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It’s Time: Waiting (Psalm 78:107 Matthew 25:1-13)

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It’s time. I would ask you to hold sacred space. A space in which it is time to talk about potentially challenging topics: Earworms. Fools. And waiting.

Did I capture your attention? I love the squishy disquieting idea that the word “earworm” invokes. Do you know what an earworm is? It is one of those songs that gets stuck in your mind. You might suddenly realize that you have been humming a tune that you heard earlier in the day on the radio. This week, Bryan Sirchio’s song God Says It’s Time got stuck in my head. You may, or may not, know the tune. We will sing it together at the end of worship. As I read Psalm 78 this week, I kept hearing, “God says it’s time.” The psalmist says that it is time to…

  • Listen, really LISTEN to God’s teachings.
  • To hear, really HEAR, the parables. What the psalmist notes can be dark sayings of old. The things that we have heard and known. All those things that our ancestors have taught us. Over and over.

And the psalmist says that it is time to…

  • Not hide these things from our children.
  • To tell our youth all of the amazing things God has done.
  • And to encourage the youth to continue telling the story. To teach the next generation. And the one after that.
  • To remember to set our hope, and their hope, in God. Remembering God’s works. Keeping God’s commandments.

Now, one of the hazards of reading just a portion of a chapter is that we sometimes miss the kicker. The twist. The sarcastic jab—that might just be pointing at us. For if we were to continue reading Psalm 78 today and include verse 8, the writer lingers in her conversation with these future generations. She implores those that come after us to “not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast…” That. Might. Just. Be. Us. For the dark sayings of old echo in today’s headlines. Just this week…

  • The bodies of 26 Nigerian women and girls were pulled from the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Gun violence erupted in a Baptist church in Texas.
  • More women and men publically gave voice to sexual abuse and harassment allegations.
  • In 2017, 25 individuals who were transgender have been murdered in the United States to date.[1]

From the psalm and Sirchio’s song the words shout out, “It’s time… It’s time to celebrate the love of God, it’s time for us to get busy. Get busy with the things that matter most like justice and compassion. It’s time for us to take action, as we listen for the voice of the Holy One. God is still speaking, and God says it’s time.”[2]

And it is time. It is time to struggle with today’s parable. A parable that doesn’t end at all the way we might expect. The story starts out with, “The kingdom of heaven will be like this…” (Matt. 25:1, NRSV). Ten women. Some wise. Some foolish. All excited. All fall asleep. Then the expected bursts forth unexpectedly. All are surprised. All get busy. This is an end-of-times story. Apocalyptic. An in-breaking of the Divine.

In the upside-downness of the narrative, I would expect that the women who were wise would share their oil. For that is what our faith teaches us, right? I would expect that the doors to the banquet would remain open. For I experience the Holy as an all gracious, all forgiving, Divine Love. I don’t expect to knock on the door to heaven only to be told, “truly I tell you, I do not know you” (Matt. 25:12). This is NOT what I expect the kingdom of heaven to be like.

For in my own faith journey, I have embraced Holy Folly. Struggling with this week’s parable, I turned to my spiritual mentor, Belden Lane. Lane reminds us that, “The Christian tradition of the sacred fool extends from the apostle Paul’s exhortation to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake’… The fool laughs at what others take seriously and takes seriously what others laugh at. He models a pattern of cultural resistance, challenging dominant structures of religious, political, and intellectual power. The fool knows that the path of any meaningful life is invariably paved with surprise.”[3]

I found that I needed to redeem the people in the parable that are foolish. I found myself wondering if the wise women weren’t also foolish, in that they did not share their resources. If so, was everyone waiting for the bridegroom foolish? Where they all judged at the closed door? I twisted and turned the discomfort that I encounter in talking about the end of times around and around in my mind. Judgement. Locked doors. Insiders and outsiders. I find myself not really being comforted by homiletics professor David Buttrick[4] who notes that, “most contemporary parable scholars suspect that the Closed Door is not original Jesus material.” For today we are in the midst of “four harsh parables… in a row” that were developed for Matthew’s community and their “certain(ty) that Christ will return to judge the wicked and vindicate the righteous…”[5] My uneasiness is highlighted by Augustine writing in the 5th century, “If you believe what you like in the Gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”[6]

Here, I think it is important to remember that Matthew was likely writing in the 80-90 C.E. time frame, from a “this is the end-of-times” perspective. The Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed in 70 C.E., and the author was writing to people who had been expelled from the synagogue for being followers of Jesus. The writer of Matthew is writing to “now” of the Jewish Christian community in the first century.

Which brings us to the waiting. For millennia, people have been waiting. The waiting of our Jewish ancestors for the coming of the Messiah. In our Christian tradition, the disciples and apostles awaited the second coming of Christ, which they believed would happen in their lifetimes. As we enter this third millennia of still waiting, heaven continues to be both “here and now” and “not yet.” There is an urgency for us to live into God’s vision of heaven on earth NOW. Yet we are entangled in the reality of violence and hate that is embedded in political power, economic injustices, and racial divisions. The “not yet” of heaven. Process Theologian Marjorie Suchocki writes that,

  1. “… clearly, the kingdom is God’s triumph of goodness over evil in the ultimacy of justice. This triumph of the good is given two dimensions: the temporal and the eternal. Temporally, the kingdom of God is realized in our openness to modes of justice in our daily lives.” The NOW.
  2. “Eternally, the kingdom relates to a resurrection of the dead, brought about solely through the power of God… and this transformation brings about the final establishment of a kingdom of justice where all evil is over come, the kingdom of God… When we, too, like the hearers in Jesus’ time, feel the vibrancy of the kingdom’s reality, then we too will hear the impact of Jesus’ call to participate in the kingdom.”[7] The NOT YET.

Suchocki states that “there are not two kingdoms, but one, with two dimensions.”[8] The now and not yet. Meister Eckhart, a 14th century mystic noted that, “In this life we are to become heaven so that God might find a home here.”[9] Now. And not yet.

In our waiting, it is time. It is time for celebrating “the love of God, it’s time for us to get busy. (To) Get busy with the things that matter most like justice and compassion. It’s time for us to take action, as we listen for the voice of the Holy One. God is still speaking, and God says it’s time.”

 The kingdom of heaven is like this. It is time. It is now. And it is not yet. We are waiting. And in our waiting, may “we… become heaven so that God might find a home here.”



[1] Human Rights Campaign, “Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2017,” Human Rights Campaign, accessed November 11, 2017, https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2017

[2] Crosswind Music,” God Says It’s Time – Crosswind Music – worship – Something Beautiful for God: 24 Songs for Worship and Group Singing, November 18, 2009, accessed November 11, 2017, http://sirchio.com/songs/worship/Something_Beautiful_For_God-col-_24_Songs_For_Worship_and_Group_Singing/949

[3] Belden C. Lane, Backpacking with the Saints: Wilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 196.

[4] David G. Buttrick, Speaking parables: a homiletic guide (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 167.

[5] Ibid, 167.

[6] Sermon Seeds November 12, 2017,” United Church of Christ, accessed November 11, 2017, http://www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_november_12_2017

[7] Marjorie Suchocki, God, Christ, Church: a practical guide to process theology (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995), 174-175.

[8] Ibid, 174.

[9] Sermon Seeds November 12, 2017,” United Church of Christ, accessed November 11, 2017, http://www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_november_12_2017