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Misreading the signs

When I am passing signs sometimes, I misunderstand what is being communicated to me. This week I have driven past the crematoria in Exeter. There was a new sign advertising something at 11am in September. I had passed the sign before I could fully read the rest of it. I thought it was strange that they were advertising free slots in September for funerals at 11am. I wondered who would benefit from this information. I could not imagine anyone thinking it was a good time to die because there was free space for a funeral! Nor could I imagine someone who was recently bereaved feeling a great sense of relief that there would be space at 11am in September for a funeral. I thought the whole thing rather strange and even a little sinister. On my way home I passed the same sign and I realised it was advertising the annual remembrance service in September; a time to remember those who have died in the last year. It made much more sense than my first wrong impressions. Yet, we often have to make quick judgements on very little information and often we make quite good decisions on very little information. Although like me, it is all too easy to go down completely the wrong path with a little imagination and get it spectacularly wrong.

Jesus sometimes tells his disciples to look at the signs of the times and to respond directly to them. In Jesus’ time, people were looking around at what was happening in their culture and society and feeling worried that things were not quite right. There were concerns around national identity, an occupying army and that people were being unfairly treated. If we were to look at the signs of our times then the list of worries would not be too dissimilar. I think perhaps I would want to add anxieties and loneliness to the list. I wonder what is your reading of the signs of the times and what is worrying you about them. Jesus would urge us that part of reading the signs of the times would be an acknowledgement that working with God would offer hope rather than despair. Yet God is not able to transform our world in isolation. It is more of a cooperation in which we become part of the solution rather than spectators hoping that someone else will sort things out. It is easy to say that the problems are too big and anything that we might try and do will have little or no impact. In one way we are right, in isolation it is hard to make any difference. However, when people work collectively then things can start to change.

Being able to read the signs is just one part of it. What will we do with the information? Will we moan and grumble to anyone who will listen? Or will we find something we can do in the hope of changing our world for the good. Is this not the very same thing we hope God will do, but with us helping?

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