"Ready or Not!" a sermon for 12 November 2023
One of my favorite games as a child was hide-n-seek. I am sure you all know the game. Children around the world have played the game for generations. There was the thrill of finding the perfect hiding spot. The excitement of being the seeker and finding your friends. “Ready or not, here I come!”
This morning, Jesus is like the seeker. Jesus calls out “Ready or not, here I come!” Some context is helpful here. We are in Holy Week in the timeline of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. So Jesus is preparing His followers for what is to come. Especially for the time when He is not longer physically with them.
Matthew chapter 25 contains 3 parables, three stories. Each teaching tells us something about the end times. Here it is important to remember that Jesus is not trying to scare us or intimidate us. Jesus, rather, is aiming to help us live life at its fullest. To fully love God and to love our neighbor as our selves.
That is the purpose of being prepared. When we are prepared, we can be alert and ready. We are better focused on what is important so that we do not miss out- as the second set of bridesmaids do in Jesus’ story. Those bridesmaids were not expecting the groom to be delayed. And, so, they miss out on the wedding feast.
Scholar Susan Hylen notes that this concept of waiting is difficult for us. We are people who want something, and we want it NOW. Not ten minutes from now, but NOW. Our Western culture, especially, is one of instant gratification. Where you and I can have things “our way,” as the old ad slogan goes.
Advent is just a few short weeks away. Advent, with its emphasis on preparation and expectant waiting, is probably the closest you and I get to this hopeful, watchful vigil. On the one hand, Advent calls us to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth over 2,000 years ago. At the same time, Advent invites us to prepare for Jesus to return.
Scholars call this the now and the not yet. Yes, Jesus has come, bringing the Kin-dom of God with Him. However, God’s Kin-dom has not been fully realized. You and still await the fullness of “on earth as it is in Heaven.” The parable of the bridesmaids reminds us that we live in the between times.
How, then, are you and I to live in that now and not yet time? The bridesmaids remind us to always be alert, prepared, and ready. That is the only difference between the two sets of women. The Groom could come at any moment. The Groom could even be delayed. Which brings us to the next 2 parables of Matthew 25.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus urges His followers to be wise caretakers of all that has been entrusted to them. We usually talk about the time, talents, and treasures God has given to each of us. God expects us to use those gifts for the Kin-dom. We are to use those gifts just as freely as we received them.
The second parable of Matthew 25 really drives the point home. All of God’s people are brought before Jesus at the final judgment. There the people are separated as sheep as set apart from goats. The sheep are rewarded because they used their time, talent, and treasure to help others. Thereby building up the Kin-dom.
Each week we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” You and I are to be about building God’s kingdom here in Broome County. You and I are to be God’s hands and heart in this world. Bringing the light of God’s love to a broken and hurting world.
We do this as we help feed our friends each month through the Canteen ministry (Saturday Soup & Sandwiches).
You and I do this as we provide food through St. Mark’s CHOW pantry.
We do this as we befriend the poor, the homeless, and the bullied.
You and I do this as we come together in our diversity to worship God.
We do this as we help a friend or neighbor with fall clean up.
You and I do this as we visit the lonely and as we help clothe the naked.
Such simple acts of kindness show that we are alert and ready. That we are prepared for the wedding feast. As we love our neighbor as our selves, we are building the Kin-dom of God right here, right now in Broome County.