Ready to March this June!

Dear Revolutionary Lovers:

I always look forward to the invitation I get from Rob Stephens to march for justice. Check out this email, that let's you know all of the things we are doing to make the world a better place. And there are some great pictures of things we have done.

If you want to stay connected to the ways we are moving for justice, or if you want to join our community of radical welcome and love, click here!  We'd love to have you.

Toward the Revolution,

P.S. Here is a video I made with GLAAD about what I am calling "Cake-Gate." We must be vigilant as our civil rights erode right before our eyes.

Dream. Pray. Act.

If you really look closely, you can see the fatigue around the edges of the staff. Holy Week, Easter, and the Revolutionary Love Conference was quite a bit to do in two weeks’ time. But we did it! And though we are tired, we are thrilled with what we all—you, our staff, and our partners—did together. Thank you for your part in it!

Holy Week was tender. Easter was joyful, with some 1,200 people joining us in the building and online, celebrating the power of new life.

And the conference? More than 500 people came to what has been called the best conference ever. More than 400,000 total clicks into the livestream!Why? Because people think Middle Church is doing a special and bold thing in the world. They want to convene around the thing, around Revolutionary Love; and they think we know how to do it!!

Working at Middle Church? Hosting that gathering? Working with our team? Partnering across faiths to heal souls and the world? This is my dream come true. I work hard to support it, and John and I make a significant gift each year to make it happen.

As a young enslaved African, Harriet Tubman, who was known as Minty, survived a head wound that should have killed her. One symptom of the wound was the need for spontaneous deep sleep; in those moments, she would dream routes to freedom. She dreamed of liberation and her dreams came true for 300 souls. She took risks, she spent her capital, and she put her body on the line to make them free.

If we are dreaming of liberating God’s people, we’ll have to take risks, Middle Family. It takes hard work and we will be tired sometimes.

And liberation—this movement for love and justice—it takes money. I know that these times can make us want to hunker down and turn inward in order to survive. But we are connected. I don’t survive without you; they won’t survive without us.

Friends, we are behind on our offering goal. If we don’t meet our offering goal by June 30, we are signaling to our Collegiate partners that though we talk of love and justice, we can’t fund it. Though we talk of bold, revolutionary love, we don’t believe strongly enough to support it. And if we don’t make it, we will have to make cuts for next year. We’ll have to assume that we can’t afford our amazing programming, worship, and justice works and we’ll have to let something go.

You’ve noticed we are talking more about money. We are talking about money because we need some! As you recall, the Collegiate Church did major capital improvement projects at its four churches in recent years. To pay for ours, our Collegiate funding has been reduced by $30,000 each year. In addition, each ministry has been asked to make funding 50 percent of its budget an urgent goal. This is our way of partnering in the creation of our new safe, accessible buildings.

At the time this was announced, Middle was funding 20 percent of its ministry. We have increased year by year, and currently are funding 37 percent of our budget—that is AMAZING! But we are not on track to make this year’s offering goal. It is imperative that we meet the goal of  $625,000 this year as we continue to lean into funding 50 percent by 2022. As of this writing, we need about $167,000 to meet the goal.

So, my question for you is this: Is Middle Church the stuff of your dreams? Do you feel called to liberation? If so, the staff and I need you. We can’t afford any bystanders. There is too much work to do and it is not free!

Please join me in prayer about the spiritual gift of generosity, about giving some of what God has given you—maybe a tenth of it—to support
God’s dream. To complete God’s Dream.

In my dream, we’re all making it happen. Showing up. Loving. Being generous.


Dreaming a Dream

It was 1999, and I was serving a church in Trenton, NJ. Trying to decide what to do as a relationship was dying. Trying to remember the dream of forever that was embedded in my marriage vows, implied by my faith, inspired by my parents’ long sometimes rocky, often tender marriage.

I received this book, this beautiful book, as a Christmas present from my youngest brother. We’ve shared books about Africa, about Black history; we give them to each other, a shared vocabulary in a family that loves the spoken word; a silent conversation. I see you, I know you like this kind of thing, need this kind of thing. Once it was a beautiful book about the kings and queens of African nations. Once it was a book about Black hair, and the ways Black women make magic out of it. Once a book on the spectacular hats of Black church ladies.

