“He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Matthew 16:2-3 (NIV)
Welcome to my new blog site “Red Skies.” Why the title you might ask? In discussing this new blog with a friend, Don McCaleb reminded of a scriptural quote of Jesus that was also a cultural rhyme for sailors world-wide. When a sailor needed to forecast the weather, he or she might be given clues by the color of the sky. The rhyme went like this: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.” If a sailor saw a red sky (sunset) at night, they could count on fair weather the next day, however, if the sky was red at sunrise, it was a tell-tale sign of a storm a-brewing. By observing the color of the sky they would take a read of the expected climate in order to plan their strategy for sailing the next day.
What was Jesus’ interest in this nautical reference? In Matthew 16 we see an account where Jesus is sparing with some Pharisees. They come demanding a “sign from heaven.” (We won’t mention that in the chapter before he fed thousands with seven loaves and a fish). Jesus responds to this demand, “2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Jesus is basically saying, you can read the signs of the weather all around you, but you fail to notice the spiritual signs right in front of you. These very religious and devout God-lovers failed to notice the spiritual winds blowing all around them.
The western church today is in the midst of a cultural and spiritual storm. For the past one hundred years or so, it had been pretty easy sailing, with the church being at the center of cultural discussions and having relevance to the shaping of Americana. But recently, it has been pushed to the outskirts of the discussion. The church has lost its relevance and meaning for those seeking life and faith questions. She has lost her place in the city-square. The church misread a red sky in the dawn of a new cultural time and now finds itself in the midst of a storm, unable to navigate and find its way back to a past, calmer ocean of time.
The statistics are undeniable for anyone that truly reads and digests the current trends of church involvement, giving, interest, and demographics. We, the church in America, “cannot interpret the signs of the times”, as Jesus put it. We continue to use attractional models of ministry, asking our neighbors to “come and see” what’s going on at church, however, our neighbors keep looking in other places for answers. The call for Jesus to get out of the boat, in the midst of the storm, has never been stronger. It’s as if the church has become a ship off course. So what are we to do? How do we upright a ship that is threatening to list to one side from the winds and take on water? How do we take notice of the sky and plan for the weather?
Our premise in this blog, and the discussion we will curate is one of a return to the original course of the metaphorical ship, the church. It’s the original ecclesiology set in motion by Jesus, Paul, and the biblical definition of “church.” If you noticed, you saw a clue and hopefully were bothered as I used the pronoun “it” referring to the church in previous paragraphs (It bothered me to type it). We will talk much about the word Ecclesia and its original meaning as used in scripture, not pointing to a building, organization, or singular entity, but referring to the collect and called-out group of people that follow Jesus the Messiah. This group of people collectively around the world that are “sent” by their Rabbi to announce the kingdom of God and display hints and expressions of it as they live, work, and play with their neighbors.
Our problem today is that many see their church membership like a membership on a cruise ship. Their ship is one ship among many others. The fleet is made up of denominations and everywhere you look, in any direction, you see ships floating on cultural waters. Each ship provides different things for their spiritual journey, and they swim through the cultural storm from ship to ship, looking for safety from the waves and the winds. And while the Captains of the ships know the mission is to send people out into the storm, they are pressed to keep their ship cabins full and the passengers happy.
In this blog, we will focus on taking out and dusting off the charts, taking measure of the storm, and replotting the course that Jesus intended for the church (the people of God). We will reclaim words that have lost their meaning and hopefully take on an understanding of what Jesus called us to do, not as an organization or institution, but as the collect people of God.
I hope you will join me on the journey, contribute where you feel led, be stretched by the discussion, and let God reclaim you as a missionary….His missionary for His mission. Happy sailing!