As we listen to the story of the wise and unwise—patient and impatient—prepared and unprepared bridesmaids, I think it’s helpful to place these readings in the context of our liturgical calendar.
Believe it or not, we are only two Sundays away from Christ the King Sunday—the last Sunday of the liturgical year--
It is a celebration of the true identity and nature of Christ as one who will lead all of humanity to seek the “peace of Christ” in the “Kingdom of Christ.”
Christ the King Sunday celebrates the long-awaited return of Jesus: The Christ— Our hope. Our peace. Our light. And our redeemer.
Christ the King Sunday is the end of our liturgical year and the very next Sunday is the beginning of a new liturgical year: Advent.
Which—if you’re now doing the math in your head— means there are only six Sundays left before Christmas Day.
And Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity, is, of course, the celebration of the long-awaited birth of Mary’s child. The first coming of Jesus. As a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes--
On Christmas we are all blurry eyed parents of a newborn—we don’t know who or what this baby Jesus will become and it matters not--
All we know is love. And we are once and forever madly in love and deeply devoted to the tiny, beautiful, miracle in our midst--
The future seems wide open and full of possibility.
But we’re not there—Yet.
Today— on this Sunday morning — our liturgical calendar has us firmly placed in a time of waiting.
At this point in the story, we know who the baby became--
We’ve heard of His being lost at the temple as a youth, of feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, raising the dead--
We know of the crucifixion and the resurrection—and the mystery of the Church—the people of God—who followed his command to love God and neighbor—to bless, break, and share the bread and to drink from His cup.
And now we are waiting--
Waiting like the early church for the second coming of Jesus Christ. For Christ the King.
Waiting Like the bridesmaids in today’s Gospel story.
For Christ the light of the world to illumine the dark path and arrive in glory—and walk with us through the doors that lead to a magnificent party.
We are a waiting people.
And as I prayed with today’s Gospel I began to wonder—do we the Church present—the Church now—gathered here in this place—know who we are waiting for?
How do we discern Jesus-the-Christ in our midst?
I think it’s helpful to wonder about this question—about our ability to discern Jesus—in light of our reading from The Wisdom of Solomon--
It’s one of my most favorite passages from the Old Testament. Listen again --
Easily discerned by those who love her.
Found by those who love her.
One who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care: Wisdom graciously appears to them in their paths.”
And, I wonder,
Can we imagine Jesus The Christ as Wisdom?
Paul writes in Corinthians that “Jesus became to us Wisdom from God.”
When we imagine waiting for Jesus Christ—waiting like the bridesmaids for the Groomsman—in the dark of night on an old road that leads to a party--
Do we ever imagine that we might be waiting for the Jesus who became Wisdom from God.
Wisdom that is--
Easily discerned by those who love her.
Can we discern the presence of Jesus without loving Jesus?
Remember the baby in swaddling clothes we find in the Manger on Christmas morning?
The baby that we love so tenderly and so dearly and so perfectly and so wonderfully?
This is the LOVE of Jesus we are called to carry with us and remember and practice and deepen all year long as we wait—in the dark—on the long road—for Jesus the Christ.
Ours is an invitation to stay. To wait. And most importantly, to love.
Ours is to pray for hearts that love Jesus. This love for Jesus is the oil in our lamps. It is what allows us to discern the presence of Jesus in our midst.
Jesus the Groomsman.
Jesus the Christ.
Jesus, the Wisdom of God. Radiant. Unfading. And, easily discerned by those who love Him.
The Rev. Anne K. Ellsworth
Sunday November 8, 2020
Year A, Proper 27
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25: 1-13
Saint Paul’s Payson
My Sermons (and other thoughts)
a sampling of sermons preached in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and a sprinkling of other reflections