|Lent 4, Year B||March 15, 2015||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21|
|Lent 3, Year B||March 8, 2015||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B 2015||Exodus 20:1-17|
|Lent 2, Year B||March 1, 2015||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B, 2015||Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Mark 8:31-38|
|Lent 1, Year B||February 22, 2015||Lent 1, Year B||Mark 1:9-15|
|Ash Wednesday, Year B||February 18, 2015||Ash Wednesday, Year B||Matthew 6:1-6,16-21|
|The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 15, 2015||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Year B||February 1, 2015||Luke 2:22-40||Luke 2:22-40|
|The Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 25, 2015||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
|The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 18, 2015||Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 6:12-10|
|The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 11, 2015||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||The Book of Common Prayer –Holy Baptism|
|Second Sunday after Christmas, Year B||January 4, 2015||Second Sunday of Christmas, Year B||Luke 2:41-52|
|Two Christmas Eve Meditations||December 24, 2014||Christmas Eve, Year B||Luke 2:1-20, John 1:1-5, 14, 16|
|Advent 3, Year B||December 14, 2014||Third Sunday of Advent, Year B||Psalm 126, I Thessalonians 5:16-24|
|Advent 2, Year B||December 7, 2014||Second Sunday of Advent, Year B||Mark 1:1-8|
|Advent 1, Year B||November 30, 2014||First Sunday in Advent, Year B||Mark 13:24-37|
Pentecost 22, year A
Sermon Date:November 9, 2014
Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 27, Year A
OK, you all know I’m far from perfect, and many of you know that one big area of imperfection in my life is my housekeeping.
But even I periodically set aside some time to dust my house, especially if someone is coming to visit.
Otherwise, a mix of pollen, bits of dirt, cat hair and human hair, fibers that escape the dryer lint filter, and even burnt meteorite particles—this disgusting gray hazy mixture settles on everything in my house.
So periodically, I dust. And the dusting is never quite done—it has to be done with regularity in order to have ongoing effectiveness.
Regular dusting is also necessary here at church, and in particular, the dusting off of the creeds.
The early church fathers developed the creeds based on what we know about God in scripture.
You could say that these statements about God and our relationship with God and the church are our theological houses. When we say the creeds together each Sunday we’re saying what house we live in—we live in this particular belief system—summed up for us in the Nicene Creed, which we say when we celebrate the Eucharist and the Apostles’ Creed which we say when we gather for Morning Prayer.
But the Creeds tend to get covered with the dust of repetition Sunday after Sunday, with the result that we no longer really see them and then we miss their implications for how we are to live our lives.
So the early church fathers, in their wisdom, gave us seasons during the church year to do some dusting off of the Creeds, and those seasons are Advent and Lent.
We’re not far from Advent, and in fact, if we were living in the 4th century, we’d be just about ready to enter into the season of Advent, which used to last forty days, the same length as the season of Lent. It was only in the ninth century that Advent got shortened to its current length of the four weeks before Christmas.
And too bad Advent got shortened, because we need this time for dusting—not just literally dusting and getting our houses ready for the festivities of the Christmas season, but also for dusting off this particular part of the Creed that we say every Sunday.
“He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
It’s easy just to say these words with complacency, because two thousand years have passed and that day of reckoning hasn’t happened yet.
But expecting the day of judgment, (the parousia, the eschaton, , the apocalypse) and not knowing when it will come does make a difference in how we live our lives.
Dusting off the day of judgment periodically reminds us of the ongoing fact that we have to prepare if we expect to be part of God’s kingdom of peace and light and love here on earth. We have to prepare if we want to be people full of hope, full of watchfulness for Jesus, rather than to be ok with resting in dusty and near sighted complacency, not bothering to get ready for anything at all.
Today’s gospel according to Matthew contains one of several parables that Jesus tells the disciples to help them, and to help us, get ready for the end times and his return.
This parable upsets me.
I don’t like this part. The unprepared bridesmaids finally got to the banquet, only to find the door shut and not only that, but the bridegroom tells them that they have to stay outside because he doesn’t know them.
What an unhappy ending. And I prefer happy endings.
So first time I ever preached on this parable, I said that if the bridesmaids who had come prepared with their flasks of oil had only shared, then all the bridesmaids could have escorted the bridegroom to the party together and everyone could have gone into the banquet.
Well, I got lambasted by some listeners for this sermon and I got a set of raised eyebrows from my preaching professor. I still stand by that first sermon as a valid interpretation, but I’ll admit that I missed the main point of this parable about the importance of preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom.
Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock say in The People’s New Testament Commentary that the bridesmaids represent all of us in the church.
As Christians, all of us are here to prepare to light God’s way into the world. Jesus told the disciples during the Sermon on the Mount that “you are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and then sets a bushel basket over it so that no one can see the light. So let your light so shine before others that they can see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in heaven. “
At baptism, we receive our proverbial torches. We become marked as Christ’s own forever and therefore have Christ’s light within us.
However, God’s light is not just going to automatically burn in us without an ongoing source of fuel.
And here’s the point I overlooked last time I preached on this. We ourselves are the only ones who can feed that light within ourselves and keep it burning.
Have you ever heard someone say, and this is just an example, but it will give you an idea—“Well, my brother is a great Christian, and he really loves God, so I’m going to get to heaven on his coattails because I’m his brother. “
You get my drift.
But here’s the problem. The good Christian, loving God and his neighbor, probably desires with his whole heart to give his brother any help that he needs so that the brother, even if he didn’t prepare, can still get into the heavenly banquet–
so that his brother’s story will have a happy ending.
But it doesn’t work that way.
We can’t control God’s judgment or for that matter, God’s mercy. Only God gets to decide who comes to the heavenly banquet and who ends up staying outside, banging on the shut door for reasons only God and that person really know.
And we can’t let our light burn low and go out and then count on someone else to come running to our rescue at the last minute and give us the light that we didn’t bother to keep burning.
Because even if they want to rescue us, they can’t.
Only God can do that.
So here’s what the bridesmaids have taught me this time around.
The very first thing I need to do in order to prepare for Jesus to come again in glory is to be prepared for him to show up unexpectedly. So I want to be sure to keep my house dusted, keep my light burning, and to make sure I have plenty of oil for my torch.
And what is that oil? Jesus gives us some answers for that question in the next two parables that we’ll hear on the next two Sundays.
So keep dusting and stay tuned.
Boring, Eugene and Craddock, Fred. The People’s New Testament Commentary. Louisville, KY. Westminster John Knox Press. 2004.