Sermon for Proper 27, Year A

November 12, 2023

Veteran’s Day

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16            Psalm 70               1 Thessalonians 4:13-18              Matthew 25:1-13

                As our church year draws to a close, our scriptures focus on Christ’s return.  Even our opening prayer, our collect, today speaks to “when he comes again with power and great glory.”  In two weeks, we will end this church year with the feast of Christ the King.  It is the ultimate fulfillment of what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  The feast of Christ the King is to remind us that Jesus is the leader we are to follow, he “rules” over what is eternal. 

          In 1 Thessalonians, we read, “For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.”  Never mind the theatrical image this creates in our minds, this shares with the people of Thessalonia the belief that Christ will return, and that Christ will take them with him into heaven.  This scripture and our collect do not speak of the destruction of the world at the end of time; they are not intended to scare us into believing.  Instead, they share a promise that the time will come when we are “with the Lord forever.” 

        Both our reading from the Wisdom of Solomon and our gospel teaches us to be prepared.  First, in the Wisdom of Solomon we are told to seek wisdom who is to be “found by those who seek her.”  We are told that “She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.”  And, that “One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate.” 

As an aside, I want to point out here something that I find to be very important in our reading of the scriptures.  In Hebrew, the words, “wisdom” and “spirit” are both feminine.  So when we speak of the Trinity, we should remember that God is all encompassing.  In Genesis, God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness. . ..”  The next verse says, “So God created them; male and female he created them.”  Speaking of God as “he” can be difficult for some, and if so, I hope they can relate to Holy Spirit and find comfort is today’s reading.  We do have an alternate way to speak of the Trinity: “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.”  This reminds us that God creates us, Jesus redeems us, and the Holy Spirit helps us through life. God is not male, but male and female.  We are all created in the image of God.

Now back to the lessons.  We are sustained by the Holy Spirit who offers wisdom to all who seek her.   The passage from the Wisdom of Solomon continues, “To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.”

          Thus, to prepare for Christ’s return, we need to seek wisdom, who graciously appears to us in our path through life and is “in our every thought,” when we keep our focus on God.  Jesus, in the parable of the ten bridesmaids, takes this lesson a bit further.  The wise bridesmaids come prepared.  They bring extra oil for their lamps, so when the bridegroom is delayed, they are able to refill their lamps and ready to go with him into the banquet hall. Those who were foolish are away getting more oil when the bridegroom does come and they miss their opportunity to enter into the banquet hall. When they return, the door is locked and they were not permitted into the celebration. 

          The wise bridesmaids are prepared because they are aware that the arrival of the bridegroom is unpredictable.  Wisdom leads us, she sustains us so that we, too, will be prepared to see the risen Christ.  We should not read too much into the foolish bridesmaids not being allowed in, closing the door after the bridegroom arrives was, and may still be, a part of the custom of the Jewish people in Israel. Once the door is closed, it is not be reopened. Jesus told this parable to people who knew this tradition.

Thus, the focus of this parable is not about being left out, it is about being ready so that we can follow Jesus into his kingdom.  Jesus offers redemption to everyone and our God is quick to forgive. So, this parable teaches us to be wise and be prepared to wait.  Faith is not about instant gratification; faith is about trusting in the providence of God. 

Let us pray.           Loving God, we give you thanks for your creation, and your presence in both the bad and the good times of our lives.  Grant us, we pray, the wisdom to see and feel your presence in our lives and to follow her on the path to leads us into your kingdom.  We offer our prayers in the name of God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.  Amen.