Message of Nov. 12 Preparing for Christ

Pew candles

Nativity set

I have not posted my messages consistently. I sometimes am not sure that I should share them as publicly as this blog might. I am still in the learning phases and not sure if what I say is always on track. At any rate, here is the one from a few weeks ago. The picture was from this last week when we decorated the church for Advent.

The scriptures used were: Matthew 25:1-13, Amos 5:18-24 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. The title was “Preparing for Christ.”

Some of you can probably tell from the guests we have with us this morning that we have had a busy weekend. Actually for me it started Thursday, and I am almost embarrassed to tell you this one because you might have second thoughts about me continuing here in this capacity. On Thursday morning I went with James to school thinking that I was to substitute for the Family and Consumer Science teacher. I originally thought that I was to go in on Thursday and Friday, but James kept asking me why I thought it was for both days since there was no school on Friday. That should have been my clue, but I didn’t pay attention. The secretary who makes the calls for substitutes was out of the office, and I didn’t want to bother anyone else, so I just went in. We were there a little before 8 and as I was waiting in the teacher’s work area for the secretaries substitute to get there to give me the information and a key to the room, and who walks in but the teacher that I thought I was replacing. I had the wrong day. I was there a week early, and yes this coming week, I will be there for her both Thursday and Friday. I felt rather foolish, but I was also relieved because I felt like someone had just given me a day, a whole day to do whatever I wanted to do.

I ended up going home and getting to work. I went to my office and began sorting little nooks and crannies and piles of this and stacks of that, and I actually tossed out and cleared out and rearranged things that I have not touched in about 5 years. Let me say, it felt good. I was finally in “the mood” to let go and clear it out. I also cleaned off the top shelf of my computer desk and of the bookcase in the room and on one I put the pictures of the grandchildren I have baptized and on the other, I put my collection of angels. Part of this plan was to get a jump on decorating for Christmas, and it was fun.

On Friday with James home from school in celebration of Veteran’s Day, he and I spent the entire day getting the house ready for our company. We cleared and cleaned and dusted and washed and even rearranged a little to make sure that there would be places for cribs and toys and bottles and all the things that come with little ones and the adults they bring with them. In fact by the time the day was over, we even put one of the vehicles out of the garage so they could drive in and no little one would have to be taken out of the car and subjected to that awful wind we had going on Friday. Come to think of it we also set out more of our seasonal decorations in the living and dining rooms, and even had a pot of homemade vegetable soup on the stove for supper. It was a grand day of preparation, and we were both pretty wiped out tired when it was over.

I would bet that any one of us in this room can think of times when they went all out getting ready for someone coming to their home for a weekend or a holiday. We all take the time to do at least a little something extra in anticipation of the visit. Even if we don’t need to redo rooms or areas of our homes, there is always something that we do in an effort of preparedness for our guest. We treat those visits as something special; at least I get that impression from listening to what I hear people say about those visits.

Our story in Matthew today is somewhat similar in that the 10 women, who are the focus of this story, are getting ready to see someone special. This is not a case of someone coming to their home, but instead they are waiting for someone to pass by so they can join in going to a special event. They are waiting for the bridegroom to walk past them so they can follow along to the wedding and attend the wedding feast. This is a big deal, and even if we know nothing about the procedures for the weddings or the status of the people in the days of Jesus, this story alone gives you the idea of the importance of this event. Simply put there are 10 bridesmaids waiting to go into the wedding feast with the bridegroom. He is delayed for whatever reason and they fall asleep as they are waiting. When the groom comes they grab their lamps and their oil and follow him, except that only 5 have the extra oil they need, while the other 5 have not made the effort to get their oil and they end up asking the others for help and they are turned down.

This could be a rather confusing story. If we are to think of this story as Jesus being the bridegroom and any of us being the 10 waiting for him to come and take us to the feast which is inside the doors of heaven, our question today becomes, what is it about this lamp that we have that needs to be ready? The lamp in essence is our faith/us that needs to be ready. This extra oil that goes in the lamp is not something we can borrow from someone else as the doors to the wedding feast open. We need to have ourselves, our beliefs, our lives in order when the time comes for that wedding feast to begin. This is true either for the end of time, or the end of our time. It isn’t something we can decide or change or prepare after the time comes, it is something we need to do—now.

Again this week there have been events that have—let’s just say given me pause. And though I have been bothered by the events, I have been bothered even more by certain reactions to these events. I will explain: This past week on Wednesday the Ministerial Association met here and after a few of us had lunch together. As we were visiting afterwards, I asked the others what they felt about the church shooting in Texas in terms of having someone either inside or outside of the building on guard with a gun. As much as I was shocked and saddened by the reports that someone would walk into a church and kill people, I was equally shocked to hear one of the reporters asking why or where were the people who were supposed to be standing guard with guns of their own.

Since that day, I have considered how vulnerable everyone in the pews here would be. Then I remembered how we dedicated the doors. I had been very intentional about making sure the words said the doors were there to keep out the cold and the rain, but they were also to open wide to welcome the people inside. I don’t know how you prepare for a thing such as that but let me just say I don’t think that I am in favor of having our ushers or anyone in our building on guard, packing a weapon.

The other words that blew me away this week were in regard to the person running for an office and being accused of inappropriate relations with a young girl many years ago. I do not want to debate the truth or untruth of the accusations or even the right or wrong of the possible event, but in the firestorm of comments afterwards to have someone compare that supposed relationship to the relationship of Mary and Joseph to me is nothing short of sacrilege.

Now perhaps for us, here in the place that Hamlin Garland called the Middle Border in this area of the northern plains, maybe we are sheltered from all those things happening in Texas and Alabama and Hollywood and almost everywhere along the coasts where the biggest of cities are. Maybe we don’t have any of those “crazy” things going on. Maybe we can just keep the news turned off and go about our quiet little lives and not think about any of these things… And maybe in truth there is not a thing we can do about either of the two events I mentioned in particular other than offer up a prayer. But, we certainly need to consider how we reach out to those in our own family and community who are hurting, and people hurt in so many ways. We also need to consider what we do to seek justice for those around us. Do we stand up to those who would run over the weakest around us, or do we help those in need by giving them what help we can even if it is pointing them to the proper agencies or outreach programs.

The scripture lessons leading us to Advent (and the proclamation of John the Baptist—prepare the way of the Lord) this year are not so easy to hear. This parable about the 10 Bridesmaids with the idea of preparedness is just the beginning. Jesus in those days leading up to his crucifixion is trying to prepare the disciples for what is to come. In the days of the early Christian church, as the stories of Jesus’ life on earth are passed on to others and are finally written down for generations after—for us, the belief is very strong that Jesus will return almost immediately. The apostles, even Paul, wanted to instill the idea of being ready for Christ’s return. Now here we are 2,000 years later and we are still waiting. Some of the commentaries on this scripture lesson would have us think in terms of what we can do to make life better for others. The bottom line is that Christ says we don’t know the day or the hour and we are to have our lives, our faith, our commitment and our relationship with God in order. But we can’t stop there, perhaps we can’t repent for our friends or family, we can’t commit for them or have that relationship with God in their stead, but we can be an example, a witness and the Christian friend who cares and prays for them. Let’s go this week as examples of preparing our lives not just for the upcoming season where we celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus, but preparing our lives for the Christ who came to be our Savior. Amen!

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