Week 50A: Actively Living in Hope

 

Matthew 25:1-13  The Parable of the Ten Young Women

“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them, while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps. The bridegroom was late in coming, so they began to nod and fall asleep.

“It was already midnight when the cry rang out, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!’ The ten young women woke up and trimmed their lamps. Then the foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Let us have some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ ‘No, indeed,’ the wise ones answered, ‘there is not enough for you and for us. Go to the store and buy some for yourselves.’ So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed.

“Later the others arrived. ‘Sir, sir! Let us in!’ they cried out. ‘Certainly not! I don’t know you,’ the bridegroom answered.”

And Jesus concluded, “Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The Lord’s Coming

Our friends, we want you to know the truth about those who have died, so that you will not be sad, as are those who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will take back with Jesus those who have died believing in him.

What we are teaching you now is the Lord’s teaching: we who are alive on the day the Lord comes will not go ahead of those who have died. There will be the shout of command, the archangel’s voice, the sound of God’s trumpet, and the Lord himself will come down from heaven. Those who have died believing in Christ will rise to life first; then we who are living at that time will be gathered up along with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. So then, encourage one another with these words.

Now, as we enter the last weeks of the Church year, we are focused on the “last things,” and especially the return of Christ as Judge. The Gospel reading is the familiar parable of the wise and foolish maidens. The emphasis here is a reminder that God is always coming to us, and that we need to be alert and watchful so that we don’t miss God’s presence and activity in our lives.

It is unfortunate that Christianity has become an ‘evacuation’ faith (to borrow Brian McLaren’s word). Instead of engaging our communities and getting involved in the struggles of people, we have offered an escape and a lame hope that may promise bliss in eternity but has nothing to contribute to our world now. This is tragic and misguided. But, when we allow the hope that the Scriptures offer us (as in the Lectionary readings this week) to capture us, our engagement with the world changes dramatically. As we embrace our hope for the future we live differently now. We gain the wisdom of God’s perspective and the faith to work as agents of inspiration and possibility in our communities. We begin to be alert and watchful for the signs of God’s coming in the lives of those we serve and we become more committed to living out our hope now. In this way, we are able to contribute to the manifestation of God’s reign where we are. And when our lives and ministries reflect Christ in this way, we can’t help but be agents of grace, healing, and salvation to hurting, hopeless people.