My oldest daughter Corynn is living in Bass Lake right now with another of our St. John’s students, Jenna, on a special “High Sierra” semester. This Sunday they were planning to begin a five day backpack trip into the Ansel Adams wilderness. As I Iooked at the weather forecast, I could not help noting that a major storm is arriving on Sunday and Monday. I was glad to hear that they are adjusting their departure time accordingly. It also helped to know that their guide is a seasoned expert, and competes in 100 mile foot races. I trust her to lead these students through the snow and ice safely; but I’m also going to be praying!
As human beings, we love to predict things, whether it is the weather, or the stock market, or an election. It gives us a sense of control. In the case of weather patterns, sophisticated computer modeling has now made possible a fairly accurate 10 day forecast. Unfortunately, being able to understand and interpret physical reality does not seem to correlate with moral and spiritual insight. Jesus reminds the Pharisees of this fact in Matthew 16,
"When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." – Matthew 16: 2-3
By “the signs of the times,” Jesus means the movements of God all around us, and especially in the arrival of the Messiah, who was standing before them – the Messiah that they did not recognize!
We take pride in the fact that we can predict the weather, that we can master our environment, or manipulate human DNA. Yet the evidence of our own fallible human nature whether in public or in private, points to the fact that we have yet much to learn. John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends, states, “We must evolve spiritually if we are to handle the responsibility of manipulating life itself” and futurist Faith Popcorn, an advisor of Fortune 500 companies, remarks that interest in anchoring – or spirituality - is an enormous trend in today’s culture.
As Jesus’ followers, we are urged to study not just weather patterns, the motions of the stars, or societal trends, but the signs of God’s powerful work all around us. This is the call to anchor ourselves in the revelation of God through holy scripture, the counsel of the saints, circumstantial signs, and the Spirit’s inner voice; all with the intention of conforming us to the image of his Son. May we see these signs of God’s work in this new season and, regardless of the weather, follow in Jesus’ steps as our faithful Guide.