|Proper 23, Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost||October 14, 2012||Sermon, Proper 23, Year B||Amos 5:6-7. 10-15; Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10: 17-31|
|Proper 22, Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost||October 7, 2012||Proper 22, Year B||Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16|
|Proper 21, Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 30, 2012||Sermon, Proper 21, Year B||James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-50|
|Proper 20, Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 23, 2012||Proper 20, Year B||James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37|
|Proper 19, Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 16, 2012||Proper 19, Year B||Mark 8:27-38|
|Proper 18, Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 9, 2012||Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-10, 14-17; Mark 7:24-37||Proper 18, Year B|
|Proper 17, Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 2, 2012||Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 5-9; James 1:17-27||Sermon, Proper 17, Year B|
|Proper 16, Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost||August 26, 2012||Proper 16, Year B||Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18, Psalm 34:15-22, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69|
|Proper 15, Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost||August 19, 2012||Proper 15, Year B||Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58|
|Proper 14, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost||August 12, 2012||Sermon, Proper 14, Year B||I Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:25-5:2, John 6:35, 41-51|
|Proper 13, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost||August 5, 2012||Proper 13, Year B||Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15; Psalm 78:23-29; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35|
|Proper 12, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost||July 29, 2012||Proper 12, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost||Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21|
|Proper 11, Eighth Sunday After Pentecost||July 22, 2012||Proper 11, Year B||Psalm 23; Mark 6:30-34, 53-36|
|Proper 10, Seventh Sunday After Pentecost||July 15, 2012||Proper 10, Seventh Sunday After Pentecost||Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:1-13|
|Proper 9, Sixth Sunday After Pentecost||July 8, 2012||Sermon, Proper 9, Year B||2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13|
21st Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 27
Sermon Date:November 6, 2011
Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13; Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-20
Liturgy Calendar: Sermon, Proper 27, Year A, All Saints’ Sunday
In Matthew, Chapter 25, just before Judas betrays him and he is put to death on a cross, Jesus tells three parables about the coming of the Son of Man for the final judgment.
How fitting that we should hear the first of these parables on this Sunday as we observe All Saints’ Sunday, because we remember today those who have gone before us—the ones who have already joined the bridegroom at the wedding banquet.
Our fervent hope, as saints here on earth, is that someday we too will pass through the door into the light and joy and celebration of this heavenly banquet where we will be with the Lord forever.
In this first of his three parables about the final judgment, Jesus tells the story of the ten bridesmaids who have gone out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them are foolish, and five are wise.
Near the end of the parable, the five wise bridesmaids go with the bridegroom into the wedding banquet.
And their actions provide guidance to those of us who are now the followers of Jesus, and who try to live according to his teachings.
The wise bridesmaids care about only one thing. They want to be ready when the bridegroom shows up, so that they can be with him at the wedding banquet.
These five wise bridesmaids remind us that as Christians, our deepest desire and greatest longing is to be with Jesus.
When we are baptized, we enter into the fellowship of Jesus.
In the baptismal service, we pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit those who are cleansed from sin and born again through baptism may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior.
But our journeys through this life are not easy. We face all sorts of trials and tribulations that can tear us away from continuing in the risen life of Jesus.
The frustrations of this life can distract us, just as the five foolish bridesmaids must have been distracted. And the good things in life can also distract us.
According to this parable, the possibility exists that even though we are Christians, we can get so distracted that we might actually find ourselves unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom.
When we finally do wise up and make it to the wedding banquet, we may be too late, and find the door shut, even though we have been part of the church ever since our baptisms.
Then what must we do to be prepared for the return of Jesus, beginning here and now? Let’s return to the story of the bridesmaids for some help with this question.
In the parable, the ten bridesmaids carry torches. These torches are not the little lamps like the one you see on the bulletin cover.
Lamps such as those were used in homes, because they provided a long lasting, though not very bright light. In addition, they were easily blown out by passing breezes.
The bridesmaids in the parable are carrying torches of the sort that were commonly used in the Roman Empire and in Palestine to light the way when people went out into the darkness.
