Sunday 8 November 2020
People get ready
Matthew 25: 1-13
Context: morning worship - a regular congregation of predominately middle aged and older members, and some families, and part of a recorded service viewed by approximately 100 people
Aim: exploring hope for the future, rooted in the present
THE WEDDING PLANNER
Where was the wedding planner when this event happened? Had they considered the implications of the absence of an arrival time for the bridegroom, or that some of the bridesmaids would not have read the memo about oil for their lamps? Wedding celebrations like this wedding have been curtailed in the restrictions of the 2020 pandemic; the wedding planners furloughed, their skill of organisation and preparation mothballed for a time. As weddings return, preparation will be central to the smooth running and success of this special moment that heralds a new future.
Preparation is at the heart of Jesus’ answers to questions from His disciples about what the Kingdom will look like and when He will return. With the calling and equipping of the disciples and the warning that the road ahead may not always be easy, Matthew now confronts us with Jesus’ words to be ready. The words about the returning bridegroom would have spoken into the psyche of the disciples; the arrival time of the bridegroom never known precisely but the knowledge that he will come, key to how they are to be and act. As the disciples journey with Jesus towards the cross, not fully grasping what the future holds, Jesus’ words ‘therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.’(Verse 13) encourage them, and us to be ready at all times. Ready not just on the appointed day like the wedding feast but living with Jesus present with us, serving Him and making Him known to others.
‘People get ready there’s a train a commin,’; a song first recorded in 1965 by Curtis Mayfield, the lyrics evoking that sense of readiness for the future that resonate with the gospel message. ‘U don’t need no ticket U just thank the Lord.’ There are no travel restrictions, but no one can save our place in the queue. We need to be at the station ready for its arrival, waiting with anticipation, not just of the destination but also of the journey, anticipating the future with hope.
Preparation and waiting, words we have been extremely focused on over this year. Debates about our preparedness for the pandemic abounding, ‘waiting’ - something we had to do as the days and weeks turned into months. We have waited for the news from the daily briefings, in queues for supermarkets, for good news to out-weigh the difficult statistics. In Matthew Jesus tells us that in the waiting we need to be alert, another corona message that we have heard and internalised.
Waiting is easier for some of us than others ‘I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope’ (Psalm 130:5-7).
How have we used that waiting time? Has it been a time of preparation, of hope?
The Gospel message is of Jesus inaugurating the Kingdom of God on earth and we need to be present in the here and now, despite the many distractions in our culture that can take our focus from Jesus. Covid-19 has perhaps given us time when we have been able to wait more patiently on God amid the anxiety and uncertainties of the ‘new normal’ of life?
The Holy Spirit, which St. Paul calls the Spirit of wisdom, fills us like the oil in the young women’s lamps No one else can fill us, we can’t be filled with someone else’s faith, the oil of faith ours to have and to hold in our marriage imagery. We are called then not to a passive waiting but to action, focused not just on the anticipation of the wedding day celebrations but on the marriage ahead.
As we respond to the call to be ready, Jesus’ words ignite the flame that lights our present and our future; our hope for the future wedded to today. As Jesus’ disciples we are called to prepare ourselves by feasting on His word, and to share those words with others. As we seek to be kingdom people and to flood our communities with Christ’s light, we are commissioned to be His hands and feet in serving others in the here and now.
The here and now of faith and discipleship is important to us and to our communities; and is our focus now, and for the future, influenced perhaps by our personal and corporate responses during the pandemic. As we look in faith to the future, we look with a hope rooted in the present.
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