Our November 8 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. Our social spacing seating arrangement assures minimal risk when you come in person.
The November 15 worship services will be held in our church sanctuary at 8 and 10:30 am with members and friends in attendance. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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November 8 Sermon
Amos 5:18-24 | Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 | Matthew 25:1-13
Are you ready? That is the question. Are you ready to leave? Are you ready for the meeting? Are you ready to eat? Are you ready for the holidays? Are you ready for your Internal Revenue Service audit? And one that was going on not too long ago, are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse? All common questions, even surprisingly the last one, but, here is the big question. The question is, are you ready for the coming of the Lord? All of the lessons today are asking that question in one way or another, asking in terms of the end of time, eschatology. But, interestingly, all have different understandings. Also, liturgically, they are preparing us for the end of the Church Year, with Christ the King Sunday, which is in two weeks. The answer, or the instruction, is, I believe, the old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” translation, “Get Ready.”
The prophet Amos gives us a warning, for those who are complacent for that time. He speaks of the Day of the Lord, a day of judgment and of wrath (kind of like the Zombie Apocalypse), while the people were mistakenly looking forward to a day of joy. But, then, speaking for his time, Amos was a prophet of doom. He spoke of a situation when there was no justice, the poor were getting poorer, and the rich were getting richer by taking advantage of the poor. It kind of sounds familiar with the present times, doesn’t it? Well, nothing has really changed for millennia. Amos is often called the Prophet of Woe, because so many of his oracles begin with that word “Woe” or “Woe to you.” The translators tried to temper it today with “Alas.” “Oh, Alas.” That is like “Don’t” in the Ten Commandments. “Don’t kill. Don’t steal.” No, it is “Thou shalt not!” The Hebrew is not “Alas,” not by any stretch of the imagination. Alas is way too gentle. The Hebrew is “Woe,” as in implying a coming punishment. And, contrary to what some may think, most people do know what the word “Woe” means. Never read Amos while listening to the Blues on the radio. The damage it can do to your psyche would be overwhelming! What does Amos say that God wants? “Justice flowing like waters, and righteousness like a stream.” Acts of faith carried out in love towards the neighbor, not acts of self-centered and self-serving sacrifices to try to appease the God whose mandates they were ignoring. The situation is simple. God is condemning greed and the lack of compassion towards the less fortunate. Not surprisingly, we have that still. The favorite excuse that I hear from people is, “They aren’t really poor. They are just taking advantage of the system.” Interestingly, it is always said by people who aren’t poor and needy. I find that convenient. Sometimes, I retort, “Yes, and Greed is still one of the Seven Deadly Sins.” It usually goes over their heads. I believe that God finds it condemnatory. They have no compassion for the less fortunate.
The New Testament texts take a different tack on the Day of the Lord. St. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians (and this is the oldest writing in the New Testament predating the writing of the Gospels by about 20 years). Paul speaks of what people commonly now call “The Rapture,” although that is not exactly what he is describing. He speaks of the actual occurrence of the Second Coming of Christ. He speaks of it as a cosmic happening. Most people are familiar with this one, so no need to really go into details. This is what is to happen at the end of the age. Or, I like to call this, “what the Church is waiting for.” When the whole Church will be called together; past, present and our future, very much like I was talking about last week for All Saints’ Day.
Jesus however, uses a more common metaphor. Ironically, since he is the one who is the Lord, and his coming ushers in the Day of the Lord, he does not speak of it in terms of “The Rapture.” Groups who are into that kind of language should take note of that. Jesus, rather, speaks of the coming of the Day of the Lord in terms of; a wedding. Ironic that Jesus is more down to earth, and Paul has his head in the clouds, don’t you think? Jesus’ depiction is that of a wedding feast, a glad time, a time of celebration, when all are waiting expectantly for the coming of the Bridegroom. That is when a wedding of his time started. It still is in some places. At the present time, here, we wait in the church for the Bride to enter (I’m not sure how that changed in time. Sometimes, you wait and wait: wardrobe malfunctions, stop crying, hiccups, nerves in general).
Jesus speaks of the 10 bridesmaids, waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom. All of them brought their lamps (must have been an evening wedding), but only 5 brought extra oil (the wise ones), 5 did not (the foolish ones). I’m never sure whether this is an image of faith, or of patience and being prepared for a delay. I think that they all had faith, it’s just 5 weren’t prepared for a delayed arrival. One of the greatest mysteries in the Church is the delayed return of Christ in glory, or technically, the “delayed eschaton.” What is taking so long? We don’t know. We are only told, and as described in this story, to be ready, and be prepared in case there is a delay, and there has been one, nearly 2,000 years.
Because of the delay, the 5 foolish bridesmaids are out buying more oil for their lamps when the Bridegroom arrives, and they are not allowed into the banquet, even though they had waited with the rest. Strange. The others were fully welcomed in.
What is the message? Be prepared! Be ready! Have your house in order, faith in order, or as the song goes, “have oil in your lamp.” When will Christ return? We don’t know. And it seems we aren’t supposed to know. But, he said that he would, and at an unexpected hour. We are just supposed to be ready, and prepared like the wise bridesmaids. St. Paul expected it in his lifetime; St. Augustine in his; Martin Luther in his – so much so, that everything which he wrote may be read in anticipation of Christ’s return. I expect Christ’s return in my lifetime. You should as well. It is our hope, the fulfillment of our redemption. He comes soon, in an unexpected hour.
What are we to do until then? “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Be ready. Live your lives in expectation of Christ’s imminent arrival in glory, doing as you would anyway, wait in faith, and in acts of faith active in love towards those around us. And keep vigilant, lamps lit with plenty of oil. For Our Lord is returning in glory to claim what is His: His Church, His Bride, His world. So, be prepared for that blessed event. Blessed above all other events.