The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
The Very Reverend Torey Lightcap

Matthew 25:1-13

I’m supposing this morning that for most of us,
The election and the pandemic may have really gotten to us.
For the last several days, we have been buffeted by news about an increase of COVID-19
Together with the stress-inducing, nonstop coverage of election results.

It could be that you went to bed last night with at least some beginning sense of resolution and resolve.
Or, you may feel deflated or even robbed.
Or, you may be relieved but dreading the next couple of months.
Or, trying to figure out a way to raise your voice and be heard.

Just remember that every other person in this room, including someone you might have come in with,
Is a complicated political creature feeling a lot of things at the same time.
And so are you.
You may want to ask yourself, How can I give grace and space to honor where others are today?
How can I ask for that same grace and space from other people?
How might God be calling me to be helpful in the midst of all this drama?

We don’t come to church because we’re already right about everything.
We don’t come to church just to take part in something that’s perfectly executed
While we sit next to other perfect people – that’d be pretty boring.
We come here specifically because we’re so often wrong ;
We know ourselves to be broken , in a way that we can’t quite name.
And we need something beyond ourselves to help us find the path again. We come to turn to God.
That is helpful and good.

And we come here because in the ultimate analysis,
While we are citizens of this country, we are finally subjects of Jesus.

Now, as we round into the end of this liturgical year, Year A,
We’re finishing up reading from the Gospel According to Matthew.
For today and for the following two weeks,
We will be studying the grand summation of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew,
The 25th chapter,
And for once, we will be reading from these teachings in the order in which they appear.

To simply file things by title:
Today we hear from Jesus about ten bridesmaids , some foolish, some wise,
Who are in varying states of readiness for the bridegroom when he comes.

Next week we will hear from Jesus about three servants – two wise, one foolish,
Who either waste the resources given to them or use their resources to turn a profit .
And on the final Sunday of this Year A, we will hear from Jesus about sheep and goats .
He will tell us that those who have followed his teachings are like wise sheep,
And those who have not are like foolish goats.
He is concerned with the ultimate, divine standards of judgment – to give you the short version,
It’s about whether we show mercy and compassion to those who suffer.

I’m laying out this sequence for you because I find it inescapable, and I hope that once you see it,
You, also, will let it dwell with you:
Jesus is telling us to be wise, be ready, and be generous … and to act on those impulses.
It’s another version of “grace and space,” with a particular emphasis on serving others’ direct needs.
By doing these things, we will be participating in the reign of God “on earth as it is in heaven,”
And this is supposed to be our highest goal as Christians and baptized subjects of Christ.

These things can always be noticed, and can always be enacted. This Gospel can always be lived.
The call of Christ is to be everpresently aware of the state of need,
Whether we live in times that are prosperous or lean, fixed or moving, anxious or calm.
Nothing is meant to disrupt us from our mission.
Certainly circumstances will change, as is inevitable;
And when they do, those changes may well shape the form that the mission takes.
But it will always be possible to serve Christ by serving this vision that he has given us,
Using our talents along the way as gifts for the life of the world. That is our “North Star.”

Eventually, we come to understand something.
Christians do not need a certain set of election results, one way or another, to serve God;
Our call to give grace and space is eternal and evergreen.
We do not require political conditions to be favorably or unfavorably disposed to our beliefs;
The mission will always be harder than we thought.
We do not need any one particular person or party in office to activate us;
It is God who loves us, God who animates us, and God who will judge us.

Those words were written on Wednesday morning of this past week,
The day after the most contentious election I ever saw came to a close.
It has now concluded.

So, do I continue to stand by those ideas? Absolutely, yes.
Did the election results somehow change my citizenship in heaven? Absolutely not.
We do not need a certain set of election results to serve God;
Christ is unmoved by our categorizing of people as either “winners” or “losers,”
Other than that we already know he stands with the dispossessed.
We do not require political conditions to be favorably disposed to our causes;
Our convictions and our political will should arise from the fact of our baptism.

And finally, we do not need to have particular people installed in office to activate us;
When our inner apparatus is attuned to the word and will of God,
Then we will know what we have to do, and everything else will naturally flow from that knowing.
It’s not about what is most expedient.
It’s about where our loyalty lives.

There is a line in an old Southern hymn by William Percy:
The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife, strife, closed in the sod.
Yet let us pray for but one thing –
The marvelous peace of God.

“The peace of God … is no peace, but strife, … closed in the sod.”
The life of faith is not a guarantee of easy progress.
The community of the faith is not a promise of a congregation
Of people who blindly support everything you say.
The gift of faith is the understanding that God is not a vending-machine,
But a force to be reckoned and wrestled with, finally beyond knowing,
But also, paradoxically, longing for each and every one of us.

Strife in the closed-up sod. But also, our peace.

Christ is not about resolution and perfection;
His life is filled with conflict and noise, and in the end he makes a convenient scapegoat.
But we are with him. And he is with us .
The resurrection is that promise of his love.
The Holy Spirit is the evidence of his presence.
Together we can offer grace and space to each other and ourselves and this hurting world.
He has shown us how to live. Let us follow him together and together , pursue his peace.

Amen.