PENTECOST 23 Study and Meditation

PENTECOST 23   11-08-2020

FIRST READING:  Amos 5:18-24

Amos was not a professional prophet or a respected priest or a sophisticated, wealthy man… he was just a simple shepherd (1:1) and fruit farmer (7:14) from the small town of Tekoa, which was in the southern kingdom of Judah. When he was called by God, he ministered in the northern kingdom of Israel. Though both Judah and Israel were Jewish kingdoms, they had split about 170 years before. So you have a “simple” and blunt “foreigner” from down south ranting and raving about injustice up north.

But everything seemed to be going so well! This was a time when both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah had reached new political and military heights. For the first time in many generations, there were no threats from other nations. Peace reigned. Business had never been better. There was much prosperity, and many indulged in luxuries. Even “religion” was on the rise, and people went regularly to shrines to worship idols as well as God… they participated in the liturgies and offered their prayers and their songs and their sacrifices… and they also looked forward to “the day of the Lord”, a time of great victory when God would fulfill all their expectations for their country and their lives.

Amos, however, announced that “the day of the Lord” would be a day of darkness, not light. He said that God did not enjoy the religious pageantry, the great worship festivals, the many sacrifices. He predicted trouble rather than triumph, judgment and punishment rather than celebration and happiness.

What God does want: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” 

In this book Amos tells it the way he sees it: oppression of the poor, dishonest business, bribery in the court, privilege bought through money, cruelty and inhumanity.  The injustices that Amos condemns often sound familiar today. What might Amos say about you and your people? Amos challenges us to examine ourselves and our society and to confront injustice wherever we find it.   speaking an annoying and unwelcome message

Why did God hate their worship? Does God hate our worship practices? Why or why not?

 

SECOND READING:  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Keep in mind that this was still early in Paul’s missionary career and that these letters to the Christian community in Thessalonica are probably his earliest correspondence.

There was confusion over his teaching about Christ’s second coming. The background is the recent death of some believers (4:13). Some Thessalonians are worried that dead Christians will be excluded from the resurrection when Christ comes again, that they will miss out on the glory of Christ’s return which they and other early Christians expected to happen very soon. Could some have just missed it? But Paul reassures them, writing of his confident hope and trust that all Christians – both the dead and the living – will share in the resurrection at the “coming of the Lord”. Our hope is based on what Jesus has done on our behalf – his death and resurrection – and on what Jesus will do in the future.

Though death is a common experience of all humanity, the hope of resurrection and being joined with Christ is a uniquely Christian hope. And so our faith in Christ makes all the difference! So we grieve, but not as others grieve – in despair. And we might face our own deaths perhaps anxiously, but not desperately. Christians speak of transition from this life to fuller life, where all our tears will be wiped away, where faithful ones will meet again, and no more suffering and hardship and evil to face.

In today’s reading Paul offers his own picture of what will happen when Christ returns. Some Christian and non-Christian people put a lot of energy and thought into the details of Paul’s description. Do you think the details are important? Do you think that what is important is that, in life and in death, the Christian is in Christ and will never be separated from Christ?

 

GOSPEL READING:  Matthew 25:1-13

How would it change your daily living if you were trying to wait expectantly for the return of Christ? Will you be ready for judgment or ready for resurrection? When it comes to your relationship with God through Jesus Christ, don’t wait “too long” and risk “too late”! 

By the time Jesus told this parable, near the end of his earthly life, he perhaps no longer thought that anything he would say to Israel’s religious leaders, the proud and the pious, would bear fruit. He told this parable to his disciples about their witness while waiting for the coming of the Son of Man. The disciples were more concerned about the when of this coming, linking it in their minds with the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem and the end of the age (24:3). But Jesus wanted them to perceive the what of their waiting, that they might be awake, that they might be prepared, that they might not miss out.

A wedding feast was an important event in early Palestine. The wedding celebration often lasted for days

and included much ceremony.  This included the journey of the groom and his friends to the bride’s home for the marriage. Her bridesmaids are to be on the lookout. When the groom gets close, when the announcing cry is heard, they are to light their torches and welcome him. After the marriage at the bride’s house, the entire wedding party will process back to the groom’s house for the banquet. Let the joy and celebration continue!

In the story that Jesus tells, the groom is delayed for a lengthy time. In the story that Jesus tells, all ten bridesmaids fall asleep while waiting. In the story that Jesus tells, five bridesmaids are “wise” and have brought enough oil in flasks to replenish their lamps. But five bridesmaids are “foolish”, don’t have enough to keep their lamps burning, can’t persuade the other five bridesmaids to lend them oil, are forced to run and purchase some oil, and arrive too late at the wedding banquet. The door is closed. And the master of the house will not let them in. “I don’t know you. Depart!”

The door can be closed. We can miss the banquet of Jesus… even if we cry out “Lord”. Like the bridesmaids, we know neither the day nor the hour of the return of Jesus. Nor do we know when our last breath will be, when our earthly life will end. Either of those events – Christ’s second coming or our death – is surely going to happen. Don’t wait until the MIDNIGHT HOUR to try to repent… because your life might end at 11:55!

Any time is God’s time. All of us have fallen asleep on God at times. All of us have sometimes missed the moments God set before us – moments of blessing and assurance and strength… moments for humble service and courageous witness to others. Now is the time to be released from our past failings and regrets and to receive the truth of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ with humility and gratitude. And now is the time to do our best to live in joyous faith and obedient service. How can we be awake, prepared and ready to receive Jesus joyfully in our lives, eager and able to let our little lights shine and to joyfully bear witness and announce him to others?

 

Today we celebrate Christ’s coming among us in the word of life and the feast of victory.

Today we want to humble ourselves, repent, and be grateful for the gift of God’s grace.

Today we pray to do our best to serve Christ in faith, hope, and love.

In this parable Jesus told, the real problem is not falling asleep. We all do sometimes. 

The problem is running out of oil. If you don’t have oil, you don’t have fire. 

If you don’t have oil, you don’t have light.

Do you have the fire, my sister? Are you shining your light, my brother?

We want to be ready when the trumpet sounds, when the saints go marching in. 

 

       

 

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