Time after Pentecost #20 (C)
Paying attention to the weather – it is something that all of us do all of the time. Day in and day out, the weather is always a primary topic of our conversation. I think that all of us are interested in knowing the latest weather forecasts as to whether or not it might rain, what the temperatures are supposed to be, or if it is going to be windy or not. We use these forecasts to help plan our daily activities and to make appropriate preparations for how we will deal with what the weather will be like.
At this very moment, many people in the area of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico are paying special attention to the forecasts about Hurricane Dean – and are altering their plans and making all kinds of various preparations just in case the storm might come their way. NASA, for example, has ordered the space shuttle Endeavor to come back to earth a day earlier than their planned schedule. Those who are in the hurricane’s projected path are stocking up on emergency supplies and boarding up their homes to help try to minimize any damages from the wind.
And even when we are not facing extreme weather events such as hurricanes, we still pay attention to weather forecasts every day. Knowing what the weather is supposed to be and acting accordingly is absolutely essential for us in our lives.
“But why is it,” Jesus seems to wonder, “that so many people who pay attention to the weather do NOT pay attention to the direction that their lives may be headed in? As he says in today’s gospel: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
In the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word “interpret” is dokimazo – which literally means “to regard something as being appropriate or worthwhile.” Jesus in today’s gospel is calling upon us to look at how we live – and to consider what we want to be in our lives. Jesus challenges us to consider what we really “regard as being appropriate or worthwhile” – our deepest values and priorities, and then to use that understanding to “interpret” or “forecast” what our lives will probably be like in the future – so that we can then take action and make any changes that might be necessary.
During the past three weeks, our gospel readings have all been from the twelfth chapter of Luke. Two weeks ago, we heard Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool, who dedicated his entire life to acquiring and hoarding more and more possessions. This person never stopped to consider what was ultimately important. He became very wealthy in things of this world, but was poor in his soul. By focusing only upon himself – his own wants and needs – he shut himself off from having meaningful relationships with others AND from having a relationship with God. And in the end, he ended up with nothing. And as Jesus concluded; “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves, but are not rich toward God.”
But on the other hand – as I said in my sermon last week – when we focus upon investing the “treasures” of our time and possessions to love and help others, then we receive priceless blessings that no amount of money could ever buy. We receive God’s love, peace, and joy in our lives – not just in this present world but also for eternity.
Jesus in today’s gospel is calling upon us to pay attention where we are going in our lives – and to not just go on living day by day without considering what our ultimate values and priorities are. We need to consider – carefully and prayerfully consider - whether our goals and actions are “self-focused” or “God-focused”. And we also need to consider – carefully and prayerfully consider – what that will mean for us and others in the days and years to come – and what that will mean for us when it comes time for us to die.
Not paying attention to the weather and adjusting our actions and preparations accordingly would be foolish. It is even more foolish, Jesus says, to not be paying attention to where our lives are going and to adjust our actions and preparations accordingly.
But examining ourselves and the direction of our lives is not easy. People often shy away from honest self-evaluation and making necessary changes because it is hard. The values of this world and our own sinful desires constantly tempt and distract us. And if we seek to really change how we live, we will often experience opposition and conflict from others who do not understand or approve. That is what Jesus meant in today’s gospel when he says that he has not come to bring peace to the earth but rather division – that from now on in a household there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
Yes, many people would rather just pay attention to the weather and avoid looking at what their lives are like. But Jesus knows and shows us that having our lives be “in tune” with God is worth more than anything else. Then we will be prepared for anything – even for opposition and the “storms” that life may throw at us.
Yes, thinking and talking about the weather is necessary for our daily living – but thinking and talking about and living in a relationship with GOD is the most important thing of all! For when we know that God loves us and forgives us – and live our lives accordingly – that is when we will receive his blessings – his priceless blessings – of love, joy, and peace each day – even during those times when our lives go through “stormy weather”. May this be so for us as God’s people, now and forever and ever – in Jesus’ name. Amen!
George R. Karres,
Pella Lutheran Church
418 W. Main Street
Sidney, MT 59270