“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times”
These are the words of Jesus to the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Gospel of Matthew. Unfortunately, the Pharisees and the Sadducees are not the only ones with this limitation. Many of us as Jesus-followers and communities of faith today have not learned to grow the muscle of reading and discerning the signs of the times, the muscle of contextual engagement and analysis. Indeed, many of us have not seen this work as important. We have grown up with a faith and theology that comes to us neatly tied up in a bow supposedly devoid of context and ‘contamination’ from our earthly realm.
This of course is not true. All theology comes from somewhere and thus is deeply contextual and flavoured by those who are creating it – whether they are able to admit to this or not. Jesus’ theology was deeply contextual. It spoke to the issues of the time and gave answers to and provoked questions around the day-to-day issues that its audience was grappling with. Our theology must be contextual, and the starting point for this is the reading and discernment of the ‘signs of our times’.
Thankfully, we are not alone in this. We come from a long lineage of those who read the signs of their times and wrestled with what a faithful life looked like in light of what they found. The Old Testament prophets paved the way for us to walk in this today, as did the faithful theologians of the Kairos Document who, in the 1980s, grappled with what the Christian faith meant in the face of the repressive state of emergency under the apartheid government. In fact, in doing this work, there are many such wells that we can draw from as we join the long prophetic tradition of those who read the signs of their times and spoke God’s liberating truth into the midst of what they discerned.
In this newsletter we have included some different resources that speak to this theme, opportunities for your church community to engage in building this muscle together and invitations to some upcoming events hosted by us and our expansive community of beloved friends and collaborators. We hope you enjoy it!