All I have – Matthew 25:1-13

Not quite what I had in mind...

Not quite what I had in mind…

I have a confession to make: I have sincerely prayed “Amen! Come Lord Jesus.” And I don’t mean “come Lord Jesus” in a “I hope I have a meaningful communion experience” way or “I hope I meet Jesus in the face of the poor today” way. No… I mean that I have prayed that statement from scripture with the hope that Jesus would come down on the clouds right then and there. I mean that I have prayed that statement sincerely hoping for a full-on apocalypse.

And yes… I am still a faithful Lutheran.

You see… the commentary, coming from certain Lutheran corners of the internet, on our gospel lesson for Sunday is making me a little irritable. Mathew 25:1-13 reads like this:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

I was hoping for good dialogue on what it means to wait, be prepared, and keep awake. What I keep finding instead is comments about how hard this passage is. Our friends at workingpreacher.org spend a lot of time in their podcast talking about how difficult this passage is. David Lose, however, takes the cake when he writes:

I mean, who is still waiting eagerly, anxiously for Jesus’ imminent return? Well, pretty much only those folks who predict it on billboards and at whom we typically poke fun.

Sorry David, but I eagerly await Jesus’ return and I don’t have a single billboard. In fact, there have been points in my life when eagerly awaiting Jesus return has been the only thing that has kept me going to the next day. 

Look, we talk about the presence of the risen Christ that is amidst ourselves and our work for justice (language that is really popular in the ELCA right now), but sometimes that just isn’t enough for me. In all the pain that a community has to offer, saying that God is present in our struggle for justice doesn’t quite give me enough strength to meet the next challenge.

And that is where this reading for Sunday comes in. I don’t hear this as a story of judgment, as a hard story, but as a fundamentally hopeful story. This gospel reading is a story for a community that sincerely thinks Jesus Christ is late in coming and boy have I thought that before. I have that thought every time I have to watch a person bury their loved one all by themselves. I have that thought every time I get frustrated, and every time I get depressed.

All of you who think I'm going to talk about the rapture can stop that right now!

All of you who think I’m going to talk about the rapture can stop that right now!

And the good news of the whole passage is when Jesus says “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” That is a complete permission from Jesus to hope his return as soon as possible. Amidst depression and stress that statement is permission to anxiously expect Christ’s imminent return.  

I don’t usually do commentary on the Lectionary readings because I actually think the folks at workingpreacher.org do a great job. However, to all you preachers and listeners I have this to say: don’t just skip over this text because it seems hard. There are many good reasons not to preach this text (even I probably wont because it doesn’t speak to where my congregation is at right now), but don’t let one of those reasons be that Jesus Christ’s return is hard and confusing because this is the story for all those who think that the bridegroom is late in coming.

________________________

On another note, I have a blog to recommend to you all: whoiskatieluther.wordpress.com

This is a blog about what it means to be the significant other of a clergy person. It is really heartfelt, honest, and good.

In the interest of full disclosure it is written by my fiancee

About dkamphuis

I'm an ELCA pastor preaching, teaching, thinking, and writting about what it means to be the church today.
This entry was posted in The Word. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to All I have – Matthew 25:1-13

  1. Pastor Ken says:

    I’ll admit, I’m struggling with this week, but I’m determined to make something of this Gospel reading.

  2. Craig Bagenstos says:

    And the Jews are still waiting for the Messiah because Jesus “just wasn’t enough for” them either. They expected a different, probably grander Messiah, not one mucking around with fishermen, sinners, tax collectors, and other low-lifes, misfits, and rejects. And how many Jews have simply given up on the concept of the Messiah.

    What if, similarly, Christians who have their own (probably taught by clergy) expectation of “the Second Coming” are still waiting because Jesus’ presence and continual coming/presence “isn’t enough for” them either because they are told to wait for the experience of a grandiose return in the indeterminate future ( no matter how many wish it to be soonest) while Jesus (and his followers) is (are) busy with the sick, the imprisoned, the dispossessed, the lame, the blind, the sinners, and the tax collectors.

    Parousia actually doesn’t translate as “second coming”. That understanding has been passed down based on a misguided Christology. Rather, parousia is about being present, which is what Jesus was about and who calls us to also be present to “the least of these” his brethren. While Christians look for Jesus in the clouds, he is likely mucking around again among the least. I have seen him there when I’m not wrapped up in myself and my own expectations. I need to see Jesus where he is, not where I expect/want him to be.

    Respectfully yours,

    Craig

    • dkamphuis says:

      Hey Craig,

      I think my larger point, and correct me if I am off base with this comment, is that we should hold the tension between the “already” of the kingdom and the “not yet”

      Also my point was that we shouldn’t forget the apocalyptic character of our faith.

      Peace,
      Dave

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s