by Pastor KEN RICKETT
Do Signs Tell Us All We Need To Know?
Matthew 16: 2-3: He (Jesus) said unto them (Pharisees), “When it is evening you say, it will be fair weather because the sky is red, and in the morning, it will be foul weather today for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times!
Signs from the physical world are all around us. If not around us, then signs are under or over us. No escaping these signs. Here! There! Everywhere we look, signs are there.
For example, signs of autumn’s approach will soon be seen. In the mountains of Western North Carolina, near the Great Smokies, two signs of autumn appear in late July and early August, namely, the leaves of sourwood trees (from which we get sourwood honey!) and the leaves of poison ivy vines (the “untouchable”!) that grow up to the tops of trees are fiery red long before September’s goldenrod begins to bloom. After almost 30 years of living in Indiana, I have observed even while corn stalks and leaves are still green, the full grown ears of corn stand up straight like a minute hand on a clock at the top of the hour, and by the time the corn stalk and leaves are brown, the ears of corn have slowly descended 180 degrees, like a minute hand that reaches the half hour mark. I see the ears of corn in a slow descent long before the green stalk dies.
Evergreen leaves of rhododendron or mountain laurel can tell the astute observer the temperature on very cold mornings. If the temperature gets around zero degrees, rhododendron leaves are curled up like a little pipe. As a resident of Indiana, it is the appearance of the red winged blackbird rather than the robin that signals the arrival of spring.
Signs are also under us. Did you know that the ash from the huge explosion of Yellowstone volcano thousands of years ago have been found in archeological digs as far East as Illinois and western Indiana? Signs of old events that can’t be found in history books.
Signs are over us and the heavens reveal their glory. Black holes, comets that return after several decades or generations, and the likely extension of space forever with many galaxies and stars awe us, and these things are a sign of something incredible!
Many years ago I was in a shop in which a man repaired watches, clocks (including grandfather clocks and other antique timepieces) and he would sell repaired and cleaned clocks from estate sales. He was busy with a customer when I first entered so I walked around. When that customer left and I went to the counter to give him a watch to repair, the man said to me,
“You have seen a lot of pain and grief in your childhood.”
I was shocked. He was right. I lost both parents when I was quite young. When stunned by such a statement as that one, it took me a few seconds to ask the obvious:
“How did you know?”
He said, “when I saw you walking around, your manner of walk told me that you had a lot of childhood stories, even happy stories, but some stories would most definitely be tragic.”
Talk about “signs” that tell all about me! I had no idea! Naturally, I told him a couple of stories that substantiated his observation. But my own intuition surfaced, and I then asked him,
“what is such an astute observer of humanity doing in a watch shop?”
Ah! His story emerged! He was once a professor of medicine in a major university. His philosophy was that doctors needed to hone their skills of observation. But as medical doctors, by insurance rules, etc., were forced to use medical test after expensive medical test to diagnose what should be obvious to an observant eye, he rebelled. Eventually he resigned. He then told me about a customer who came in the shop, and he said,
“I took a good look at him and I told him, ‘your body is fighting a cancer.’”
The customer said, “I just had a physical last month, and all was fine”
to which the watch repairman said, “go back and ask your doctor to check out this and this.”
A few days later, that customer returned and asked,
“how did you know…..? But we caught it early, and I will be fine.”
This “watchman” saw signs of far more than the red sky at night. . .He saw signs of . . Life.
We know signs–like signs of approaching seasons, or even approaching storms. We know signs–like the red sky at sunset promises fair weather, but red clouds in the morning forebodes foul weather. But Jesus said, “O ye hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” People begged Jesus to tell them “the signs of his second coming.” Jesus refused.
What signs did Jesus want us to see? I think I have a hunch. Jesus wanted us to see signs of human hope and human struggle. Jesus wanted us to see signs of human injustice and signs of righteousness. Jesus wanted us to see signs, not of the physical world per se, but signs of the world in which a Just and Holy God also has a Heart of forgiveness and redemption is present among all peoples.
Jesus spent his lifetime on earth, but few really knew who He was. They missed the signs. . . .signs that you and I must not miss. . . .of a God, revealed in Jesus, who shows us not only the true meaning of Love, but surrounds us with the deepest experience of Love. Signs that beg to be seen, heard, experienced, celebrated!