You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
The passage from Luke's gospel were part of the readings from Friday's noon day service. It comes after a long litany of parables and Jesus’ prediction that the teachings he is bringing will cause divisions within households. He tells the crowd that they can look at the sky and figure out what the weather will be, but they are ignorant of what is happening now in their midst. These passages are often cross-referenced to the story of Jonah, who spent three days and three nights in the belly of a big fish before being coughed up on the shores of
No, as I heard the phrase, “Why do you not know how to interpret the present time,” my mind went to today, the 21st Century world as I see it and experience it. In this world of instant information at the click of a mouse, I feel as though we are more ignorant than we care to admit. There is no more discourse; just disagreement and shouting each other down. And lots and lots of discontent everywhere. I see that embodied in both the so-called Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements. My heart is with the Occupy Wall Street folks because I definitely see myself as in the bottom third percentile of the 99-percent who are currently pissed off at the unfairness of our economic system. But I also recognize that the Tea Party and the Occupy protests are both grounded in a common frustration: they see themselves and those around them falling further and further behind economically. The difference is that one group blames the government and thinks rich people are going to save the world, and the other blames the rich folks and wants the government to right this sinking ship before it goes under.
All of this comes as I was just reading a passage about Karl Marx in my Education for Ministry text. Basically the text, which was written in 2006, acknowledges that many communist governments have collapsed due to economic failures. But it also notes that many communist theoreticians believe that global capitalism faces the possibility of collapse “under the weight of its own internal contradictions.” It left me wondering what will emerge from all of this. I am not a student of economics. I barely made it through my required course in college. But I wonder if there’s another economic model that will come to fore that we haven’t seen before. Capitalism, as has been promoted with its laissez-faire leave-the-rich-alone approach, seems to be having all of its warts exposed. Marxism, on the other hand, seems a far too idealistic model that depends on the goodness of human nature and an ability to play well with others. If I could believe people would really buy into the idea that there is nothing wrong with sharing the wealth then I might be convinced that it would work. But I don’t think we are there. Yet.
So when I hear the question, “Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” I’m left thinking, “Where are we going? Where are we headed?” I can’t turn to the media for much help on this because too much of it has become a forum for more scream fests. For me, the present time calls for us to put down the megaphones, and shut up for a spell and listen. Somewhere, between the radical poles of left and right, I believe there is a Solomon-like answer to our economic mess. Will we have the wisdom to get there? Will we even have the will to work together or have we just become deadlocked in polar opposites?