Worship with Us This Sunday - 10:15 a.m.
Harold Camping created for himself a cottage industry predicting the Rapture and the end of the world. People supported his ministry financially. He did quite well. Once his latest prognostication passed without so much as a whimper from the heavens, Camping decided to retire. Hang it up. Stop telling people to stop what they are doing and ready themselves for the coming of Jesus.
Camping is not the first. He will not be the last. Those like Camping would be considered “escapists.” I remember when the little book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988 came out. I also remember the sequel. It would have better been titled, Oops. Somewhere along the way our concern for the end of all things trumped hearing Jesus’ words, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.”
Our Gospel text for Sunday is one of the final three before the Season of Advent and the beginning again of the Christian Year. Jesus tells another parable. N.T. Wright refers to them as “10 Girls” in his new Kingdom Translation of the New Testament. We are accustomed to hearing the parable as the 10 Virgins. On a side note, the word may be translated both ways. The emphasis is not upon their purity. But, to quibble over the way the word is translated points to the way we miss Jesus’ point on any number of occasions.
If we are here in 2011 debating the date for Jesus’ return, we have more trouble than translating the Greek word – parthenos. The UBS Lexicon suggests – “virgin, unmarried girl, undefiled man, unmarried man.” The point of Jesus parable focuses our attention not on the status of the “girls” but on their actions – their readiness.
How do we understand readiness? Those who give their ears to Camping and those like him think readiness is something like withdrawal. Sell everything and wait. Do you ever wonder how many become homeless after such a decision? And maybe that is the point. Were we to envision ourselves as transients on our way to helping others encounter Jesus we would both avoid an over indulgence in the “spirit of the world” and an lack of participation in the lives of others in the world.
The third way would be Jesus’ Way. We do not witness any scolding of the girls for going to sleep. It appears it is simply the natural course of the rhythms of waiting. What seems to be important is how they live the rhythms of life while they wait. Their light surely could point us to the way in which we are to live as the “light of the world.” Always pruning our own experiences so that we are not wasting our time burning up our oil on rooftops waiting Jesus’ return or shining our light on our own ways also burning up our oil in neglect of others who need the light of God’s love that shines through the cracks of our “earthen vessels” as Paul described our existence.
Ready does not mean disengaged Ready does not mean doing our own thing.
In the Epistle passage from 1 Thessalonians, the concern for what happens to those who experience the normal rhythms of life – including death – before the return of Jesus seems also to indicate there is no need to worry about what happens. Keep living in their community, their region, and their world remembering the promised hope that God would complete what he started when Jesus returns.