(Reflection on Matthew 16:1-4)
I know how to read the signs of the times.
I know that when the sky is red in the evening somewhere there is a happy shepherd or sailor. I know that if four woolly worms are trying to inch their way into my house so they can cuddle up in front of my fire that it is going to be a mighty cold winter with lots of snow! I know that if the groundhog doesn’t like his shadow, I might as well keep the winter clothes out a bit longer.
But what do I do with butterflies in October?
October is supposed to be a leaves-crunching-under-feet-and- scarf-wearing time of year. It’s treacle toffee and candied apples. There are no butterflies in England in October! It just isn’t done.
Yet on the 16th of October, there they were. Interrupting my overcast mind-set with their joyful flitting about without a care in the world. Who do they think they are?
I know what you are thinking. How could I resist a beautiful butterfly and the warm sunny day that went with it. Truth is, I didn’t want a warm sunny day. Warm sunny days belong in July or August. It’s October! Days are supposed to be miserable and cold.
My life was completely interrupted by their joy and beauty.
Oh, sure, I could have smiled. I could have been amazed and excited. Others would have been. Others might have talked about hope and joy appearing when least expected. I could have marvelled at their apparent dance as they flitted about near me. What a lovely surprise! I could have said.
The danger is we can be so focussed on the red skies, woolly worms and groundhogs that we completely miss the butterflies. In holding on to what we know, we risk forgetting that the one certainty (in England anyway) is – the weather will change. (Gales are forecast for Monday!)
In Matthew 16:1-4, the religious know-it-alls, the ones who read the signs for everyone else, wanted Jesus to prove His greatness to them. Jesus said no. Basically if they were so clever, so connected with God, then they should already know that Jesus being there was a pretty good, pretty Godly thing. But they didn’t know, because they didn’t really want to know. They didn’t want their natural order of things to be disturbed. They were focussed on the woolly worms and completely missed the butterflies.
Then Jesus starts talking about the sign of Jonah. Truth is we often can’t see where we are going. It’s uncomfortable sitting in the belly of a whale, waiting for it to spit you out. We prefer to be in charge of our own destiny or to at least be involved in the decisions. But what about the times when the only choice we are given is trust God or don’t? See God or don’t?
These times can be hard to swallow. We see the woolly worms, but then there are these butterflies. We find ourselves in this strange place of preparing for winter and yet enjoying the unexpected day of spring.
All I know is – if the weather is nice, get outside! If Jesus is around, follow Him. Amazing things could happen this day!