Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13
Lord Jesus Come Soon!
If there is any prayer, other than the Lord’s Prayer, that I have heard uttered from the lips of Christians over the last couple of years, Lord Jesus Come Soon, probably tops the list.
It is often uttered in response to some terrible calamity – every natural disaster, terrorist attack, school shooting, or even personal troubles like the loss of a loved one or a challenging cancer diagnosis elicits the prayer “Lord Jesus come soon.”
I feel like these prayers have only intensified in number over the course of 2020 – whether it is the once in a lifetime pandemic that has shattered our normality and killed over a million people globally, or the boiling over of centuries-old racial tensions all across the world, or the nail-biting election we just witnessed in the United States – we just want Jesus to come so we don’t have to endure it anymore.
And that’s the thing – this prayer isn’t typically uttered amidst the joyous times of life, it is almost always uttered or thought during the times of challenge, of hardship.
It is a prayer both of hope but also of desperation, believing that we just can’t deal with it anymore and we want it to end, we want Jesus to stop dragging his feet and bring about his wondrous Kingdom where there will be no suffering, no brokenness, no death and God will wipe away all the tears from our eyes.
Don’t get me wrong, this prayer “Lord Jesus, Come Soon” should be on the lips of every Christian but not out of desperation, not as a sign that we have given up on the world, or that we are resigned to its horrors and want them to end, but rather out of the hope that the Jesus Kingdom will breakthrough even now, even before the end of all things.
We should be ready for Jesus to come at all times, into the midst of our daily life and transform it. We should be ready and waiting, but not resigned to the way things are but actively seeking the good of the world, actively waiting for the time when Jesus’ Kingdom comes fully on earth as it is in heaven.
That is what Jesus’ parable in our Gospel reading today is all about.
Jesus is certainly speaking about the end. Throughout the final chapters of Matthew, and his final teachings before the passion narrative begins, Jesus is teaching about the end of the world – in the previous chapter, Jesus had spoken about the destruction of the temple and the signs of the end. But, while he was speaking about the end, he also was very clear that no one but God knew the time it would happen.
This put Jesus’ hearers and puts us as readers of Matthew’s Gospel in a place of limbo, we live in an in-between time. And our parable today provides us with a hint of how we are to live in that in-between time between the first and second comings of Jesus.
Our reading today is the parable of the ten bridesmaids: five wise and five foolish. The wise bridesmaids brought extra oil for their lamps while the foolish ones didn’t. And since the bridegroom was delayed the foolish ones ran out of their oil and had to go on a fools’ errand to get more oil at midnight. While these bridesmaids were out the groom arrived and went into the wedding banquet and the foolish bridesmaids are left outside in the cold. Jesus’ takeaway line was that we should keep awake since we do not know the day or the hour.
The wise bridesmaids were ready, they had prepared for the moment and any contingencies that might arise.
This is of prime importance as we think about the role of the church and our calling as Christians. There is a tendency for the church to keep our eyes on the end and Jesus’ return and lose our focus on the lived reality of our day today. Jesus’ admonition to remain awake actually applies to all the bridesmaids, as while the wise ones were well prepared they did fall asleep and were shocked at the arrival of the bridegroom.
Being awake means living our lives at the moment and not merely keeping our eyes on the future. Giant of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther was famously asked what he would do if he knew that Jesus was coming again tomorrow, and he responded “I think I would go out and plant an apple tree.”
Living as if Jesus were going to come soon does not mean that we neglect the present, in fact, it should give us a sense of urgency to care for and ameliorate the reality of our daily lives. It should mean that we make plans for the future that are shaped by the Kingdom values that we experience in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
“Lord Jesus Come Soon” should be a prayer of hope, that the love, the mercy and the grace of Jesus would transform the lives of the poor and the oppressed – here and now.
“Lord Jesus, Come Soon” should be a prayer of hope that justice and mercy would transform the relations between people of every race, and that particularly people of colour experience the same rights and opportunities as their white counterparts.
“Lord Jesus, Comes Soon” should be a prayer of hope for safety and protection for everyone amidst the global pandemic, that our doctors and scientists would be filled with wisdom as they seek a vaccine and that we would all take all the necessary steps to keep everyone safe.
“Lord Jesus, Come Soon” should be a prayer of hope for a healing of divisions in our political and social spheres, bringing healing and restoration of relationships even as disagreements over elections, or policy decisions, or even church doctrine decisions persist.
Being ready for Jesus to come again means that we care for the world we have. We play the long game for bettering society, even as we hope for God’s Kingdom to come, through serving the needs of our communities, through offering care and support to our neighbours, to listening and learning from people who differ from us. Being ready for Jesus to come means that our lives are shaped by hope for the future but also hope for today, and not governed by despair.
As Grace Church this means that our life together needs to be governed by the characteristics of the Kingdom – it means we need to continue to redouble our efforts to support one another and our neighbours who live all around the church; it means we have to respect and even learn from the people in the pews and on the streets that have different ideas about how politics, or social issues, or how the church should live; it means that we need to continue to proclaim the goodness of God even amidst the challenges of the pandemic; it means we need to as congregation respect, elevate and learn from the voices of people of colour in our midst to fight the prejudice and racism which shapes much of our society and church experience.
All of this amounts to Jesus’ call for us to actively wait, to wait in hope and engagement with the world that we believe God sent Jesus to save.
Lord Jesus, Come Soon! Come into our lives, come into our midst and transform our lives, transform our community and transform this world so that it might reflect your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.