Proper 27 (32) 9 Nov 2008 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

Proper 27A/Ordinary 32A/Pentecost +26 November 9, 2008 Textweek

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Tape malfunction...notes

Before we look at what threads the readings hold for us…..
The Second reading from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 gives us an excellent opportunity to really appreciate the importance of context…… Because we can see that Paul is addressing a particular issue to a particular group at a particular time……….

From verse 15….,
that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 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. 17 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

His teaching is clearly grounded in the cosmology of the day…. Heaven above and Earth below… His view of resurrection is very physical… and he believes that the second coming of Christ, again a physical event, will occur in his lifetime….. What he is then seeking to do is to assure those who are grieving that the dead will be brought to life first and then he, and the others will join them as all are taken up in the air to the clouds………..

In its time…. This teaching would have provided assurances….. However… it makes absolutely no sense for us to receive the same assurance for we inhabit a quite different world…..

The essence of Paul’s teaching however can be considered, and re-considered, within the context of the present…..

Paul affirms that death is not the end…. That there is a bigger picture to life…. And that the whole orientation of life is toward a unity that will include all peoples…..
He affirms the church community… he acknowledges their love for each other and for all….
And he then urges them (v10)…… beloved, to do so more and more…

In regard to living in the presence of the Divine….. In regard to being the Body of Christ… we too can hear Paul’s encouragement to do so more and more…….

And there is both encouragement and direction in the other readings… and in the context of the Present times in which we live………..
We live in times of change….. I know every time is a time of change but this week in particular we’ve been bombarded with news repots that speak of and analyse change……

And when we are confronted by change we often ask the same question….

From the First reading…..
Is Joshua the one who will realise the settlement of the promised land?
From the Second Reading
Is Paul the One who will herald the resurrection to the church in Thessalonica?
From the Gospel
Is Jesus the one who will bring us into the Divine wedding banquet?
And from the Newspapers……
Is Barrak Obama the one who will turnaround the Global Credit Crisis?

Perhaps we look to the literal in the text because we desire an easy, simple answer… We want someone to take responsibility… we want someone else to make it all right for us……. [which is also the misguided motivation for the Atonement theology that suggests that Jesus died for us… to make it all OK]

The Gospel today provides a challenging differentiation between the wise and the foolish……
This is not a story of the clever and the no-so-clever…..
The wise … are not those ‘in the know’… not those who have the greatest knowledge..

The wise are those who are prepared to take responsibility, and to participate fully .

Here Jesus is teaching that we have a part to play in bringing about the kingdom of Heaven…… Its not going to just fall out of the sky!

Likewise Paul… He is not saying he has the answers and all are do what he says… rather he says (v18)… “encourage one another”…..

Joshua…. (v1)… gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel……
And in verse 15…
“choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living;”

Look at the past…. And look at the present…. Look at where your faith is invested… and then CHOOSE your path forward….. Who will you serve….

Barak Obama… speaks with a similar voice….
‘This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time ….. and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.

The threads of scripture weave themselves into the present moment… and the Divine calls draws those threads toward an eternal tomorrow…..

Each of us has a part to play in bringing about the future…… Our political votes determine the shape of our government……
Our orientation toward life…. Our participation in Realising the Promise of God… and our voice, our activity and our example… shapes our life…..

Like Joshua we stand in the Land of Promise……
Like tribes of Israel to Shechem… we have choices to make……

Choices are not always simple ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices…..
And there is not always clarity for us to even determine what the choices are….

What is apparent from the readings is the ‘direction of life’ that serves as a foundation for choice…..

Choices are never made in isolation.. there is a WE that underpins the direction of life

And it is WE, in integrity with, and mindfully awake to, the presence of God…..

The fix on Wall Street is not isolated from the people of Darfur….
Peace in the Middle East is not to be found without including Arms manufacturers…

In seeking life – in all its fullness – we each of us will contribute to the shape of tomorrow…….
Our choice (whatever that may be) is to be awake to the Divine, and to look to each other, to encourage each other…… together we have the capacity to create a feast of Light……

Together we can choose a new tomorrow… that takes us beyond the idols of our past …. That takes us across the river that divides us from the Divine…. That moves us on from the idols of gods of where we are into the unity of and the presence of the Divine…..