Sermon – 11-08-20 – Proper 27 – Cycle A
Scriptures: Amos 5:18-24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
Sermon Title: “The Coming of Jesus”
Jesus always was. Then Jesus came to earth as a baby to make God real to us. Remember God is three persons in one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus died, lived again, went to heaven again. His second coming is expected at an unknown time. It could be today, any minute. It could be next week. It could be years or centuries from now.
Some thinkers think Jesus will come again when we have managed to lead almost everyone to believe or better still – everyone. Some people think we are living in the end times that are described in several places in the Bible.
The Bible also describes various scenarios about how the second coming of Jesus will be. I have always pictured the second coming of Jesus as a quiet, beautiful scene where we see Jesus floating from the sky while the people who have died will be lifted from their graves and will float to meet Jesus. Then the people who are still living will float through the sky to meet Jesus and we will all live happily after.
But wait! When people die I emphatically tell the family and the congregants at the funeral that this beloved person has been received in the arms of Jesus immediately! So, Rev. M, which is it? Can we have our cake and eat it too? I base my belief on the day Jesus was hanging on the cross. Do you remember what Jesus told the believer who was hanging on the next cross? “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise!” Did you hear that word “today?” Even allowing for the no-time schedule of God, “today” seems pretty immediate.
Another way to think about the writing in 1 Thessalonians 4, is that God’s timing is totally different than our own worldly 24 hours, 7 days, a year, a century. Thousands of years could be like the twinkling of an eye.
I do believe it is the soul that moves to heaven and we receive a new body there or maybe our souls just float around in heaven. But the early framers of the Apostles Creed chose to write, “the resurrection of the body” so that our very bodies would not have had time to decay when Jesus appears from the clouds. There are so many possibilities. The truth is that we do not know for certain. Paul does sound very sure of himself in the 1 Thessalonians passage. Our Bible holds many apocalyptic-type scenarios. Our contemporary world actually uses these passages in movies and books and other media.
Now, think of this idea. Instead of our going to heaven, God comes to us at the end of the age like the bridegroom in our gospel lesson. We read in Revelation that instead of our going to heaven, heaven is going to come to us. We do believe that God’s earthly kingdom is here already but it is not pure yet. Satan is still actively with us. Revelation 20 tells what will happen to Satan so that God’s kingdom will be pure. The New City of Jerusalem will descend – the one called “The Holy City.” The description is found in Revelation 21.
There will be judging and separation. The idea is that of Matthew 25:1-13 where 5 bridesmaids were prepared and ready while the other 5 bridesmaids were not prepared and ready when the bridegroom finally appeared. The reading from Amos also warns people to change their ways and be ready for the coming of the Lord. This readiness in Amos involves caring about other people. The word justice is not a stand-alone word. Justice involves caring. We can talk about justice all we want but that does not count if we are not out on the battlefield helping justice to happen.
Being good ourselves is nice. Obeying the beginning commandments is nice. They make our lives work. But when the commandments move to other people, how do we rate? Are we giving lip service or are our words really kind – all the time? Is our time allotted sufficiently to changing habits and laws of society. Will we be judged only on lip service?
Looking at the parable of the ten bridesmaids, do you think the wise bridesmaids should have shared their oil? Would that not have been showing a good spirit? This passage says “no.” It is all part of this being ready idea that runs through the Old Testament. I am not a “sharer” by nature. I will buy a duplicate for someone else but I do not share easily what I bought for myself. I am a “preparer.”
I have an abundance of supplies of every item in our house. So when COVID appeared in our lives, I panicked a bit about the empty shelves in stores, but at the same time I had enough supply to last a while. All except wipes. The shelves were totally empty of wipes. First sanitizer appeared. Here at church we literally have gallons of sanitizer. If you need sanitizer, please tell me. We will never use all of the sanitizer we have on hand. Maybe you could bring an empty sanitizer bottle because it is the gallons we will not use. Finally wipes appeared but they were different brands than before COVID and smaller in size.
Of course, being prepared is a matter of money. Can we afford to be overstocked? Being prepared can be a matter of greed.. Taking the last two items on the shelf may not be necessary. Someone may come along behind me and really need that 2nd item. I am trying very hard to stay out of the unprepared group of bridesmaids. But am I overdoing it? Then again, do I want to take a chance on hearing Jesus say, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”
Maybe the idea of being moderately prepared would be helpful. We would lose our intense desire to overstock, to be overprepared, but we also would feel more acceptable to God than if we let our supplies run low and then need to make an extra trip just when our item was needed to save the party or – save our souls!
Revelation 22:11 reminds us, “Evil people will keep on being evil, and everyone who is dirty-minded will still be dirty-minded. But good people will keep on doing right, and God’s people will always be holy.”
We still have not solved the question of exactly what happens to our bodies and souls when we die. But we do know that readiness counts! We do know that we want to be wherever God is. We are looking for the reward that comes from a lifetime of readiness of which JUSTICE for all people is a huge requirement. As we wait, let us check our participation in the quest for justice.
Oh Lord, help us to be ready in all ways. Amen