Last Friday was the cookout for the engineering and physics department, which happens usually once every semester. It had been scheduled for 5:30 at Harding Park several weeks in advance. Well, when I stepped into Dr. Wu’s class at noon (Dr. Wu is an engineering professor who is also the sponsor of Harding’s IEEE student branch), he calls me over and tells me the bad news. There’s a 55% chance of rain at 5 o’clock, he says, and we need a contingency plan ASAP. Dr. Wu suggests we move the cookout to the lobby of the science building, and do the grilling just outside the Pryor. He basically commissions me, the lowly treasurer, to spread the word about the game change in the fastest way I know how, to not only the other officers, all the CS/Engineering/Physics students who were already invited to the cookout at the beginning of the week.
So, when you tell Austin to do something, especially when it’s a teacher telling Austin to do something… So I text the officers. At 2 o’clock, I find a group of sophomores hanging out in the 2nd floor hall of the science bldg., tell them hey, the cookout, it’s in the lobby. I see my friend over here, tell him hey, tell your entire class, cookout’s in the lobby. I come back to the computer lab after my bible test, 2:30, post a FB status telling everyone hey, cookout’s in the lobby.
Well, it turns out, at 3:30 or 4, when I run into Dr. Wu again, he says that the chance of rain at 5 has dropped to 20 to 30%, so the cookout will be held at Harding Park. Of course, by now, the sciene bldg. is desolate. It’s a Friday, it’s 4, everyone skedaddled, so now I can’t use word-of-mouth to undo the previous message! I feel like a false prophet! Funnily enough, this passage pops into my head as I laugh about the whole situation:
The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.
But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?
An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.
Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we were trying to make predictions, make our decisions, our plans, based on the signs of the skies.
But the problem with that is the skies are always changing. Weather is fleeting; weather is volatile; weather is temperamental. And when you read volatile and temperamental signs, you begin to act in volatile and temperamental ways. One minute, one day, you’re happy because the weather is fair. Now I can go ahead with my plans, now I can go out and have a good day. The next, you’re sad because the weather is foul. Now I think I’ll just stay gloomy, refrain from work, refrain from doing good. We’re like that with life, aren’t we? We read the skies, we see clouds on the horizon, struggles and hard times ahead, a bad moon on the rise, and we let that dictate our attitude, and our motivation level, our actions. On the other hand, when we see fair weather, clear skies, smooth waters ahead, we assume that there’s no obstacles waiting for us out there. We become complacent; put on cruise control and just coast.
According to Jesus, however, there’s only one sign we need to pay attention to. The only sign of the time, the generation, He says, is the sign of Jonah. Now back in ch. 12 of Matthew, Jesus elaborates:
But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”
Apparently, this sign is sufficient for spurring on our repentance. But it’s also sufficient for taking away our worry, our doubts. If we wake up each day and read the sign of Jonah, what does it tell us? What does it show? God kept Jonah safe in the belly of a fish, lifted him up from the depths of the ocean, transformed Jonah’s heart and attitude. Jonah praises God for His reliability while in the fish. God kept Jesus safe in the heart of earth, lifted Him up from the tomb of death itself. If death cannot keep his prey from our Lord, then neither can sickness, failure, circumstances, struggles…
Every day is a day to rejoice, to lift brothers and sisters up, to seek the kingdom of God. If we read the sign of Jonah, we’re reading something that never changes, never fluctuates. Every time you read it, God raises up His Son from death, raises Jonah up from the angry deep. And He will raise you and me up. So which sign are you reading? Which sign will govern your attitude, your decisions? I’ve read God’s forecast: Three days of utter darkness, followed by an eternity of endless light.
“… I find myself in the sunshine, and my dreams…”
-John Denver, Looking for Space
Trying to keep God as the center of one’s life and everything else in balance and proportion is tough. Every day comes the temptation to get caught up in the excitement of the present.
Lord, keep me by Your side each morning, noon, and evening. Show me how to go, how to love, how to respect, how to do all things in moderation and not obsess. Show me how to love unconditionally and without doubt. Take away my fears of what people think, and my own self-criticism, when it is undue.
It’s going to be a great weekend. A blessed weekend. There’s no need to worry, no need to fear. God reigns supreme. I don’t. Thank God for that!
The Onion Knight.