SUNDAY 29 NOVEMBER, 2020
Reflection: “Watching for Signs”
Imagine you’re traveling in a foreign city, where English isn’t the official language.
All the street signs, menus, bus schedules, everything needed to navigate the city, are in a different language.You stop people on the street for assistance, but it seems that no one speaks your native language.
For novice travellers, this could be a scary and intimidating situation, whereas more seasoned and experienced travellers seem to relish challenges such as these.
Fortunately, today, there are electronic devices that can quickly translate foreign text into English and vice-versa.
All a person has to do is point the device at the written text you want translated, and – voila! – it gives the English translation.
Some Christians may feel that their spiritual journey is taking them to unknown places, where all the signs are in a strange language and they just can’t figure out where they are, or where they’re supposed to go.
As much as they attempt to discern the signs in their lives, they find themselves feeling more and more confused while trying to navigate in this strange place.
For new Christians, sitting in unfamiliar church pews, reading the signs and navigating their way through new surroundings can be tricky and sometimes, confusing.
This is especially true with apparently conflicting religious messages coming at them from different directions.
But, whether they’re a new convert, or a lifelong Christian, the spiritual journey is scattered with signs along the way – and they require translation. Making things even more troublesome, are the modern, self-proclaimed prophets, who go on and on about what are often called “End Times”.
These people use specifically chosen scriptural passages to weave fanciful tales of horrific proportions, which, if accepted as truth without a discerning heart, can derail people along their journey’s path.
To a similar degree, the disciples of Jesus were confused by the signs of their times. Israel was under Roman rule, contemporary prophets were routinely spouting apocalyptic predictions, and the Jews were desperate for a Messiah who would reinstate the line of their greatest king, David, and thus re-establish Israel to its former glory as an independent kingdom.
In the midst of the confusing signs and false prophets, Jesus warned his disciples – and us today – to stay awake. This implies being alert and cognisant of what’s happening around us, living in a constant state of readiness and anticipation.
It doesn’t, however, suggest that believers should be pouring over scripture in a vain attempt to find a prophetic interpretation for every single event in history or in the news.
Much time and energy has been wasted on End Time books, movies and prophecies.
But now is the time to focus on proclaiming the Good News in Christ, by being his hands and feet - reaching out to those in need.
As our church enters into this Advent season, the beginning of a new church year, the world’s in a race to read the signs of the time.
Maybe it’s an attempt to make sense of all that is going on in this crazy place.The news is rife with reports of increased terrorism, nations rising against nations, and religious extremism and intolerance.
Political and religious leaders are under continual scrutiny, as reports of indiscretion, rorts and misappropriation surface, and crime seems to be taking over the streets.
Diseases such as Aids, Ebola and now Coronavirus, indiscriminately kill.
People are being pitted against each other in a continual competition for limited resources, while those who are the vulnerable ones in society, suffer the most.
When looked at as a whole, we might begin to wonder what it all means.
It’s no wonder that some people begin to interpret some of these events as signs of the End Times.
Misguided religious zeal and emotional pessimism are ripe and dangerous in times such as these.
People lose hope and spiritual and intellectual apathy sets in.
In the midst of suffering and despair, the world longs for some sort of cosmic event that will wipe away everything that’s wrong, in a single stroke. In the midst of doomsday predictions are those who warn that Christ’s return is imminent.
Despite this, Jesus clearly states that no one knows the time of his re-appearance, neither the angels in heaven, nor himself, but only God.
Apocalyptic predictions in traditional and the newer social media - even from some church pulpits - are indicative of the fear and anxiety filling peoples’ hearts in light of life’s uncertainties.
However, the church’s emphasis on scripture, tradition and reason, is the lens through which these signs can be put into focus and better understood.
Part of remaining alert in these times, is a commitment to continual study of scripture in light of historic teachings of the church, developing critical-thinking skills and seeking a discerning spirit.
The church is firm in its belief of the return of Christ Jesus.
But exactly how and when this culminating cosmic event will take place, remains a mystery.
Scripture doesn’t give a clear explanation, other than to say only the father knows when it will occur.
However, it does provide signs to help us navigate life’s journey with the help of the Holy Spirit - until the Lord’s Second Advent.
Until Christ’s return, the church is reminded to remain awake, as it diligently carries on the ministry of the Lord.
It learns from the past, while maintaining a confident faith in the future, all the time tending to the work of the Kingdom of God in the world, today.
The people of the world may be driven by fear and anxiety, but Christian believers can be confident that God will strengthen them to the end, so that they may be judged blameless on the day of the Lord’s return.
In light of all the troubles in the world today, this Advent presents a unique opportunity for the church to stand firm in the gap and proclaim the Good News of Christ Jesus, through word and deed.
Now is the time to be active in proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
If believers are to interpret any message from the signs of the time, it should be that God’s grace is sufficient to sustain his people even in the worst of circumstances.
With every generation that passes since Christ’s ascension, the danger of complacency threatens the church’s overall mission – that is, to proclaim the Good News.
Some in the church are just happy living with the status quo, while others adopt a “religious country club” mentality.
Even worse, and more detrimental to the mission of the church, is when believers become embroiled in debates that result in division.
Self-proclaimed prophets have misread the so-called signs and made false predictions of apocalyptic proportions, only to push people away from the church, rather than drawing them into the Kingdom.
They fail to listen to Christ’s words, spoken to his disciples in today’s Gospel reading.
The church proclaims: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Until then, the church has a job to do – waiting for the master to return.
Whether Christ returns today, tomorrow or in hundreds of years, today is the day of salvation.
If we look closely at the signs of the times, they point to the One who holds all the answers to all that ails the world.
Christ’s mission to the church remains as clear today as when he first sent his disciples into the world.
So, for now, we must keep a lookout for the signs and act positively upon them, whether they be the appearance of fig leaves heralding the return of summer, or the other many signs given to us in scripture.
If we’re always vigilant and prepared, it doesn’t really matter exactly when Christ’s return occurs.
People of God, let us wait with an enduring faith for the day of the Lord.May we be willing to serve without restraint in humility and love. Amen
28/11/2020 08:34:58 am
Thank you for your good message, Rick. I believe as Christians we must Watch and Pray.
28/11/2020 09:31:33 am
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