Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Kingdom Forecast


Everyone I know fancies him or herself as a bit of a weatherperson. Each morning in our house, there is talk of what the weather will do that day. If the wind picks up and the sky begins to darken, I'll remind everyone in the office to be sure that their car windows are up. We look ahead at the 10-day forecast and begin to wonder whether the parish picnic might be rained out, debating amongst ourselves (and our various apps) whether we should make alternate arrangements. In one way or another, all of us make and change our plans based on what the weather might do. So why, Jesus asks in Luke 12, aren't we willing to make and change our life's plans based on what God's kingdom is doing?

Whoever reads the gospel lesson in church on Sunday has a considerable opportunity to shade the meaning of the lesson with the tone in her or his voice. Will we hear an exasperated Jesus say tersely, "You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" Or will he be forlorn? Or will he be genuinely inquisitive? I'm not sure which one it is, but I am sure that Jesus is asking us to pay at least as much attention to the coming of God's kingdom as he is to the next cold front moving through.

Think of all that had happened in Jesus' ministry. Think of John the Baptist's proclamations, the miraculous healings, the remarkable exorcisms, the controversial teachings, the perplexing stories, the questionable associations, the growing crowds, and the conflict with authorities. Go read Luke 1-12 and imagine all the things that Jesus had said and done that were not written down. Could you really encounter all of that and then say to yourself, "So what?"

But that's exactly what Jesus was getting from the people, and, to a great extent, that's exactly what he's getting from us. "So what?" we ask. "It's been 2000 years. Jesus isn't coming back tomorrow. That isn't in my 10-day forecast. I'll say my prayers and go to church and carry on with life as usual." And Jesus looks at us and says, "If you know how to plan your life around the weather forecast, why won't you plan your life around the signs of the kingdom?"

The kingdom of God is like moving to Alabama. You have to choose. You may not want to choose, but no one cares. If you don't choose, they will choose for you and tell you whether you're an Auburn fan or an Alabama fan. I'm not joking. It's that serious. You may try to eschew the labeling that they want you to undergo, but you cannot escape. Life in Alabama revolves around football. Weddings, church events, family trips, school assignments, preaching schedules--they all revolve around football. There is no middle way. You cannot escape it.

That's the kingdom that Jesus knows. He knows that there's no avoiding it. It's all encompassing. It affects everyone and everything. It demands our full participation or our full rejection. And it's here. All the signs he's brought show us that it's here. But we're just going on with our plans as if it doesn't really matter. The wind is blowing and the sky is darkening and the thunder is rumbling, but we're leaving our windows down because we don't care. No wonder Jesus is upset.

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