Listen to the teachings! Sometimes in our zeal to follow the ways of God, we discern odd paths. This week’s texts remind me of William Miller, an American Baptist who studied the Bible and eventually came to believe that the Second Coming of Christ would happen in his lifetime. Pressed by contemporaries, Miller declared that the Second Coming would happen sometime between 1843 and 1844. Miller is one of many disappointed prophets who predicted the Parousia. If Miller and others, including many contemporary people, would pay attention to Jesus, they might be more cautious in their declarations. The parable of the ten bridesmaids is one of four parables that concern judgment and the return of Jesus. This text and the passage in First Thessalonians sometimes cause discomfort. Here the discomfort may stem from the descriptions of the wise and foolish.
Listen to what Jesus actually says in this parable and not to the many other voices that try to identify when the bridegroom will show up. Jesus introduces the parable of the ten bridesmaids in a simple way: “The kingdom of heaven will be like this.” We remember that Jesus began his public ministry by declaring that the kingdom had drawn near—and that John the Baptist said the same. Here the declaration of the kingdom includes advice to be alert. If we listen to Jesus, we become more alert to the ways of God’s kingdom and reign. What do we notice as the kingdom draws near? What signs of the kingdom become revealed as we pay attention? One sign that leaps at me from this text is the small group of bridesmaids. They point me in turn to the banding together of small groups that work together as a community of faith, love, and justice. A more important question: How can we remain open to the ongoing revelation of God’s spectacular future? Listen to the teachings.
Open us to see signs of your kingdom in our midst, compassionate God. Amen.
This week’s passages speak of ultimate commitment or of the return of Jesus or they speak in parables that reflect a protagonist who has been delayed in an anticipated appearance. Living so far from the time of the texts makes it difficult to appreciate the urgency with which the issues arose in various communities and the crises they precipitated. Eschatology, however, is not to be thought of merely as a speculative venture in which curious religious people gamble on a time when the world will end. In the Bible, the coming advent of God demands from and warrants for the people of God a distinctive style of life. In Joshua 24, Israel receives an opportunity to de ne itself by identifying its God. First Thessalonians 4 comforts anxious believers who are worried about the fate of their deceased parents. Jesus’ resurrection is not an isolated event, Paul argues, but the beginning of the resurrection of all people. The prospect of Jesus’ return forms the basis for hope.
• Read Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25. When have your ministry activities become so time-consuming that you lost your connection to God? How can you regain that connection?
• Read Psalm 78:1-7. Which of the teachers in your life are you most grateful for? Why?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. How concerned are you with the end of time? What would you say to someone who claimed to know when the “end of the age” would be?
• Read Matthew 25:1-13. What part has fear played in your journey of faith? What does fear have to do with receiving God’s love?
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