November 8, 2020
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.
But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’
And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
So this is how it is all going to play out.
Jesus tells us the Temple will be destroyed.
Jesus tells us there will be false prophets who claim to be the Messiah.
He tells us there would be wars, famines, and earthquakes.
Yep. There has been. And they are still taking place.
Jesus warned of persecutions.
Those who follow Jesus and live by his truth will be hated, persecuted, and killed.
Indeed, the history of Christianity has been written by the blood of martyrs and saints.
Read all about it in the 24th chapter of Matthew.
It’s a downright depressing message.
If this is all there was on the recruiting poster
No one would inquire further.
Efforts at disciple making would become futile.
Even the rank-and-file faithful would begin to turn on each other and,
As Jesus said, “the love of many will grow cold.” (24:12)
On the eve of his arrest, trial, and persecution
Jesus tells us
This is how it is going to play out.
Why tell us this? I have to ask.
Why the discouraging message?
It’s occurred to me
The Jesus we want is not the Jesus we are given.
We want a gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Born a vulnerable baby,
A smart and curious youth,
An adult shepherd tending his sheep.
Instead, the Gospel reveals a Jesus who addresses the social injustices of his day,
Who divides families and allows a rich young ruler to just walk away.
It is almost as if confrontation and revolution are coded in his DNA.
The Jesus we get confronts demons and devils and overcomes them all.
He challenges the authority of religious leaders and smashes their money changing tables.
The Jesus we get is willing to prune the vine to increase the yield.
Jesus loves the world, at the same time, his standards of judgement are set so impossibly high that every one of us fall short of his glory.
The temptation I have
Is to believe life plays itself out like a well written obituary,
That death is the final chapter,
And memories are swept away with the eons of time.
I must not yield to this temptation,
And neither should you.
The temptation I have
Is to become so engaged in the pragmatic struggles of life,
… education, career, marriage, health, …
That I lose sight of the justifying, saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Yield not to temptation
And I won’t either.
It is possible to be given
both the cold, hard truth
and the promise of hope at the same time.
Jesus does it in spades.
Eternity has no end.
Eternal life never plays out.
Resurrection is the promise of a loving God
Who seeks to pull us through the suffering of these times
Into an eternal age when Christ returns
And his kingdom is established on earth as it is in heaven.
Today’s parable of the ten bridesmaids
Gives us a road map for discipleship,
To keep us strong and endure
As long as it takes.
Jesus tells us
Stay awake, and
Trim your lamp.
The groom is delayed. (25:5)
We haven’t somehow missed the coming of Christ.
He promised to return.
He just hasn’t arrived for us yet.
Thus, we proclaim, “Christ will come again.”
Maybe in our lifetime, maybe not.
God’s time is not our time.
Christ will come some time in eternity.
Patience is an acquired skill that can be learned and
A spiritual discipline that can be practice.
It would be instantly gratifying to know exactly when Christ returns,
The day, the hour,
Because we could goof off until the last moment, then
Straighten up and
Polish our crown.
But no one knows, or can know, the day nor the hour,
Jesus teaches. (25:13)
It’s a foolish waste of time to try to figure it out;
Time that could be better spent
2. Which brings us to the second point: Be prepared.
In this parable
Bring a lamp,
Sufficient oil, and
A means to trim the flame.
There is nothing passive about preparation.
Just ask a Boy Scout, a Fire Chief, or an Army General.
Being prepared for the return of Jesus requires us
To make active preparations to meet him face-to-face.
Because one day we will.
Learn to walk like Jesus.
Learn to talk like Jesus.
Learn to act like Jesus.
Being prepared means making haste
To love and to be loved,
To forgive and to be forgiven,
To build God’s kingdom,
To anticipate the return of Christ.
3. Stay awake.
No one knows the day or hour.
10 out of 10 bridesmaids fall asleep,
Both the wise and foolish.
Which is to say,
We all need our rest.
But when you rest, post a watch.
We are dependent on one another to maintain vigilant watch,
To watch and wait,
To sound the alert when the bridegroom returns,
To wake every resting soul.
Individual effort doesn’t cut it.
Being Church is a team sport.
Discipleship requires a group effort,
A body, a community,
To work round the clock and around the world,
To work and to wait patiently for Christ’s return.
4. Lastly, Jesus tells us with this parable to
Trim your lamp; because we are in it for the long haul.
One trims a lamp to conserve fuel.
The trade off is that the lamp gives off less light.
The sacrifice is worth it, Jesus tells us,
Because endurance is also an important spiritual discipline
To be learned and practiced.
There are no days off when it comes to discipleship.
There is no vacation to eat, drink, and be merry.
There is no retirement to rest on your laurels.
Being patient, prepared, and alert means every follower of Jesus
Must be willing to conserve and endure until he returns.
This includes the practice of good stewardship,
Maintaining healthy, moral and ethical boundaries, and
Living a life of love, for both God and neighbor.
It appears terribly uncaring and un-God like
For the wise bridesmaids to not share their lamp oil, and
For the bridegroom to shut the door to the wedding banquet
in the face of the foolish bridesmaids.
But note this,
Both circumstances are reversible.
Neither are permanent.
Oil was purchased, abet late; but, purchased none the less.
Good move, ladies.
You’ve made the first step towards redemption.
It remains possible for the foolish bridesmaids
To come to know the bridegroom in the future,
To one day be welcomed into the wedding banquet.
A wedding banquet wasn’t a 7 until midnight affair
Like they are nowadays.
Wedding celebrations were weeks on end, and then some.
The Lord makes it possible for the wine to hold out for ever.
Even if initially shut out,
Keep knocking at God’s door.
do not look at this world …
… with all its problems and faults …
And become discouraged or lose heart.
Know Christ’s promise to be true.
He will return.
Christ is coming again.
Until that unknowable day or hour,
Settle in for the long haul.
For the Lord’s kingdom is eternal.