The signs are all around us. Take this one for example. I
ran across this sign at the ripe old age of 16. I was taking the written portion of the Pennsylvania driver’s test. I saw this sign and the possible multiple choice answers much like you see this morning. Well, I wasn’t exactly certain what this sign was trying to tell me, so using a test taking strategy I chose “C”. Lightning ahead, and well I was wrong, and I failed my drivers exam.
Of course, a sign is only as good as our ability to read and interpret it. So I immediately went home and started studying. I wanted to know that sign, and all the others not just for the sake of the sign itself, although that is a good thing, but I wanted to be able to get behind the wheel and drive. I wanted all that comes with that, the power, the freedom. I wanted to enter the world of adulthood.
Now in our Gospel reading from Luke this morning, Jesus is not talking about traffic signs and signals. The signs we are called to watch, to pay attention to are different. And doing so will change our lives more than just getting a driver’s license. The thing is wars, natural disasters, fiscal cliffs, don’t come with a handy poster or a study guide.
How many times, how often have we heard someone or done it ourselves, list off the most current catastrophes and proceed to point blame or think about the end of the world, or “C” do both? The problem with this kind of thinking is that it tends to make us afraid, stressed, paralyzed feeling powerless, which all too often leads to well dissipation—doing unhealthy stuff because, well the worlds going to somewhere in a handbasket, so I might as well go along—you know that kind of thinking.
That is one way of reacting to all that’s going on and going wrong in the world. And it makes sense if life for you is basically working out—you got a job, a roof over your head, health care, health, an intact family, money to pay the bills. Well the thought of all of that going away—that’s downright scary.
But try to imagine if all or most of that is isn’t your reality—no job, not one that you can support a family anyway, no real home of your own, living day in and day out afraid of violence, disease, suffering and death. The promise that all this will end, well that actually can begin to sound like good news.
Reading the signs, and how you do that matters. For Jesus, watching the signs isn’t meant to throw us into some panic, to frighten us, but to move us to a certain way of living with, around, and through the signs.
One example of this is Ellie, and her life became an example. Ellie was an elderly lady, a widow, who eventually wasn’t able drive to her part time job, then she wasn’t able to stay in her own home. So she moved into an assisted living facility, where she was excited to meet new people. Her children had moved away and lived one on the east coast and one on the west, Ellie was thrilled to learn to use skype to see and talk to her grandchildren. Fickle her Jack Russell terrier died, she found the perfect volunteer job walking dogs and cleaning the cages at the animal shelter. Life went on like that for about five years. Then the kicker came she lost the use of her legs, she couldn’t walk. Lots of folks would just give up, this obviously is a sign to pack it in. But Ellie didn’t think that way, when asked to sit in a part of the kennel with the most fearful, timid, shy, wounded dogs, she answered the call. And so she sat in these little rooms talking to these wounded animals, and slowly a dog may approach her and allow her to touch him, to pet him, to scratch behind the ears. Six days a week she would do what she could. She read the signs in her life and she decided to live
Stay alert for when the worst happens—don’t panic—pray.
Stay alert for when the worst happens—don’t give up – stand up.
Stay alert for when the worst happens—don’t hide –lift up your head.
When the worst happens in our world, in our life don’t panic, live God’s kingdom way, because when you live it like it’s near, that means it’s here. Amen.
Illustration of Ellie provided by Maren C. Tirabassi, from Stillspeaking Daily Devotional – UCC