54 He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
Jesus was speaking about the signs of what was happening spiritually, signs that were there for the seeing but that people either could not or would not piece together. But God gives us all sorts of signs, all sorts of evidence of what is happening in every aspect of our lives. We can learn a lot if we open our eyes and ears to the signs around us and allow ourselves to see the realities -- the beauty and joy and the pain and sadness -- of our world.
This morning’s Gospel lesson along with our Epistle reading from Hebrews about the “great cloud of witnesses” tells us that Christ’s words weren’t meant to lull us into disengagement with the world around us, but rather to strengthen us to go out into the world in Christ’s name. Allowing ourselves to look and listen and see the signs around us is a necessary part of discipleship.
When I sit down at my computer to do online text study or make notes on the lessons during the week, I see news headlines. Throughout the past week, there were daily headlines about a pattern of extreme weather events that follow the predictions of climate scientists, I wondered about our inability or refusal as a society to piece together the evidence and do what we need to do to lessen the extent and effects of climate change.
Keeping in mind Jesus’ admonition to pay attention to the signs of our times, I'm sharing a list of some of the headlines I noticed this week:
- Huge ice island could cause threat to oil, shipping
- Hundreds evacuated, 1 dead after flooding in Iowa
- Ames opens drinking water sites for residents
- China landslide: More than 700 people confirmed dead
- Smoke from raging fires coats Moscow
- One-fifth of Pakistan is underwater
- Severe thunderstorms hit areas of DC, MA, VA: Causes flooding, power outages
- Long hot summer of fire, floods fits predictions…
(Added at 2:12 CDT) Here's an additional headline fresh this afternoon from the Associated Press: "UN chief: Never seen anything like Pakistan floods".