Sermon – November 9th 2014
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
By Roland Legge
I am troubled by today’s scripture reading from Matthew. The lazy bride’s maids are condemned for life because of their laziness in not being prepared to welcome the bride groom. I feel for the lazy brides maids do you?
Yes, todays Gospel lesson was a message to Matthew’s followers who were getting impatient because Jesus had not returned yet. Matthew was trying to tell them they needed to be patient. But they also needed to be prepared as we would never would know when Jesus would return.
Matthew was trying to emphasize that we are to focus our lives on living, in the way of Jesus, which prepares us for any eventuality. Sadly this scripture has been corrupted by the popular belief, called rapture, which leads us to being only concerned about our salvation in a very narrow way. It does not include the biblical understanding of the salvation/healing of the world. It is about believing in a particular dogma that divides the world into good and bad. It doesn’t like diversity! So, whenever we get into talking about the theology of end times I get uncomfortable. Do you?
I believe that Jesus keeps returning over and over again. Jesus comes to me through each of you. Yet I am accountable for my behaviour and the choices I make in life. How am I accountable?
Yes I am accountable to God. Do I need to fear God when I die? No I don’t! But in some way I will be held accountable to the Divine. I have no idea how that will happen. I sometimes wonder if hell is only on earth.
Yet there are so many ways God holds me accountable. God holds me accountable through my faith community, through my family, through my friends. I pray that those around me will affirm me when I am on the Christ path and challenge/confront me in a loving way when I am getting off track. I believe that we need to do this for each other.
Another word that is commonly used in our faith that is not unlike accountability is judgement. Yet none of us want to be judged unless we get a good mark in a test or essay. But judgement is not a bad word. I like what William Willimon’s colleague Rick Lischer says about this:
Yet my colleague Rick Lischer points out that in the New Testament the Greek word for judgment is krisis. And he points out that this word krisis does not really mean the end, the final act, or what happens after the final act, but more accurately means “turning point.” A crisis is not what happens after everything else is over. A crisis is what happens when the plot of the story takes a decisive turn. That decisive turning point could be at the beginning, the middle, or the end. It doesn’t always have to be at the very end.
Jesus often talks judgment, particularly in this Gospel. When Jesus talked judgment, he did not speak of it so much as being at the very end, but at any time there is that moment of crisis, a turning point.
Lischer says toward the end of Matthew that the crisis comes like a thief in the night, when you are sleeping. The thief pries open a window and climbs in. Like that. Judgment comes when you least expect it.
I know that holding people accountable/judging can be uncomfortable. We need to keep building healthy relationships for this to happen. We need to learn to communicate in clear and compassionate ways so others have the chance to hear us. It is not that difficult. Remember to always use I statements. Always try to be clear as possible. Clarify what each other are saying. Make a plan to resolve your issue and come back from time to time to see how you are doing. When you do resolve it celebrate!
I don’t worry about Jesus returning for one last time to divide the sheep and goats. I think God loves sheep and goats! I am thankful that God comes back over and over again through people like you. I am never alone!! God comes back to us to help us live out our lives faithfully seeking for us to reflect the Creator’s love.
We all have a number of callings. They are all equally important. I was just at a meeting of Saskatchewan Conference Pastoral Relations and Settlement Committee in Saskatoon. Did you know that we are in great need of leaders in the United Church of Canada? God is calling for Ordained, Diaconal or Lay Profession (Designated Ministers). Have you ever wondered if you would make a good minister? Do you know somebody who would be a good minister? If you do let them know. Many of us in church leadership are there because someone encouraged us to consider it.
Are you able to do what you feel passionate about whether that is as your paid job, or as volunteer? I hope you are able to live out your dreams. I hope you are able to do things that feel meaningful for you. I hope you know you are making a difference in the world.
In holding each other accountable and judging is not meant to be a weapon, rather it is an act of love that a person or group lives out to help people become more and more their true selves. It is an act or acts to help people to recognize they are men, women and children of our maker. It is a reminder that we are all created in the image of God.
I can think of times in my life where I have been held accountable in life giving ways. It could be a congregational member, a colleague, and/or Presbytery who with compassion explains clearly to me in a calm tone how I have impacted themselves or others whether good or bad. I may not have liked what they had to say at first, but then I have a chance to redeem a relationship whether that means me making amends, seeking forgiveness or the opportunity to sort out a misunderstanding.
I feel very fortunate to have a job that I love to do. I am grateful to have activities such as dancing and learning about the Enneagram that also give me energy. I am grateful to be in a relationship with Jen where we seek to encourage each other in living our lives fully.
I pray that you may have that joy and satisfaction too! Don’t forget that each of you are women and men of God blessed with gifts and abilities to bring the Kindom of God closer and closer to us.
Thanks be to God. Amen!