Importantly, much of this sign-making is embodied and incarnational in nature as we organize and transform the material "stuff" of the world. Williams writes:
[B]eing human, being bodily, and being a user of 'signs' are inseparable. We reflect on ourselves and 'answer' our individual and social past by doing things and making things, re-ordering what the past and present world has given us into a new statement of meaning, self-interpretation and world-interpretation.In the Christian imagination Jesus was the preeminent sign-maker:
Jesus of Nazareth...It is clear that the tradition of his deeds and words is heavily influenced by the sense that he was a sign-maker of a disturbingly revolutionary kind.In Jesus's life and actions--in the way he used the "stuff" of material existence, including his physical body--he created signs, signs that directed our attention to God, the one he called "Father." More, Jesus was--in his material existence--a sign and sacrament:
Jesus, baptized, tempted, forgiving and healing, offering himself as a means of a new covenant, is himself 'sacrament': it is his identity that is set before us as a sign...the life of Jesus is a sign of God, showing how a human biography formed by God looks.The nature of sacrament, then, is about sign-making--organizing, transforming and renewing material existence in a way that points toward God. What is most important here isn't a focus on holy, sacramental objects than engaging in sacramental action:
[T]he primary concern should be for sacramental actions rather than an attempt to focus on 'sacralized' objects.Sacramental action is a form of sign-making that organizes and re-organizes the material world in a way that brings renewal, refreshment and transformation. The sign-making is "Christian" insofar as it seeks to remember and replicate the sign-making of Jesus of Nazareth, shaping and re-shaping material existence in the manner in which he shaped and re-shaped material existence.
And by material existence I mean bread, wine, oil and water. Light, movement, and color. Smells and sound. Standing, kneeling, and dancing. Singing, praying, and preaching. Gathering, listening, and sending. Washing, embracing, touching. Making, re-making, and repairing. Celebrating, commemorating, remembering. Serving, caring, and nursing. Protesting and resisting.
These are material signs and sacramental actions--ways we shape and re-shape our world and bodies--that help us "make sense" as we refresh and renew material existence, over and over, to the glory of God.