Luke 21:25-36 (NRSV)
Verse 25"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. Verse 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Verse 27Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Verse 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Verse 29Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; Verse 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. Verse 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Verse 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Verse 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Verse 34"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, Verse 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Verse 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
There have always been those who see in the turmoil, disorder, and chaos of their world clear signs that the end times are near and Jesus’ return to judge the world in righteousness is imminent. It’s always tempting to want to know the timing and thus be on guard and not caught unexpectedly. But Luke’s words are not so clear, and the lesson of the fig tree is one of more subtle timing. Where I live in northern Minnesota, the first new growth of leaves is barely perceptible. What I usually notice is a pale green haze, just a tint on the tips of branches. There are days when it’s hard to see any change. But then daily observation is rewarded with the sight of swelling buds, unfurling leaves, and the full glory of summer green. The signs of God’s coming can be just as subtle and call for a steadfast and unwavering watchfulness.
God of signs and growth, open our eyes to see the many ways you are active in our lives and in the world. Amen.