrase “social distancing” is in vogue and churches are canceling worship and hospitals are limiting visitors and the restaurant next door had to cut hourly workers and the Shoreline Costco is still sold out of toilet paper (why?) and we’re all realizing we touch our faces too freaking much.  

If not now, then when? 

 

How do we read it in light of all this?

And in light of Lent—that time when we focus in on God’s most offensive art—Christ splayed out on the cross, blood run red for all the world to see. 

It’s an image meant to stop us in our tracks, make us think, wonder... 

 

If not now, then when? 

 

Here’s my sneaking suspicion…Tagged on a church, maybe that phrase isn’t meant to be read as a prayer, but as an artful indictment.

A bit of accusation leveled against all of us who say we follow in Christ’s way but who are really quiet, directionless, action-less.

If not now, then when? 

As in, if not now, then when will you love the least, defend the oppressed, protect the vulnerable?

As in: Church if not now, then when? When will you help? When will you heal? When will you actually give the hope you proclaim to profess? When? 

And even if it’s not meant to be read in that way, maybe we should anyway.

 

Because maybe that’s the invitation of Lent this year…maybe that’s the writing on the wall.

If not now then when… 

 

Maybe it’s our invitation to get in the game. To get going in the right direction. To choose, like Jesus, to go down. 

 

To lift others up. 

 

In spite of canceled worship and meetings, in spite of uncertainty about what’s to come, in spite of all that we can’t control… 

If not now, then when? I think our answer is: Today.

Today we follow Christ’s direction. Today we love as Christ loved. Today we show compassion as Christ showed compassion. Today we care for the least in the way of Christ. 

Today. And everyday.

For today, and every day, we are the church. 

 

Questions for CoTA Small Groups

  1. What do you think CoTA can be doing now to continue to grow together as a community and in our faith during this time of social distancing?

  2. What are the things we could be doing to show Christ’s love in the world everyday? What about in light of the Covid 19 outbreak?

  3. How and where do you see God at work in the world during this time of uncertainty? 

  4. For what do you need prayer during this time?

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