Reflection: November 12

Published on Nov 14th, 2017 by Webminister | 0

Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13 — The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

         What to say about this odd parable from Matthew. I’ve never liked it because I’ve never been sure what it is trying to say. What is Matthew on about with the wise and foolish attendants? After all, the issue isn’t watchfulness, as Matthew implied, for they all slept, wise and foolish together. Perhaps, the issue is about being prepared. Not all brought enough oil.

         The parable comes at the end of Matthew’s Gospel; Jesus has entered Jerusalem, driven the money changers out of the Temple precincts, and offered three final parables. Today’s parable of the wise and foolish wedding attendants is the first; the parable of the huge sum of money, which comes next week, is the second. And the third parable is the parable of the sheep and the goats. All of these parables seem to have one thing in common: being prepared for the end of time.

The end of time isn’t of much interest to us; well, maybe a few of us have been heard to utter prayers like, “Dear God, may the foolishness of the time in which we live come to an end!” But from a religious perspective, the end of time isn’t of much interest to liberal or progressive Christians; the end of time is of interest to fundamentalist Christians and that causes a number of problems like Zionism in modern-day Israel and religious violence and judgement, intolerance and sectarianism.

I think the end of time was of interest to Matthew; as I said two weeks ago, when Matthew wrote his gospel, Judaism, as it was known, was destroyed. The temple was destroyed by the Romans; the nation of Israel was no more and many citizens had to flee. So, imagine a small Christian community maintaining its identity within the Jewish tradition, trying to keep going. There was persecution both from without and within; the Romans didn’t want Judaism springing into life again to cause armed rebellion and so they kept a lid on religious tolerance. The Jews didn’t like the fact that Matthew and his community affirmed that Jesus was the Messiah.

We think we have problems with respect to our future, but the early Christians had many problems with which to contend! And so, when there were stories around about Jesus returning as a triumphant Messiah, bringing peace and new life at the end of time, why not give it some focus. Jewish and Christian history has shown that when there was persecution and problems, stories of the end of time sprang up regularly.

We don’t face the same persecution—although many Christians and religious folk in the world today do—perhaps we should focus more on preparedness… maybe not the end of time, but in the sense of being awake and intentional about who we are and what we believe. In many important ways, what we are doing with our “Building for the Future” campaign IS about being prepared; it is about leaving something of value upon which to build for future generations.

So, perhaps the gospel message today is one of urgency. I’m not talking about a frenetic urgency where we clear the decks of all things, quit our jobs, go out into the wilderness, get rid of our assets and wait for the 2nd Coming. No, I’m talking about nurturing more intentionally the small shoots of peace that are coming up. I’m talking about creating a more just economy so that it isn’t just the wealthy elite that is served. I’m talking about making intentional choices to drive less, build renewable energy farms, share more, end carbon pollution, and work together to ensure that the climate doesn’t go beyond 1.5 degrees C warming. We can urgently refuse to tolerate bullying behavior that we witness too frequently still! Like the Virginia electorate and the many mayors and governors in the US, we can say to those in power, we won’t be bullied into a serve-only-the-wealthy politics anymore.

And in our own backyard, we can urgently call on our leaders to be more intentional in planning for a Nelson that isn’t an economic bubble beyond affordability and is an inclusive, welcoming and neighbourly community that we know it to be! We can work together to end poverty.

I think there is a convergence happening today in the world in which people of faith are standing up in the public realm to talk about balance, community, justice, and love. Our own Interfaith Climate Collaborative is indicative of this movement. At the Climate Conference happening in Bonn, Germany, the host country, Fiji, presented a statement from the Multi-Faith group in Fiji. It is a powerful statement inviting the world’s nations to go beyond the Paris Agreement from 2 years ago. Fiji couldn’t manage the 25 thousand people attending the Climate Conference and so Bonn stepped up. Interfaith Councils and our faith leaders are speaking more urgently about poverty, fair sharing of wealth, guaranteed incomes, child slavery, fair democracy and trade, and other “this world” issues.

And we urgently attend to our faith traditions like prayer, worship, hospitality, community, welcome, meditation, justice, love and compassion. We keep our oil—fossil fuel free oil, of course—from running out. Contrary to the parable, we can share our oil, so that we are all prepared. We can live prayerfully and urgently today as if tomorrow were going to be the end of days! That’s the tone we want to take into our meeting today and into our living!

Amen.

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