Waiting for God
(Posted November 5, 2020)
"My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." - Abraham Lincoln
Many of us have been no doubt, living to one degree or another in what psychologists call a “liminal” state this week. Liminal states occur in times of transition, or when we are on the verge of the change from one life phase to another. Elections can do that to us. But frankly, we could say that the whole act of living is one, big liminal state, as we yearn in the long run to find a place in God’s heaven after our time here on earth is over.
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Our own yearning for God’s blessing is a special theme of our two New Testament readings this week, not in some stuffy, scholarly way, but because in 2020 the characters we encounter are so familiar to daily life. And there’s a theme between the two readings. Waiting. Waiting in that liminal state for the next thing God has for us.
The Bridesmaids Parable
There’s a crowd of ten young women in the first reading, all bridesmaids waiting in the night for the Bridegroom to arrive, all of them hoping he will pick them to take to the wedding feast. It’s a liminal moment, there in the dark. But just like some people you know today, only half of the women have thought ahead about how to keep their lamps lit while they wait. They are not prepared. The wiser group of women have brought extra oil for their lamps. They are prepared. But when all of them see the bridegroom approaching in the distance, half the women’s lamps are well-lit. The lamps of the thoughtless bridesmaids have gone out, and they say to the wise women, "Quick! Give us your oil to light our lamps!"
This reminds me of the old saying, “Lack of planning on your part DOES NOT constitute an emergency on our part.” The wise women essentially tell them “Sorry, Charlie! Go buy your own before the Bridegroom arrives.” They depart. The lesson at hand: when the Bridegroom arrives, he takes the young women who prepared for his visit and who offer him the light of their lamps with him to the wedding. The disorganized rest were not there, and are shut out.
Transform for Jesus
The second related reading is one from Paul, and will be familiar to anyone who has heard their evangelical friends talk about The Rapture. In this week’s passage, he writes to an ever more-anxious group of Jesus-followers who believe, as Paul did, that Jesus was coming back in their own lifetime. They are yearning deeply for the Transformation they have been promised, rather than focusing on how they themselves must transform their lives for Jesus – the “Bridegroom” – to return.
Paul encourages them by imagining that glorious moment of change: 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; and so we will be with the Lord for ever.
The question remains. We who still wait for Jesus in this bizarre year of 2020: What are WE doing to be ready for his return? Please join us Sunday to explore what we have learned from this long, liminal week, while we wait together, lamps lit.