Wisdom and Supporting the Church

The Rev. Robert P. Travis

23rd Sunday after Pentecost Sermon – 5pm, 8am and 10am Church of the Ascension

Proper 27 RCL Year A 11/12/2017

 

Scripture Text:

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16

Psalm 70

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

Sermon Text:

We have a lot to think about this weekend,

As we are recommitting to be stewards of the Church

In 2018, and considering

How to support the worship here

With our service in lay ministry.

And here we’re confronted

With this gospel about some

Wise and some foolish Bridesmaids

Waiting into the night for the groom to come.

How could this possibly relate

To what we are doing today?

 

First you may have noticed,

That there were some choices

About the old testament passage,

And the psalm.

There was a strong urge in the lectionary

To add more discussion of wisdom,

And so I opted to have us consider the passage

From the Wisdom of Solomon.

The main contrast to note is that Wisdom is a feminine

Image here, in contrast to the bridegroom image

In the gospel.

Wisdom, or Sophia in Greek,

Is thought by many to be a manifestation

Of the pre-incarnate Christ,

The Word of God, available to people,

Before Jesus came in the flesh.

So this wisdom could be looked at

As a feminine image of God,

And that emphasizes the high value,

That Jesus in telling his parable places on wisdom.

Wisdom is not just a good idea,

But is essential like participation in God,

for taking part in the kingdom.

Wisdom being considered like a person,

Makes us understand that God is with us,

Whenever we seek wisdom,

That seeking to be wise,

Is the same as seeking to be with God,

In all of our decisions.

The good news from the first reading,

Is that wisdom is not obscure, or hard to find,

But “easily discerned by those who love her,

And found by those who seek her.”

Wisdom is not elite, or only for the intellectually gifted,

But those who “rise early to seek her

Will have no difficulty.

For she will be found sitting at the gate.”

That is those who make wisdom a priority in their lives,

Who look to be wise before looking for other parts of life,

Will find the wisdom they seek.

 

So wisdom is not a talent that some special people

Are born with,

Or that only smart people can employ.

Wisdom is available to all who seek it.

And Jesus urges everyone to seek wisdom,

And to be wise if you’re interested in participating

In the celebration that he calls the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

In the parable he likens the Kingdom to

A wedding celebration,

Where the bridesmaids are supposed to

Wait with lamps lit for the evening arrival

Of the groom.

They are to participate in the celebration,

By providing the light for the nighttime procession,

Illuminating the groom’s arrival,

And escorting him to the place of the wedding.

They are needed to provide the light,

Or else it will not be much of a celebratory procession.

If their lamps are out when he arrives,

They have effectively pulled themselves

out of the celebration.

But the key is they don’t know when he is coming.

So wisdom in this story,

Is being prepared,

Bringing extra oil in a flask,

In case he comes late in the night.

 

It seems pretty clear, that if this story

Is to reflect on us and the kingdom of heaven,

Then Jesus is the groom,

And we his followers are the wise

And foolish bridesmaids.

We know he’s coming,

We’re looking forward to the celebration.

We want to be a part of it,

But we don’t know when he will come.

What is our oil, and our lamp?

 

If this gathering is to give light,

To show the coming of the one we celebrate,

Then it is pretty clear to me,

That our oil, our lamp,

Represents the church with which we gather

To let our light shine for him.

We know that our individual lives

Shine much brighter when we come together

As the church.

And we have to be wise to provide enough

For the church so that our light can keep shining

Until Jesus comes.

 

It struck me this week that in 2019

We’ll be four fifths of the way through

Our second century as Church of the Ascension.

This church has been here in Wakefield,

for nearly two hundred years,

Shining a light for Jesus in this community.

That’s a long time for this lamp to burn.

And has needed the oil provided

by many faithful parishioners

many generations of faithful parishioners.

 

As we look around us these days,

Things seem to be getting darker and darker.

With the horrible shooting at the church

In Sutherland Springs Texas last week,

It seems the enemy is trying through evil deeds

to snuff out the light

That churches are shining for Jesus

Until he returns.

 

As the darkness increases,

We are needed more than ever,

To be a place that stands for peace,

To be a lamp that shines against the darkness of violence,

To be a burning light shining love into the world.

We don’t know how long it will be until Jesus returns.

We don’t know how long it is until midnight.

But the idea that he returns in the middle of the night,

Emphasizes the need for us to be ready,

With our light.

There will be churches who have not prepared,

For things to get more difficult,

Churches whose light will go out before the time

We’re all waiting for.

We cannot be one of those churches.

We know what it takes to be wise,

To provide enough oil to keep our light burning

As long as required.

It takes every one of us contributing to the church.

It takes our planning to give financially,

As we do in our pledges that we present

At the altar this weekend.

The substance of our lives,

The very money we use to survive,

Becomes the oil that keeps this church’s

Light shining in this community.

 

It takes each one of us serving in lay ministries,

Where each of us serving with our very bodies

become part of the living flame,

Shining for the Lord in this place.

It takes each of us looking for those people

Who can join us here,

And making the invitations

As long and as often as needed,

Until those new people join us

And add their light to ours in worship.

 

The church is the living flame, the lamp and the oil,

That was passed down to us

By generations of faithful people

Who made the light of the gospel

Shine in this community,

They were able to keep the light shining for Jesus

As they awaited his return,

Over the past nearly two centuries.

And they have passed this responsibility

On to you and me.

Will we be wise and provide for the oil that is needed,

To keep that light shining here?

The wisdom is available to us,

Just as much as God is present with us.

Whether we are found to be wise or foolish

When he comes to bring us to the heavenly

Banquet is up to each one of us.

Every person here is needed,

How will you participate?

 

The Rev. Robert P. Travis

Father Rob goes by Father so that he remembers his duty to the people of God whom he serves. He’s been ordained since 2006, serving in Florida and Tennessee and before that served as a youth minister in Long Island, NY. More details