Turning off the main road and heading up the hill I could see in the field ahead a strange looking machine. Between the machine and the road lay a long pile of sugar beet; it’s harvest time again.
As I approached, a small sign on the roadside warned “Danger. Mud on Road’. Not surprisingly, given the recent storms, the road was indeed covered in a greasy layer of mud; slippery and a potential hazard. However, by the time I reached the sign, the road had been mud-coated for several hundred yards already. I had already read the road before I reached the warning.
Passing the piles of sugar beet the mud quickly cleared. This should have alerted me. Ahead I caught a glimpse of something moving. Expecting a small van I pulled over. When nothing appeared I moved on once more only to be confronted by a large truck coming to collect sugar beet. Nothing for it but to reverse in search of a passing place. I had correctly read the danger of mud long before I reached the board at the side of the road and slowed accordingly. I had failed to read the sign that would have alerted me to an oncoming truck then, when I did see something, I had impatiently set out again regardless.
Life is full of signs; from the explicit (‘Danger mud on road’) to the subtle change of expression that may tell us a person’s mood. Some are more important than others, all help us navigate the world in which we live and move.
As the crowds gathered around Jesus, the religious authorities in Jerusalem sent representatives to see what was going on. ‘Give us a sign’ they said. Jesus replied ‘you know how to interpret the appearance of the sky (to tell the weather) but you can’t interpret the sign of the times.’ He went on to add ‘No sign will be given except the sign of Jonah.’ (Matthew 16; 1-4). We live in troubled and troubling times. It is not just the local lanes that are affected. As Lent approaches and we turn our thoughts to Calvary; what are the signs of the times we can see and how might the sign of Jonah help us understand?
Rev’d Philip Payne Sunday next before Lent The Notice Sheet for 11th February can be found here