These torches were also commonly used in wedding processions to light the way for the wedding party as it passed through the village from the bride’s home to the home of the groom, where the wedding banquet took place.
According to Ulrich Luz, the bridesmaids in the parable probably carried what are called container torches. These torches consisted of a pole to which a container full of old rags was attached. The rags were then soaked in oil and set on fire. These torches provided up to two hours of light, and could be re-lit once they burned out by adding more oil to the rags.
The wise bridesmaids made sure to bring extra oil for their torches.
Here’s my theory about what we Christians can learn from this parable about being prepared.
Like the wise bridesmaids, we want to make sure that we have enough oil to keep our torches burning, and our torches are our hearts. Our goal is to keep our hearts on fire with love for our Lord and Savior, even in the darkest of times.
In other words, as a Christian, my deepest desire is to keep my heart full of Jesus himself, here and now, now and always.
How do fill our hearts with Jesus and stay filled with his love?
We can seek Wisdom, and spend time in the company of others who are also seeking Wisdom.
In the Wisdom tradition, which goes far back into the history of the Israelites, seeking wisdom is an approach to life, living out in a very deliberate and rational way our commitments to God.
When we go back to the Wisdom tradition in the Old Testament and in the Apocrypha and consider the teaching through Christian eyes, the results are astounding.
In these writings, wisdom is personified as Sophia, the one through whom God creates the universe. Sophia is God’s companion in creation, the sustainer of all things, the one who cares for all living creatures.
Denis Edwards tells us that “in the early church, Jesus is understood as Divine Wisdom, as Wisdom Incarnate. “ (Jesus the Wisdom of God, 51).
Paul puts it this way in I Corinthians. “God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God….”
Jesus Christ, Wisdom from God. Jesus, the One whom we seek, the bridegroom for whom we wait.
Instead of the psalm today, we read from the Wisdom of Solomon.
The Wisdom of Solomon was written in the second half of the first century, perhaps during the lifetime of Jesus himself.
Edwards tells us that “the second section of the book (from which our reading was taken) is a great celebration of divine Wisdom and of Solomon’s love affair with Wisdom. Here Wisdom is closely identified with God….” (Jesus the Wisdom of God, 28).
To keep our hearts full of Jesus himself, to live as saints, is really quite simple, according to the Wisdom tradition.
Listen to the words of the verses that come right before our reading from the Wisdom of Solomon, verses 12-16 of of Chapter 6, as I substitute the name of Jesus for Wisdom.
The reading becomes a metaphor for how to keep our torches full of oil, to keep our hearts full of love for Jesus.
“Jesus is radiant and unfading
Jesus is easily discerned by those who love him.
Jesus is found by those who seek him.
Jesus hastens to make himself known to those who desire him.
One who rises early to seek him will have no difficulty,
For Jesus will be found sitting by the gate.
To fix one’s thought on Jesus is perfect understanding.
And one who is vigilant on his account will soon be free from care
Because Jesus goes about seeking those who are worthy of him.
Jesus graciously appears to them in their paths,
And Jesus meets them in every thought.”
The promise of the Wisdom tradition for us is that when our deepest desire and longing is to be with Jesus, and we seek him, Jesus will come to us.
Jesus will meet us in every thought, and will take up residence in our hearts, radiant and unfading.
And in this radiant and unfading light, we come to a foretaste of the heavenly banquet when we come to the altar today.
At this table, we are united with our Savior, and bound in love to one another. Here we join company once again with the saints who have gone before us.
And so week by week, we prepare ourselves for the final judgment, by seeking Jesus, the Wisdom of God, with sincere desire, paying attention to his teaching and keeping his laws.
We live in hope that like the five wise bridesmaids, we will at last enter into the joy and celebration of God’s great wedding banquet, the banquet that God has prepared for all of us who have sought Wisdom with all of our hearts.
References: Jesus the Wisdom of God: An Ecological Theology, by Denis Edwards
Hermeneia: Matthew 21-28, by Ulrich Luz