Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the
prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son … He is the
reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he
sustains all things by his powerful word (Heb. 1:1-3c)
On April 9th Judy and I celebrated our 40th anniversary by returning to Orcas Island, where we spent our honeymoon (sadly only 3 days compared to the biblical injunction of 1 year!). We stayed in a tiny log cabin on the north end of the island just like we did on our honeymoon, though we stayed at a different resort. We love the quiet, the lapping of the water against the pebbles, and the sunsets. We celebrated mid-week with a wonderful dinner at Rosarios that our children gave us. There our waiter convinced us that we should return to the resort of our honeymoon, now owned by some friends of his. “They would love to have you visit,” he said. So we did. Entering the office we were met by a young couple who were thrilled to meet us. We asked if they had the old registries to see if we could find our names. Sure enough, they found the book labeled 1977-1980 and opened it up to April 9, 1977. And there was “Judy and Dana Wright,” written in Judy’s handwriting—our signature!
Signatures are important, for they represent the fullness of who we are and what we do. They are hard to forge and they tend to stay the same throughout our lives. When we attend a memorial service or a wedding or sign our names to any register—or when we sign a contract or seal a deal or make a treaty—our signed names are proof that we were there, making history, fully present, truthful. We might even trope Rene Descartes: “I sign my name; therefore, I am.” When Scripture calls Jesus “the Word of God made flesh” (John 1:1, 14) or when the writer of Hebrews quoted above says that the “Son … is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being,” we might say that Jesus of Nazareth is the very Signature of God—God truly present and powerful and redemptive. The very life of Jesus Christ on earth is God writing God’s Signature across human history in flesh and blood. God’s Signature—utterly unique, unable to be forged, fully expressive of God’s nature and will—communicating God’s holy love to human beings “heart to heart.” “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18). Jesus never wrote anything on earth because He is God’s Signature in the flesh! His life, death, and resurrection and ascension was Jesus’ “signed-nificance.”
So powerful was Jesus’ impact on human history that His “signature” life has generated two millennia of testimony. Immediately after His resurrection Jesus appeared to apostles who could not but bear oral witness to this Signature Life and its impact on them. As time went on, oral testimony became written testimony as letters, gospels, and histories were created to bear the “imprint” of Jesus Christ. This body of literary witness ultimately became our New Testament, the written witness that the Church believed—under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—truly captured the enduring impact Christ had on human history. This canonical literature could be understood as apostolic “signatures” bearing witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the church understood itself as the community bearing God’s “Signature.” The apostle Paul wrote: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3: 2-3). Paul understood that God was writing God’s “Signature” into the very lifeblood of the community of faith through the Spirit! To bear God’s “Signature” in the world with integrity, passion, and humility goes to the heart of our human vocation in Christ.