This time, this year it was I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women who Changed America by Brian Lanker. Opening it, I gingerly touched its pages, studying the portraits of these stunning women who dreamed a world of peace, of wholeness, of safety for their people—my people, all people. I noticed lines etched in their faces, strong and fierce and beautiful faces. I touched the pages, weeping, praying, remembering that in my blood, in my DNA, is the stuff of dreams. Dreams deferred; dreams fraught, frustrated; dreams of a world full of revolutionary love and justice for all; a dream determined to become true.

Standing in the pulpit at Middle Church, I study your faces, each like a portrait in a book. Wide eyed faces of toddlers in the Family Zone; wise, knowing faces of seniors, framed in greying hair. The glowing faces of expectant mothers; the pained faces of those who have lost loved ones.

Scanning, I feel so curious. What is it that you are dreaming? New job? New apartment? Forgive- ness? Peace? Love? A safe world, free of violence and fear?

I pray, as Easter comes, that anything that feels wooden, frightening, or dead for you is quickened with new life. I pray your dreams of peace and freedom come true. I thank God and the universe that we are connected here, in this space we called Middle. Dreaming a dream we can make together. Dreaming a world we can create together. A world that will be honed out of our faith and struggle; a dream fueled by our time, talent, and treasure. A dream birthed by Love. Period.

The staff, our consistory, and I thank you for being the stuff of our dreams. Being in relationship with you—working together to liberate our souls and the world—is a dream come true. Happy Easter and so much love

This Is a Woman to Celebrate

Mark tells a really fascinating story about a woman whose daughter is sick with an “unclean spirit.” She wants and needs Jesus to heal her child. We who are the readers of the gospel get to witness something really unique in her exchange with Jesus.

From there he set out and went away
to the region of Tyre. [Jesus] entered
a house and did not want anyone to
know he was there. Yet he could not
escape notice, but a woman whose
little daughter had an unclean spirit
immediately heard about him, and she
came and bowed down at his feet.
Now the woman was a Gentile, of
Syrophoenician origin. She begged him
to cast the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed
first, for it is not fair to take the children’s
food and throw it to the dogs.”
But she answered him, “Sir, even the
dogs under the table eat the children’s
crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying
that, you may go—the demon has left
your daughter.” So she went home,
found the child lying on the bed, and the
demon gone. —Mark 7:24–30

I am not a media expert, I am a theologian. But you and I both know this is not really good press for Jesus; it is not his best moment. He is caught in the act—in the act of being human. Let the children be fed first, it’s not fair to give their food to the dogs. Wow. These Gentiles are . . . dogs! This is Jesus being a product of his culture, shaped by being a man, a Jewish man, a Jewish religious man in a time and space where his identity meant not being for everyone. We are witnessing something very human in Jesus. We are seeing something, if we look closely in the mirror, that we might see about ourselves. We can be, in our humanity, prone to stick with our own kind and kin; to be fearful of, even disdainful of others.

More about Jesus ina sermon soon. But let’s think for a moment about this woman. She is also a product of her culture. She knows how Jewish people felt about Gentile people, about Syrophoenician people. She knows how a male rabbi would feel about talking to any woman not his wife or family. But talk to Jesus she does. She asks for what she wants, she engages his prejudices and sexism on behalf of her child. She stands in when Jesus rejects her; she basically tells him that #TimesUp on his behavior. What she needs for her child surpasses Jesus’ biases; what she wants pushes her out of her prescribed role.

This unnamed woman is a woman after my heart. She is bold. She is brave. She is womanist/ feminist. She reaches past the space allotted to her and causes this man, this human, this rabbi who happens also to be the son of God, to change his mind. We who are women know what time it is. Time’s up on treating us with disrespect. Time’s up on ceilings that must be broken, on pay that is less than we deserve. Time’s up on objectifying our bodies, and teaching our girls there is only one way to be beautiful. Time’s up on competing with each other for small crumbs under the table.

