Reading the signs

“Red sky in morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, a sailor’s delight” So goes the adage. The saying is most reliable when weather systems predominantly come from the west as they do in the United States. A red sky appears when dust and small particles are trapped in the atmosphere by high pressure. This scatters blue light leaving only red light to give the sky its notable appearance. A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west, so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. Red sky in the morning appears due to the high-pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, most likely making way for a wet and windy low-pressure system. Hence “sailor take warning.”In today’s gospel we hear Jesus remark on reading the weather signs:

Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

The illustration points to the weather patterns in the Near East. The Mediterranean Sea was to the west and winds from that direction brought rain. The desert was to the south and winds from that direction brought heat. People took the time to check the direction of the wind. They planned their planting or harvesting or picnics or travel accordingly. They took seriously the direction of the wind and let that determine their actions.

We need not always check the signs in the sky, we have apps for that. But the question is whether we are paying attention to the more important signs of our times. Signs that have impact for more than a day’s passing. Then and now the question remains: are we are observant regarding the signs of our times? Alan Culpepper (Luke, New Interpreters Bible, p.269) reflects on these verses:

To what do we pay close attention, and to what do we turn a blind eye?…

Jesus’ sayings challenge us to examine the inconsistencies between attention and neglect in our own lives, but the underlying challenge is to consider whether these inconsistencies reveal a pattern of prioritizing the insignificant while jeopardizing the things of greatest value and importance. Have we given as much attention to the health of the church as we have to our golf score? Have we given as much attention to the maintenance of our spiritual disciplines as to the maintenance schedule for our car? Where in the scale of our attention to detail does our devotion to the teachings of our Lord rank?

The signs of the time are everywhere, and so was spiritual blindness. Not reading this weather correctly is dangerous. Misreading the signs of our spiritual life and direction have eternal consequences.

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