Nov. 6, 2011

Ready, Set, Wait     Matthew 25:1-13   November 6, 2011

This is the end of Jesus ministry. The previous chapter Jesus told disciples about the signs of the end of the age. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is the second of four stories that Jesus told about how to live until the end of the age.

The only difference between the wise and the foolish is this: the wise were prepared for the wait. They did not neglect the obvious present situation: a lamp does not burn indefinitely without enough oil to feed it.

What does it mean for us to be prepared for the wait? The text asks us to prepare to wait and to avoid assuming that we have enough (knowledge, faith, love, etc.) in our lamps right now. Never stop growing in your Christian faith; auto-pilot is not an option.

This text reminds us that this present time is not as good as it gets. It asks us to live in hope for what has been promised. What will be is not yet. It reminds us that knowledge, faith, and love are tools for living in the time before eternity, not tools to gain entrance into it. (Mark Douglas)

Be Present. Sometimes just showing up really isn't enough. Anyone who has blissfully slept late and nodded off at Monday morning staff meetings, an 8 a.m. chemistry lectures, or Sunday morning worship service knows that!!  Jesus' parable tells of 10 bridesmaids who showed up, and even slept a spell, but only 5 were ready to show up prepared. They had "presence" of mind for the moment God had given them.

Disciples of Jesus must not only show up to the world and life in which God has placed us. We must also genuinely "be present"--be in a state of what the Quakers call "all-there-ness." Give your moment everything you've got. Give life all of yourself. Be fully in the moment. Whatever you are doing, do it with full awareness.

"Be present" means see reality for what it is, but don't settle for what it offers. There is a wonderful '90s injunction: "Deal With It!" Take on the world "as it is," not as you wish it were. A billboard put up by the Urban League in Queens, New York challenges:

Life is unfair. Get over it. Get a job.

Similar to Starbucks Coffee, Caribou Cafes around Atlanta state their motto in "Life is short. Stay awake." A sign at Eat-a-Bite reads: Drink coffee now. You can sleep when you’re dead.

Just as one of the worst things you can do while driving is fall asleep at the wheel, one of the worst things you can do in life is fall asleep at the wheel. Life takes our complete concentration; it demands we become masters of an undivided attention to living. Be prepared. Plan ahead. Trust in God.

Jesus always lived 100 percent in the moment he found himself. For a Christian, anything less means you're not totally alive to life. To only give the moment even 90 percent means you are 10 percent dead to the moment.

Make each moment full; be totally absorbed in what you are doing and where you are.

Albert Einstein was famous for his "all-there-ness." His heightened powers of concentration are legendary. At one dinner party in Princeton, the after-dinner discussion went into the small hours of the morning.

Finally Einstein got up and said apologetically, "I hate to do this, but I must put you out now because I have to be on campus tomorrow morning."

“Albert," his host said, "you are in my house."

"Be Present" means be passionate--have enthusiasm for where you are and what you are doing.

Early Christians had to adjust to the idea that Jesus Christ wasn’t coming back immediately. They, as we, had to learn to wait expectantly and in the meantime live faithfully, courageously, and hopefully. This is still our mission call today. Ready, set, wait.

At the heart of our faith is the certainty that human history has a purpose & a goal and that it is moving toward that eventual fulfillment & completion. Someday, the Kingdom of God will reign supreme.

We don’t always articulate it well. Sometimes we avoid the topic altogether because of the abuse by popular writers, who sell lots of books describing the end of the world as they imagine it, but neglect the present time, this world.

Being present means living confidently and expectantly, compassionately and redemptively. The challenge here is to be ready, to keep enough oil on hand and to roll up our sleeves and work for the kingdom that is always coming and always breaking into history.

Scholar John M. Buchanan wrote, “Heaven breaks into earth when faithful persons live in hope and give themselves to the work of the kingdom.”

The success of the church in the world depends in part on its taking advantage of critical opportunities. If the church misses the moment, the moment may be lost.

This parable is often interpreted only eschatologically (referring to the end times). But why not consider the possibility that the "Groom" is calling the church now?

The Groom calls the church to the banquet now, to fulfill its mission now, to open the door of opportunity now, to take the step of faith now.

It may very well be that the church is snoozing. If not snoozing, there's a real sense of waiting, wondering what's going to happen next. In this parable, Jesus doesn’t condemnation the girls who fell asleep. They all did at one point!

But when the call came, when the bells were rung, five of these women were ready; the others were not. The first five snoozed, but didn't lose because they were ready should the trumpet sound. The other five should not have been snoozing; they should have been shopping (attending to the present need).

The five wise women carried an extra supply. This is a reminder that we cannot expect the resources we have in our "lamps" will be sufficient for all times and all occasions. We must realize that in the ongoing experience of living in the world, the fuel will begin to run low.

The question is: Are we carrying an external source of extra fuel? Do we know how, when our spirits grow dark, when the light seeps from our souls, to replenish the supply?

Preparing ourselves spiritually to meet Christ is an individual matter, that’s why the wise could not share their oil with the foolish maidens.

The closed door of the parable may point to the illusion of endless opportunity. There is a note of finality in this parable.

Often we presume that we have all the time in the world to tend to certain matters: rebuilding a broken relationship, learning a skill, offering gratitude or forgiveness, replacing a bad habit with a good one, deepening our relationship with God, contributing to society, spending more time with a child. We put off for today that which can presumably be done tomorrow.

Yet, with good works and acts of faith in God we prepare for an unknown but secure future. One of the truths taught by Matt 25:1-13 is that faithful action done now prepares us to weather God’s unexpected timing in our lives; both in the present as well as preparing us for the heavenly wedding celebration.

We prepare as we wait. We wait actively; fully engaged in living this life while preparing for the next. Amen.


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