March is Women’s History Month and I want to start our celebration by honoring this woman, this unnamed bad-ass who takes on Jesus. This story speaks of Jesus’ humanity. This story speaks of the extraordinary poise, power, and tenacity of a woman. A woman who teaches Jesus how to be a better human. She is a woman to note, to admire, to emulate. Listen to #Herstory.

Can You See It?

Friends, our nation needs a course correction, so we can fully and finally realize our dream of liberty and justice for all. So we can live and flourish in God’s Dream. There are lots of ways to talk about this, but the earliest followers of Jesus called it Love.

Though faith, hope, and love were all incredible gifts, they declared that love was the greatest. They said it was impossible to love an unseen God and hate a neighbor right in front of them. They asserted that God is love and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them. And that there is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear.

America has a fear problem. We fear that those whom we do not understand are fundamentally different than we are, and, therefore, threaten our way of life. We fear that well-being is a zero-sum game in which the sharing of power puts our survival at risk. These fears must be dismantled with light. This hatred must be driven out with love. These lies must be dispelled with the truth.

The truth is our vulnerability, is our strength. Our yearning for connection is what makes us uniquely human. There are more than enough resources for each of us to not only survive but to thrive. We are inextricably connected one to the other, and connection is the power we have to heal ourselves and our world.  

We know this truth as well: We stand on the shoulders of people who have struggled, failed, and forged new wisdom; people who have been tested by disappointment and disaster; and what they have left us is confidence. We know how to help our neighbors in need, to save each other in times of trial. We know how to stand up for those who are left behind, to protest and march and lobby until laws and structures are changed.  

And so as we turn our faces toward February, toward African American History Month and the celebration of the Lunar New Year; as we turn our hearts toward a day set aside to celebrate love, let us love like revolutionaries.

Revolutionary love sees each human being as a beautiful creation, capable of amazing acts of kindness and justice, designed to partner with God to complete God’s dream. Revolutionary love understands political upheaval as birthing pains, as the universe pushes the creation toward Shalom. Revolutionary love is empathic; it binds us together. It means when a child is hungry in Haiti or Hell’s Kitchen, my stomach growls.

Our staff and Consistory have been listening to you, trying to see what you see for our future. And this is the vision statement we created to guide us in these next years:

Middle Collegiate Church Vision Statement

Middle Collegiate Church is a multicultural, multiethnic, intergenerational movement of Spirit and justice, powered by Revolutionary Love, with room for all. Following in the Way of Jesus’ radical love, and inspired by the prophets, Middle Church is called by God to do a bold new thing on the earth. We aim to heal the soul and the world by dismantling racist, classist, sexist, and homophobic systems of oppression.
Because our God is still speaking in many languages, we work in inter­religious partnerships to uproot injustice, eradicate poverty, care for the brokenhearted, and build the Reign of God on earth. This activism is fueled by our faith; our faith is expressed in art; our art is an active prayer connecting us with the Holy Spirit. Founded prior to this nation, Middle Church affirms the transformative power of moral imagination, reclaiming and reframing Christianity inside our walls, on the street, and in virtual spaces around the globe.

Can you see it? If we can see it, we can do it.

In Revolutionary Love,

Redeeming the Soul of a Nation

I was on a field trip to a nature center outside of Chicago on that April day. My fourth-grade class at Gresham Elementary School had escaped our urban neighborhood of dark, red brick bungaloes set on little patches of green and gone to a nature center in the suburbs. We saw flowers blooming and learned how to speak about them in Latin.

Mr. Smith, our teacher, was a dreamy, chocolatey brown man who smiled all the time, a smile as bright as his highly shined shoes. Even when scolding rowdy tweens, his eyes kept the smile going. So when his face was crumpled, his eyes swollen, we knew something was wrong before he spoke to us.

On April 4, 1968, at about 6:00p, Mr. Smith gathered us together just before we boarded the bus home and said, “Children, I have terrible news for you. Dr. Martin Luther King has been shot. He was standing on the balcony of his motel with his friends when a gunman took his life.” Dr. King was dead, our teacher was weeping, and we were stunned into grief.

