11/12/2017 Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost The text is Matthew 25:1-13; Amos 5:18-2.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Keep awake…stay alert…be prepared…for none of us knows either the day or the hour when the Lord will come. Most of us would agree that this is good advice. But how do we stay alert and watch for something when we have no idea when and where it will happen?
In the year 1780, people in Hartford, CT faced that dilemma on an eerie dark day that frightened many people. At noon it was as dark as early night. The birds, as confused as the people, sang a final twilight song and fluttered off into the evening dusk. The cows came meandering home from the pasture and chickens came home to roost. Religious men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came. In the State Legislature someone moved adjournment thinking that the Day of Judgment had come. But then a legislator stood up and said, “I am against adjournment. The Day of Judgment either is approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. (Staff, http://www.Sermons.com)
I guess that is the best way to stay alert… by doing your duty as a person of faith…living out what you believe and what you have been taught through faithful service to God and your fellow man and by letting justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. It is doing what is right and not necessarily what is easy. It is thinking of others before your own wants and desires, and embodying the qualities we so admire in our veterans – the qualities of honor, loyalty, bravery and commitment. And, it is going beyond that. It is looking in the face of every faithful person, both friend and foe, and seeing in that person the image of Christ.
If this were the last day and hour of life on this planet, how would I like to spend it? In fear and foreboding…no! In praise and thanksgiving for everything that God has done for me and will do throughout eternity…yes!
I would want to show my faith – not in passive reciting of words or sitting quietly in prayer, but through actively caring for others and the world God created. When the Lord comes, I would want to be found to be a person of compassion and not a crotchety old lady. I would want the last words spoken to be, “I love you,” and not some words of rejection, anger or hate.
I often shake my head in bewilderment over the things that irritate me…the driver who cuts me off to get one car length ahead, the friend who doesn’t listen to reason and who has to be right and have the last word on everything, the telemarketer who interrupts the quiet of an evening off, the dog barking at 3 AM to go out to do business. Sometimes, I think there are more things that irritate me than make me smile. And yet, I know that if I were alert and prepared, it would be the smile that would prevail. For my focus would not be on me and the things that irritate me, but on the coming of our Lord and his love and acceptance of all people.
So, what do we do as we watch and wait in hope for the coming of the Lord?
The daughter of a mother who wrote to Catholic Digest might have a suggestion. Her mother wrote that “one day when she was heading up the stairs with a basket containing the last load of folded clothes, herding her three little ones in front of her for bedtime, her eldest child, Peggy, who was then in kindergarten, picked that moment to begin one of those questions that seem to intrigue all children at some time. “Mommy,” she asked, “If it were the end of the world, and everyone was getting ready to die…” The mother stopped, shifted the basket on her hip, and said an ultra-quick prayer for wisdom to answer this question. “Yes?” The mother prodded her daughter. The little girl finished her theological inquiry: “If the end of the world came, would you have to take your library books back?” [While her question may make us chuckle, there is a bit a wisdom here for] that young lady did not want any unfinished business in her life. How about you? Is there some unfinished business in your life that needs to be taken care of? Is there anything about which you would be embarrassed or ashamed if the bridegroom were to come today?” (King Duncan, Collected Sermons, http://www.Sermons.com)
If so, there is no better time to take care of it than now. For, none of us would want to be like the women who were unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom. Like the wise, they had taken their time of rest…but unlike the wise, they did little more than rest for when the bridegroom came they were not ready for the journey that lay ahead.
Keep aware…stay alert…be prepared…live each day as if this is the day that you will meet the Lord face to face – and you will not be disappointed. Serve others, work for justice, do what is right, and don’t let apathy prevail – for none of us knows either the day or the hour when the Lord will come. Wait patiently for him in order to join him at the banquet feast without end. For, all are invited, but not everyone will take the invitation seriously.
So, be wise and let your faith and trust in the promise that he will come govern what you do every day. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.