This week one of our members was having surgery.
I went to the hospital to pray with her before her surgery.
I was told by the front desk to go to this certain waiting room.
I was there on official business so I was wearing my collar and a black suit.
When I walked into the waiting room a woman said to her daughter.
“Is that a priest? That freaks me out.”
She said it loud enough for me to hear it, so I said, “Don’t worry I am not here for you.”
We all laughed.
I wonder if this will be our reaction when Jesus comes again.
I know that all of you would have a much different reaction when I come to see you in the hospital.
People find it comforting.
They want me to come and see them, to pray with them.
In fact, if I didn’t come you might be upset.
But people that don’t know me or that don’t go to Church, or that don’t understand religion their reaction is one of horror.
Maybe she reacted that way because she only sees a priest when it is time to die.
I know that when I did my hospital chaplaincy in seminary I would sometimes get that reaction from people.
The chaplain is here that must mean that someone is dead.
People don’t call the chaplain for good things.
Our Gospel for this morning is about what we expect when Jesus comes again.
Will we be prepared?
Will we be scared?
Will we rejoice?
I think we should back up one space.
And just say the obvious thing; many of us don’t believe that Jesus is coming back.
Or at least we don’t live like that could really happen any time soon.
This is not part of the Christian doctrine that we take seriously.
Is that good?
I think it is in the sense that we simply don’t know when it is going to happen.
Jesus told us this many times, including in Matthew’s Gospel right before the one we have today.
Since we don’t know when, and since we don’t have any control over it, there is something to be said for going about our lives.
To live as Jesus calls us to live.
I heard a lecture by a woman who used to be a Pentecostalist.
She was talking about why pentacostalist don’t care about the environment.
She said that they don’t care because in their theology God is going to come and blow up the earth anyway and it is going to happen soon.
Why take care of something God is just going to destroy.
I understand this argument.
It is the same one I give for not making the bed.
Why make the bed I am going to get right back in it and mess it up in a couple of hours.
So maybe there is a danger in over emphasizing that Jesus is coming back.
On the other hand, what does it look like to live as if we expect Jesus to be here tomorrow?
What are the implications for our moral choices?
What are the implications for how we treat each other?
Distancing ourselves too far from this Christian doctrine may lead to laziness on our part, as if what we do doesn’t matter at all.
As if God doesn’t care about the world we live in, or the people that are in it.
Having a sense of God’s coming gives us urgency to our actions.
But most of us simply don’t think about this that often.
Because why should we care?
Here is why it is important, how we see the end of time says a lot about how we think of God right now.
If you think of God as really angry and out for revenge then that god is going to show up mad.
That God is going to destroy this sinful place we live, and all the sinful people in it.
But if your God is loving and caring, if your God is merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, then when God shows up it is a wonderful and glorious thing.
It is a renewing of the world that cries in labor pains.
It is a time of no more tears or hurt.
What does this Gospel say about God and what Jesus return looks like?
First thing is that the bridesmaids wait for a party.
The image of marriage feast is an image of joy.
The bridesmaids are waiting in an expectation of joy.
They are not anxious about it.
Because they sleep before the groom arrives.
Isn’t that what we wait for and hope for?
Are we not waiting now in expectant joy of the marriage feast that has no end?
Are we not waiting for God to come and right all the wrongs, end all the suffering and hurt?
What about the end of the parable?
It comes off as really mean for the Lord to shut out the foolish bridesmaids.
I think we can say that there is preparation that comes before the party.
The ending of this parable would have been a surprise to the people reading it.
Weddings were open occasions to everyone in a community.
To have a closed door would not have been common.
The community that Matthew wrote his Gospel to is growing weary of waiting for Jesus.
They have begun to slack off in their love of the Gospel.
Can’t we say the same about us?
Are we not like Matthew’s community?
As the Gospel ages its message sometimes looses the radical nature.
We lose our passion for what Jesus is calling us to do.
We forget to prepare ourselves for Jesus to come again.
We forget the oil to light our lamps.
And our light doesn’t shine.
We hide it under a basket, because we have forgotten the goodness of God.
We forget that God is gracious to us.
We become like the woman in the waiting room.
And in doing we become afraid of God instead of God’s companion and friend.
The question that I think is at the heart of our faith life is this.
Do I experience joy when I think about Jesus?
Do I experience a genuine good feeling about following Jesus?
Does my faith energies me to love and care for others?
When I think of Jesus I think of my salvation.
I think of all the times I have needed my faith in really dark times.
And I think of all the times Jesus has come through for me.
And I want to share it with others.
I want them to have that joy.
If we don’t know Jesus, if we become complacent about our faith, about the Good News of Jesus Christ, it is as if our lights go out.
It is as if the door is shut, and we can’t get back in.
So today let your light shine.
Care for the least of these.
Love those who you struggle to love.
Prepare your hearts for the joy of the Lord, because Jesus is coming again.
Will we be ready for that moment?
Will we be joyful that the bridegroom returns?
Live today as if Jesus is returning.