Getting us ready.

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.”

Last week we studied Jesus’ dialog with his disciples. He was preparing them for the long and difficult road to Jerusalem and the cross. That dialog continues today. Jesus was setting expectations for what would occur. He would go to Jerusalem, be hailed, then persecuted and killed. He would rise. And then, what’s next?

What’s next is Jesus’ description of the next two weeks of celebration. He would Ascend. This Thursday (no, it is not on a Sunday), Jesus would ascend to the Father to take up His throne in heaven. Ten days later the great gift of the Holy Spirit would descend, the Church would be born, and Jesus’ salvation, Jesus the way, truth, and life would be preached to the ends of the earth.

We often think of the world as some random series of occurrences, a daily happenstance of events. Hey, maybe today my ship will come in?

Jesus shows us how untrue that is. He has a plan, a roadmap for us. As faithful Christians we know that the randomness of sin around us is not the way things are meant to be.

Jesus laid it out simply for the disciples even though they didn’t get it at the time. As Jesus says: “On that day you will realize.” Ten days after He ascended, after ten days of prayer, they did realize, and they stepped up and followed the plan. In following the plan, they submitted to the Father and overcame randomness. In following the plan, they brought many to know, love, and serve the Lord. In following the plan, the Holy Spirit’s promptings were brought to fruition in lives one with Jesus.

Our reading from Acts is just one small example of a faithful person following the roadmap. The Deacon Philip preaches to Samaria and people come to the Lord. Centuries before, David sings of the great things God does for His faithful. This is something we need to focus on and sing in our times: Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”

In saying “I will not leave you orphans” Jesus is guaranteeing that He will not leave us alone. There are two ways of looking at this, and both are great. Jesus’ ascension was not the end because He would send the Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us. In that He was saying too, I will be on you, pushing you to follow the roadmap. Be on board.

Being
prepared.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”

As we worshiped last Sunday our brothers and sisters in Christ, men, women, and children, were being killed in Texas as they came together to worship God and declare their faith in Jesus. They held their lamps up brightly, filled with the oil of faith, ready to meet the Lord.

Many of us grew up in a time when coming to church was considered a light thing. Maybe our parents or grandparents had faced persecution as faithful National Church members, but not us so much. That was in the past. But, as is said, everything old is new again…

Today’s lesson from Jesus dispels the myth of faith as a casual endeavor. Jesus tells us, ‘always be at the ready,’ with our lamps prepared and with an extra stock of oil at hand. We do not know the day or the hour.

Prepared lamps and extra stocks of oil are not just about coming to church on a chilly Sunday morning. It is not about waiting for a moment to come someday. It is about actively preparing and living out our faith. If we are not watchful, if we are not making ourselves more and more ready, if we are not becoming more and more – like unto the Lord – what use is there to even having a lamp?

Violence, tragedy, and suffering are a raw truth. This truth is visited more and more upon Christians. From martyrs in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to homegrown terrorists right here, to media, hate groups, and government casting people of faith as silly, backward, and ignorant, we might be tempted to extinguish our lamps, pour out our oil, and sit in the dark. Ssssshhhhh, be careful, snuff out the lamps, someone might see us. Is that who we are?

St. Paul tells the Thessalonians: do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Wise words about how we are to face the challenges of our time. The followers of Jesus, the faithful, will not allow their lamps to even grow dim. Don’t tone it down! Rather, illuminate this dark time, cast a bright glow not just inside the walls of this church, neighborhood, or city – but across this world. Let our light not only glow outward, but also illumine us inwardly. Do not grieve, offer hope.

Let us picture our lamps at the ready, held up before us. Feel the warmth – it is the warmth of faith. See the glowing faces, they are the face of Jesus in the world. See the light before us, calling the people of our neighborhood, city, and the world to come to Jesus – the only way. The faithful: wise, prepared, ready.