That night, Chicago was on fire. Even our pleasant South Side neighborhood erupted in violence. We could hear people shouting in the streets; some were shooting guns. My sister and I hid under out beds for a while, and I imagined, one month before my 9th birthday, that since Dr. King was dead, I was going to have to pick up his mantle and do his work. This was the beginning of my sense of call. I knew I’d join him in being a drum major for peace, that I’d work so that no matter the color of one’s skin, one could be loved, celebrated, and have enough.

Now, 50 years later, I am the Senior Minister of the church of my dreams, the church of Dr. King’s dream, the church of God’s dreams. In all of our ethnic and cultural diversity, in all of our sexual orientations and genders, in the wide breadth of our ages and the ways we see God through diverse eyes—I am so in love with us, so very called to the work we are doing to heal the nation, to redeem her soul.

And, 50 years after Dr. King’s death, I have a new friend, colleague, and partner in the movement for love and justice. Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee alumna, Civil Rights activist and public theologian Ruby Nell Sales is coming to Middle Church. She will make her home here! Together, her non-profit SpiritHouse Project and Middle Church will form the The Center for Social and Spiritual Restoration. The center will be a national project that offers a common space where people of different social locations come together to address the spiritual and social impediments that stand in the way of up-building a beloved community and a more realized democracy that is both transformative and sustainable.

A few weeks ago, I was with Ruby in Char­lottesville, listening to the way she speaks to people of all ethnicities. She calls them to action  in her gentle voice, her brilliant insights pouring out of her like ginger tea. Strong, brewed with love. Meant for healing people. Meant for redeeming the soul of our nation. 

Ruby has a wonderful spirituality, a deep religious soul, that she calls “black folk religion.” In a conversation with Krista Tippet, Ruby described an experience of realizing that God is always present, healing her, redeeming her soul:

“I was riding down the road one day in Washington, D.C. after having been at a demonstration against the war in Iraq. And suddenly, out of nowhere, I started crying, and I realized that God had been with me even when I hadn’t been with myself. And those moments made me really begin to seek, to go back to really think deeply about black folk religion and to really want to develop, in a very intentional way, an inner life that had to do with how I lived in the world.”

Ruby and I will offer our annual Martin Luther King., Jr. teach-in on January 14, 2017, at 3:00p. We will talk about black folk religion, about completing God’s dream, and about redeeming the soul of America. You won’t want to miss it.

Toward the Love Revolution, and a healed world,


What Will We Do? A Faithful Response to Poverty in Advent

Did you ever have one of those bracelets that said “What Would Jesus Do?” Maybe a bumper sticker? Did you get the T-shirt — WWJD? This was all the rage in the 1990s.

In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?, a novel written by Charles Sheldon in 1896, grew out of sermons he preached about imitating Christ. In His Steps was not about personal redemption but about making the moral choice when encountering the poor and marginalized. Sheldon believed all people — including Blacks, women, Jews, and Catholics — were equal and should be treated as such...

Read the latest post by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis on Huffington PostWhat Will We Do? A Faithful Response to Poverty in Advent.

One Year Later... 10 More Things to Do

We just got an invitation to re-connect with our friends at Lab Shul in a Primal Prayer event. We attended it at Washington Square last year the day after the election. Before we screamed, we sang, we prayed, we cried, we hugged. The scream bubbled up out of our bodies, our grief, our surprise. It felt good, to let it out, let those feelings rise on the winds, rustle browning leaves, reach the heavens. 

More than screaming, what healed me was being together in the beautiful diversity that is Manhattan. Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, people of no faith and people who had lost faith. Students, older people, clergy and lay leaders; a rainbow of ethnic, gender and sexual orientation diversity. One woman held her toddler close to her bosom, like she was a life raft. Maybe our children will save us from these swirling waters.

In the midst of more and more revelations of sexual misconduct by powerful men in the arts and in the media, one such man was elected to the highest office in our land. This shocks me to my core, still. A liar, a cheat, a sexual predator—our president. How desperate must so many have been for a change for this to happen. I feel like we are cast in a horrific reality show, and the premise of the show is: How far can POTUS push the envelope on decency and have our nation’s most vulnerable citizens survive?

