May 2018  
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Matthew 25: 1-13      “You Gotta Share”     11/12/2017                                                     Rev. Jerry W. Krueger         Boardman UMC

When was the last time any of you filled a lamp to provide light in your home? Are there any of you here who grew up when you had to add coal oil to lamps for the walk to the barn, or in the basement?

We are a people who are used to flipping the light switch and then “Bamm-O!, let there be light.” We’re not concerned about carrying oil with us to provide light.

Jesus is telling this allegory, a thinly veiled story with a point. And as a reminder, in chapter 24 preceding this text, Jesus has already told two stories about the necessity for watchfulness, stating, “No none knows, not even the Son, only the Father, when the Son of Man will return.” Then he tells the story of two men in the field, one taken up, the other left behind, one women grinding flour and taken up, the other women left behind.

Jesus next tells of the Faithful, OR unfaithful servant. One always prepared for the Masters return, the other unprepared.

In our reading today, Jesus drives home the point of watchfulness, preparedness, and living daily a life that is aligned with God. These stories are part of what is typically called the “judgment discourse.”  It delineates parameters and results for those who have accepted Christ, and results for those who have chosen to NOT accept Christ.

This wedding langue of Bridesmaid, groom, and celebration is familiar to us. Celebratory Parties usually follow a wedding.

Here are our 10 bridesmaids. All dressed in the same shoes, same style dress, hopefully not a hideous floral pattern. 10 similar looking bridesmaids, but unbeknownst to us, 5 are wise, five are fools. It’s hard to tell if the person next to you is wise, or foolish. Right? Look at the people seated next to you. Wise or foolish? Who knows?

As part of the celebration, the bridesmaids are to form a lighted path back to the groom’s home in celebration. Except, the groom gets delayed.  So if you are told to bring a flashlight to the wedding celebration to light the groom’s path, what do you do?

1. Search the drawer or shelf for the flashlight. 2. Turn it on to make sure it works. 3. Some will say, “Looks good enough.” Others might stop at Dollar General and put in new batteries.

So around midnight after waiting several hours with the flashlights on, then falling asleep, you get the word that the bridegroom is approaching.

The wedding revelers leap up, standing by the road with flashlights, and those who left with run down batteries, are in the dark. They will not be seen. And they beg for new batteries. “Sally Sue, give me the new batteries for my flashlight, its out.” ”No, if I give them to you, I have no light. You have to go to the store and buy more batteries.”

“My lamp is out, Martha, Mary, give me some of your oil for my lamp.” “I can’t, there is not enough for each of us.”  The five foolish bridesmaids run off to purchase more lighting supplies, and alas, miss the bridegroom.

The venue door is closed, and the foolish folks, are left out. Why? This is not cruel. Look, they had an opportunity to be prepared, to commit. They had opportunity to plan for their eternal future. But they didn’t. They put it off. They said, “There is plenty of time. I have lived a good life as a good person. No problem for that eternal life thing. I’ll do it later.”

But, that is not what Jesus was teaching in the previous two texts, nor in this one.

Wise builders build their home, their lives on solid rock and sink in deep foundations. Foolish builders build on anything, and the home is knocked apart at the first sign of distress, or turmoil.

Jesus is clearly instructing those who think there is plenty of time for accepting Christ, “Time is shorter than you think. Don’t be tragically mistaken.”

Jesus relays a simple story about our faith, about your faith. Prepared versus unprepared. Those who accept Jesus Christ, those who do not.  Believers in Christ invest in deeds of faithful discipleship because they love the Lord, not because they think they have to earn their way to heaven. That cannot be done.

The book Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan was written in 1678, a Christian allegory that teaches.  The path the Pilgrim is on is fraught with detours, opportunity to stop and laze the day away, treacherous terrain, and fellow travelers who opt to go the easier path, forgetting WHY they’re on the journey.

Our faith life is not complete when we accept Christ. That is just the start. At that moment of justification, a churchy word we Wesleyan Methodists use, justification is when we accept Christ and realize that we belong to Christ, and only He can save us and bring new life to us. At that justifying moment, we begin our journey, our Pilgrim’s Progress of living a sanctified life. Sanctification is the continuing work of God in each Believer through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is where we grow in grace, in compassion, living out a life of holiness that is marked by our good work for Christ in daily life.

How does this occur? We accept Christ. Then we look for opportunity to engage in weekly worship and share in communion. We find opportunities for us to engage in mission with others, to help those in need.  We don’t engage in good works for the kingdom of God for ourselves, we do it because we love God.

Being a Christian require sacrifice, and folks, people in John Bunyan’s day in 1678 were little different than people today.

Many people jump on the Jesus train and rally for Him for a short while. But when delays occur, when we get the bad diagnosis, or the pink slip, or the relationship is a struggle and falls apart, then some will say, “I used to be a Christian, but it was a hassle, God didn’t keep all suffering from me.”

It’s easy to merciful and pleasant for a day, however, being merciful for a lifetime is different.

Most everyone can preach at least one sermon in their life, but every week, year after year? Same with teaching, or running a business. For one day might be fun, or being married. It can be fun for a day, but when we look at the longevity of a life of service and mercy and love and compassion, it can be a task that seems daunting.

Like these 10 bridesmaids, we who claim Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, as Savior of our lives, have the same opportunity to commit to a life of love, service and good work, all for the love of Christ.

At the close of this pericope, in verses 10 -13, hear these words of consequences that some may call judgment,  “10 And while they went to buy it, (the lamp oil) the bridegroom came, and those who were ready, went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, “truly I tell you the truth, I do not know you.’  Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

People of God, there are many examples of wise and foolish in our world today. We read about wise and foolish businesses CEO’s, wise and foolish politicians, wise and foolish choices in schools, in universities, in churches, in life, in personal and family relationships.

Christ is telling us, encouraging us, telling us, “Pay attention.” We must choose a wise choice of life eternal with Christ in heaven, or make a foolish choice by not choosing, or falsely believing, that we have plenty of time. 

Are you the wise one like the Pilgrim, in Pilgrim’s Progress? Still on the path, journeying faithfully with Christ? Or have you been foolish, unprepared, unwilling, unbelieving. Your choice.

If there is one among you who senses Christ calling you to make a commitment to him today, I invite you to come forward and stand with me here, as we sing our closing hymn.

In Jesus holy name we pray. Amen.