49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
How can we read the news and understand? Jesus says it’s just like reading the weather. We should know what’s happening. But Jesus didn’t live in a time of media manipulation, fake news, active countermeasures, and social media. If only the signs were as clear as the weather today. (Incidentally, we had plans to spend a good portion of time outside last weekend, right around the time a thunderstorm rolled through.) Like our experience of the weather, then, there’s something of the presence of God always a tad bit unpredictable. We know the way things are going, but we don’t always know what every day will look like. Signs of conflict are all around. Things don’t look promising. Cooler and wiser heads among us have said that things going on today feel different, some unholy combination of the news events from 1918, 1929, and 1968; yet long experience points to the essential truth that this time is temporary, like all other times. Jesus reminds us that the presence of conflict isn’t a sign of his absence but maybe, even, of his presence. Like the old farmer whose trick knee warns of the rain, we have to develop the ability to discern where God is right now. Where is God? Probably right in the middle of it, stirring things up as usual. We can read about it in the news.
God, give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and ready feet to follow, even to place of conflict and division, bearing, and expecting, your hope and peace, in Jesus Christ. Amen.