While I was grieving last year, I posted an article on HuffPost’s religion page—“10 Spiritual Responses to the Election.” You can still find it there. Brokenhearted, still, and more resolute than ever that we must persistently resist this administration with everything we have; I am calling us once again to ask, what would love demand of us? In these precarious times, what does Revolutionary Love and Resistance look like as an organizing principle? We need answers, and here are 10 NEW things to help us get there: 

    1.     Get with some people you love and hug them, and cry with them, and let them love you back.

    2.     Make Revolutionary Love a spiritual practice. Antiracism, LGBTQ advocacy, caring for the poor and marginalized, supporting women’s gifts, mentoring children, supporting common sense gun control, and demanding that everyone have enough healthcare and resources to thrive—this is the spiritual practice of Revolutionary Love.

    3.     Have some honest conversations with your friends and family members who voted for Trump. Ask them about how they see this administration now. Can we recruit some people to a worldview based in love and justice? We need to do that now! 

    5.     Watch news from many perspectives; follow many viewpoints on social media. Let’s learn what we need to do on the way to 2018. The political is personal AND spiritual. Jesus was political, never forget.

    6.     Come to church often, and bring friends. Join a Bible study. Let’s learn about Revolutionary Love from the experts. Register for the Revolutionary Love Conference 2018.

    7.     Pray, eat, love, breathe, exercise, sleep, laugh, play, take sabbath. We need to re-create in order to survive.

    8.     Donate to Middle Church, your one-stop hub for love and justice.

    9.     Invite your friends into a book and/or movie group. Watch 13th or Crash. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kelly Brown Douglas. Learn. Make strategies. Invite them to join our movement.

10.       Call Congress, write your senators. Demand commonsense gun control laws, needed now more than ever in the wake of recent horrific shootings.

You give me such hope, Middle Family. You are resilient, loving, powerful, generous. You are revolutionary in your faithfulness, you are revolutionary in your love.

Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence

As the families of those slain in Las Vegas bury their beloved; as the wounded struggle to survive; as detectives and forensic scientists piece together the what and why of yet one more mass shooting, what can we do?

After Sandy Hook and Oak Creek; Charlotte and Orlando; it can feel like it’s too much—like nothing’s going to change—but I need to tell you what I see. As each of these horrific days pileup, I see more and more people standing up and standing together. Sooner or later, something is going to give, and I think it starts right here, right now, with us.

Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence 

Prayer is not enough. We come from people who put prayer and activism in the same breath to battle Jim Crow; to ensure voting rights and marriage equality; to protect health care and the rights of religious minorities.

Now we are breathing prayer in order to push for justice —to speak up, vote, lobby, march, protest, blog, tweet and insist on the value of every person. In the midst of prophetic grief too painful to describe, we are raising our voices in the name of Sandy Hook and Oak Creek; Charlotte and Orlando; and Las Vegas.

Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence

First, we’re going to stop things from getting worse. There are two pieces of legislation moving through Congress that would make it easier for people to carry and use guns that we can stop, right now. If you sign and share the petition, we’ll connect you to an easy system to call your member of Congress to make sure that happens. 

Then, I'm going to personally deliver your names to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, with as many people as are willing to join us as possible. Voices of faith and moral courage will be crucial as politicians try to hide behind their “thoughts and prayers” or small concessions.

Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence

We can be a part of turning this all around. Already, I've been joined by two sisters of different faiths, Valarie Kaur and Rabbi Sharon Brous. When you join us we’ll be among those people standing up in new ways to stop these tragedies from happening again.

Let's lift our voices, let's flood the phone lines. Let’s be the groundswell that changes the tide.

In solidarity, 
The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis
Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
Auburn Senior Fellow

This petition was originally shared on GROUNDSWELL: Inspiring faithful action to heal and repair the world, powered by Auburn Theological Seminary.

We Should be Shouting, Not Silent, on Gun Violence

John F. Kennedy. Martin Luther King, Jr. Robert Kennedy. Malcolm X. Medger Evers.

In my growing-up years, the murders of these leaders were a hideous stain on the fabric of our nation. Against a backdrop of television movies of bad guys and good cops; of settlers and Indians; of mob hits and army battles, these were my heroes, cut down by gunfire...

Read more of Rev. Jacqui's response to the tragedy in Las Vegas on Huffington Post.
Sign the petition here: Tell Congress: No Silence on Gun Violence! 

