2023-11-12 Pentecost 24
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
We have crossed the threshold into the last few Sundays in the church year before the season of Advent will once again be upon us. And it is now, at the end of the church year, where our lectionary readings and focus turn towards the end. The great and terrible Day of the Lord. In all of our readings today we have this exact theme of being awake and watchful. Be aware of the times. Be waiting for the Messiah to come again. Be prepared to greet the Bridegroom.
But our entire culture and world is designed to take us in the exact opposite direction! Distraction. Busyness. Consumed with consumerism. Obsessed with worthless obsessions. Endless social media scrolling. Our me-centered world has become completely oblivious to the truth of God’s Word. People can line up at 4AM for Black Friday deals but the 10am church service is way too early! There is an old Russian proverb to this effect. “The church is close but it’s icy out. The bar is far but we’ll be careful!” Priorities! And the world continues its endless onslaught of pushing worldly priorities on us all day every day. Think about the Colosseum in ancient Rome. Why was that incredible structure built? Gladiators. Battle reenactments. Roman heroes killing ferocious beasts! 100 days of entertainment and excitement were provided to the Roman people when the Colosseum opened. But it was all to appease public discontent about how things were going politically in Rome. Look here, not there! The Colosseum became an opiate for the masses and a tool for distraction par excellence.
And is it any different in our day? Hardly. It’s very much the same thing. Legalize cannabis! Keep the population in stupor! Give everybody a smartphone so that every waking moment can be slathered in distraction. The human attention span has become like that of a goldfish! It used to be 8 seconds to ride the bull at the rodeo! Now that’s all the average person has to work with for daily life! Complex thought and research and consideration are all out the window as society continues its downward spiral into this big seething monster of emotional rage and carnal hedonism!
But when you peel the onion down and strip back all the layers, its nothing more than distraction. But distraction from what? It’s distraction from being spiritually prepared for the return of Christ our King. The Bridegroom is on His way. Are you ready? Are you watching? Or are you distracted? That’s the point of our Lord’s parable in the Gospel reading this morning. He takes us to the context of a wedding. By necessity, such an event takes a lot of planning and preparing and getting ready. Jesus tells us that half of the girls were prepared and ready for the party. They had their oil lamps lit and burning brightly. And, they had extra oil, just in case the Bridegroom was delayed in arriving. They were wise in their preparedness and priorities. Nothing was more important than the arrival of the Bridegroom. His arriving signalled to everyone that the party was about to start!
In the culture of the day, this is how things went. It’s completely opposite to our day where we wait for the Bride and the bridesmaids to show up! Back then, the Bridegroom and the groomsmen went to the Bride’s house and nobody knew when that moment would be. Nobody except the groom’s father. He was the one who set the date and the time. And whenever that happened, everyone had to be ready! Everyone had to be waiting and watching. It might even be in the middle of night! That’s why Jesus tells us this parable about His coming. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (MT 25:13). Again Jesus tells us: “36“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (MT 24:36).
The other half of this parable was the foolish bridesmaids. They didn’t bring extra oil and had to run and try to find a Dollarama store that was open in the middle of the night! Good luck with that, ladies! Ain’t gonna happen. And while they were distracted, the big event happened. The Bridegroom arrived. The party started! But the fools were left out in the cold. They went and banged on the door at the convention center but alas, it was too late. The door is shut and the Bridegroom says “I do not know you” (MT 25:12).
So what’s the moral of the story? “Don’t be a Distracted Dunce!” Or, DBADD for short! Our reading from Isaiah drives the point home: “Awake, awake!” The prophet cries! Don’t get caught sleepwalking your way through life. The day of triumph is coming when God will lay bare His mighty arm and redeem His people from sin, death and the devil forever more. He will be the one to lead us to the marriage feast of the Lamb. He will call us to the cross. He will call us to the empty tomb. He will call us to the baptismal font. He will call us to the Communion table. He will call us to the final celebration. The day is coming-watch for it. Get ready. Get prepared. Don’t be distracted by the wildly ways of the world.
This is all echoed even further in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, truly a word for our time too. “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night!” (5:2). Boom! “3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (5:3). While everyone is distracted with this and that, that’s exactly when the Lord will return. From weddings to pregnancy, we’ve got all the bases of life covered today!
The lesson is simple. The 9 months pregnant mom should have known the time was coming! Any day now, it could happen. Is the baby bag packed? Is the baby bucket seat in the car? Is the closet stocked with diapers and wipes and onesies?! “5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. … But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:5,8-9).
The Lord has called us by the Gospel from the darkness and delusion of the world into the light of His Kingdom. Wake up. Pay attention. Get ready. The Day is on its way. Don’t succumb to the distraction of the world. The signs are all around us. Plagues and rampant evil. Crime and political corruption. Wars and unrest in the world. WW3 could literally start at any moment! Don’t be oblivious. The Lord Himself promised that these things would happen. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (MT 26:6-7). Read the Scriptures and then read them again. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2Tim3:14-15).
The message is always faith, over fear. Faith to wake up and see the times in which we are living. Faith to get ready and prepared to greet the Bridegroom. Be watchful. Be waiting. The Day is at hand. Help those around you get prepared too. Share your faith boldly and lovingly that everyone around you may be wise for salvation through faith in Christ our Lord. Stay awake. Stay watchful. “For you do not know on what day your Lord is coming!” (MT 24:42). Come, Lord Jesus. Amen!