Signs of the Times
Sometimes we encounter a document that has a message so appropriate for our time that it fairly leaps off the page. Whilst continuing to make my way through the records of Australian Church Women (ACW) in our national archives, I read the following message in the May 1983 issue of the ACW newsletter. It was written by Berna Foster, who was the Associate Secretary of the ACW National Working Committee back then:
‘In our society phrases become a catchcry – a current one is "The Signs of the Times." You hear it from politicians, the pulpit, the man in the street. I was at a talk recently on "Renewal", and the speaker said that today we should hold in one hand the Word of God and in the other the daily paper.
‘But we mustn't try to read the Gospels [the Good News] in the light of the signs of the times, but rather the signs of the times in the light of the Gospels.’
‘Newspapers and television disturb us with their graphic and explicit descriptions of major catastrophes – plane crashes, bushfires, droughts etc., and the miseries of people such as the street kids of St. Kilda and the Vietnam veteran unable to care for his most elementary needs. The Gospels too record contemporary disasters.
‘Luke records that Pilate, the military governor had massacred tourist Galileans as they attended worship in the temple at Jerusalem. Galileans embarrassed sophisticated Jerusalem because they brought an irreverent provincial attitude to the holy city where everything, including religion, was regulated for the sake of the law and order. [This is a reference to the prejudiced view of the Galileans, not the reason for Pilate killing them, as the Bible does not tell us why they were killed in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 13.] Luke also records Jesus' reference to a local natural disaster – a building that collapsed killing innocent bystanders.
‘The signs of the times can depress and horrify us, and we feel powerless against such odds. But reflect – God's amazing grace can enable us to respond to the best of our ability. By developing the virtues of faith, hope and charity, we can prepare ourselves to see the signs of the times in the light of the Gospels, and our trust in God will triumph.’
Berna’s message was nearly four decades ago, but it is still very relevant for today, especially when we consider the current, tragic pandemic that is causing so much misery and unrest across every region of our world. Tragedies haven’t ceased and God’s Word hasn’t changed, even though some people are still trying to dismiss it or interpret it according to their own flawed understanding. We need to heed the words of Proverbs 3:5–6 and not lean on our own fallible understanding.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.