With Washed Eyes: Care for God's People

In the parable at the center of my sermon on Sunday, God’s Economy, Jesus told the story of a landowner who hires workers to pick grapes for a day. Some start before dawn, others are hired at about 5:00 PM in the evening. In the end, they are all paid the same wage (Matthew 20:1-16)

Of course, there was grumbling from those who worked the longest, out in the heat all day. They don’t mind that the last to the fields get paid, they just believe the ones who worked the longest should get paid more.

Not in God’s economy, not according to this parable. The last shall be first; this is what Jesus is saying. And that just—well, that just blows our minds!

We can be left disquieted by the radical and lavish way God loves ALL of the world, including the people in it that seem unlovable. We struggle in our ‘that’s not fair space’ with this story. Although we are taught to share with others when we are little children, this parable and the teachings of Jesus make us question what it means to share. How much? With whom? When is it enough? What is fair?

Those are really important questions, and we will keep talking about what it means to complete God’s dream this year, to live the ethics of the beloved community. This text is clear, though; it is meant to wash our eyes, to change the way we see. Everyone should have enough. Everyone.

Enough food, clothing, and shelter. Enough healthcare, and enough opportunities to live safely, learn and grow. This is why Middle Church is committed to feeding God’s people and working for a living wage. Even when we don’t know all of the answers to all of the questions, we are trying to do our part, with washed eyes and open hearts.

Here are two ways to do our part right now.

1.) Let’s share what we have with those devastated by these horrific storms and earthquakes. You can give here to a variety of relief efforts: 

—Hurricane Maria/Puerto Rico relief efforts: click here
Also, consider attending the Center for Puerto Rico Studies (Hunter College) event on 9/26/17 at 6:30 PM to learn about other ways to help with relief efforts. More information is available on their event page

—Central Mexico earthquake relief efforts: click here

—Hurricanes Harvey & Irma relief efforts: click here.

2.) Let’s keep the pressure on our elected officials, so they fix the Affordable Care Act as needed, but they DO NOT PASS the Graham-Cassidy bill. It puts the most vulnerable Americans at risk, guts Medicaid, and removes protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Make a call right now; light up the phone lines, and speak up for the vulnerable.

If you missed my sermon, listen to it here, and tweet what you think about it @RevJacquiLewis. I pray for more washed eyes among us, Middle family. More revolutionary lovers doing more to make God’s reign here on earth. I am SO glad we get to do this work, together.

Love and Light, 

Condemn White Supremacy and Violence

Join me and other faith leaders to "call on all elected officials to explicitly and publicly condemn white supremacy and the organizations that advance and seek to give it mainstream credibility." And "call on President Trump to remove Steve Bannon and other supporters of the alt-right from his White House and stand against the racist policies they propose". Sign the petition here

The petition was started by Faith in Public Life.

Rev. Jacqui Lewis Speaks at Chautauqua Institution

 Photo credit: Erin Clark.

Photo credit: Erin Clark.

The Rev. Jacqui Lewis gave a lecture titled “Speaking Truth to Power When the World’s on Fire!” as part of Week Five’s Interfaith Lecture Series “The Supreme Court and Religious Communities: Holding America Accountable?” on July 27 at the Chautauqua Institution.

Read about her lecture here. 

Watch a video here.

What is Your Sign?

Long before that Mel Gibson movie called Signs, back in the olden days when I was a teenager, and there was no such thing as a smart phone, or tweeting, or texting or …

Rev Jacqui J Lewis What is your sign God is Love Period Blog

One would go to a party, in a basement with blue lights and R & B music that had lyrics. And if you were this particular one, you were built like a tall, brown Gumby with a big Afro; you’d be totally awkward and wish you had breasts—even little ones—and you’d make your mother buy you a training bra by begging her and getting on her last nerve. You’d wear it under some V-neck ribbed sweater to that party, where any piece of lint in your Afro pulsed with an eerie, neon, nuclear waste-type glow. Some boy, also linty and glowy, would sidle up to you and—rather than ask your name—he’d say, “What’s your sign?” And you’d say, with your clarinet-playing overbite, and your big afro, and your limited astrological knowledge, “I’m a Gemini.” Then he’d say—straight out of some R & B song—“Cool, Gemini. I’m a Capricorn.” And because you had no idea what that meant, you’d say, “Let’s go get some punch.” 

Fast forward to that movie, Signs. I can watch it over and over again and see something new. Mel Gibson is an Episcopal priest, a father to a boy and a girl, and big brother to Joaquin Phoenix—a washed-up baseball player. Father Mel’s wife is killed in a car accident, pinned against a tree by a car (a driver fell asleep, so tragic). Mel rushes to the scene of the accident, where his wife is saying things, good-bye type things, and her husband is just hanging onto every word. Telling him to swing away, aim high, things like that. When she dies, her husband’s faith dies.

He thinks her death is a sign of the profound absence of God.

At those special times I had with Mom, while she was dying and leaving us, she’d wake up from a dream, and say some pretty fascinating things. “Where is my dress?” “Put it between the wall and the picture frame, no between the door frame and the wall.” And then, clear as a bell, “Trials and tribulations will come, but everything’s going to be alright.” “Don’t cry, it’s going to be alright.” That last one—oof—that one really got me. Once she was staring at me when I thought she was sleeping. I said, “What are you doing, are you watching me?” and I stood up to go and sit near her. She said, “Don’t come over here,” in this mischievous way. Mom was in so much pain, her medication made her charmingly loopy. But she was right there, in what Black folks call her “right mind” until the end. This was a sign of her resilience and bad-ass strength.

Back to Mel and the signs in that movie. Some aliens—pretty ugly, really—have made signs in cornfields to help each other land. These are not cute ET types. They have an agenda that is not about harmony with humankind. I don’t want to give it all away, but suffice it to say that everything the lovely dying wife says—all the things—end up being the things that save the family. The things she says are the things that save Mel from his devastating break-up with God.

In the end, he recognizes the signs of God’s presence. Even in the unbelievable, almost unbearable sorrow at the loss of his wife, Father Mel is reminded God is there.
As I write, a man has set off a body-bomb in a concert venue in Manchester in England; 22 are dead, dozens are injured. The sense of security and safety of hundreds of young people, a city, and a country has been murdered. POTUS 45 has fired a man investigating him and is systematically dismantling health care, education, voting rights, environmental justice, and the hope imbedded in the so-called American Dream.

Sometimes I feel like we are in a sci-fi movie, and there are malevolent aliens all about; I feel sometimes like a stranger in a strange land, don’t you? Still, I am collecting signs, every day. Though trials and tribulations come, it’s going to be alright. That, from Mom, is a sign.

People help people get out of a stampede in a stadium—a sign. Justice Sally Quillian Yates stands up against the Muslim ban; Palestinian-American Feminist Linda Sarsour speaks out for the rights of Muslims, and Rabbi Sharon Brous speaks out for Linda’s freedom to speak—a sign. 

People gathered in our sanctuary, and outside our doors at the Street Fair. A church full of African American and Latinx justices and court officers worshiping with us, saying in a chorus, “This is what love looks like”—a sign. When we march down Fifth Avenue on June 25—that is a sign. Butterfly sandwiches delivered with love are a sign of God at work in the world. 

Our interfaith play dates are a sign that indeed little children will lead us to a future of love, peace, and justice.

Whenever you take communion at Middle Church, or you break bread and share a cup at home, at a bar, or in a restaurant, you enact a sign of the presence of God, who is with you in that essential life-giving moment of nourishment and community. 

When you are baptized, or when you bathe or shower or jump in the ocean, you enact a sign of the presence of the Holy. God is present in our joy, and in our pain; in our celebrations and in our sorrow; in our grief, and in our working for justice. God is here, God is Love. Period. The pictures gathered in every monthly newsletter are signs of God at work, in and through us.

What’s your sign? 

We’d love to hear of the ways you are experiencing the presence of the Holy in your life in the world and at Middle Church

Tweet me @RevJacquiLewis, find Middle Church on Facebook at, and share at our Revolutionary Love virtual community—

You, Middle family, are a sign, for me, that love is power, that multi-everything communities can thrive.
Thank you!!