Proper 27 (November 9, 2008)
Common Lectionary Texts:
Amos 5:18-24; Ps. 70; I Thess. 4:13-18; Matt. 25:1-13
We began the week in Istanbul, participating in a strategic visioning and planning process with MCC partners and staff from across Europe and the Middle East.
“New Wine, New Wineskins” – as the MCC process is know – uses Appreciative Inquiry, a method that builds on an organization’s strengths, rather than starting with problems to be solved. As part of the process, Cindy interviewed an MCC partner-pastor from Moscow and Daryl interviewed a partner from Sarajevo. We were responsible to carry their voices and stories throughout the planning process. And they carried our voices.
While the meetings were engaging and excellent, it feels good to be “home” in Amman. We returned just in time to watch the U.S. election results. The outcome was celebrated across our region. Many MCC partners and friends called or stopped by the office to express congratulations that the United States has voted for change. They have been frustrated by the current U.S. administration, and see President-elect Obama as offering a better way for the United States to relate to the rest of the world.
The Common Lectionary readings are about waiting.
In the Old Testament reading, God’s people eagerly wait for “the day of the Lord” – a day they believe that God will vindicate them and judge enemy nations. But the prophet Amos warns that the day of the Lord will bring judgment for God’s people as well. It will be darkness not light (Amos 5:18, 20). While God’s people hold lively worship festivals and publicly display their offerings, they have failed to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (v.24).
The psalmist waits for God’s deliverance and help from those who desire to hurt him and who seek his life (Ps. 70:2). “I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!” David pleads (v.5).
In the Epistle reading, Paul writes of waiting for the Lord’s return and for the resurrection of the dead. Because of these future realities, we need “not grieve as others do who have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13), but can encourage one another during losses and difficult times (v.18).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of ten bridesmaids who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom. None of the bridesmaids do a perfect job of waiting. When the bridegroom is slow in coming, all of them fall asleep. But when he finally arrives, five of the bridesmaids have oil for their lamps and are ready to join the celebration. Five do not and miss the celebration. Jesus uses this as an illustration that we should always be ready for his return – because we “know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13).
In the United States and around the world, many are waiting with eager expectation for Barack Obama to take office in January 2009. We hope and pray that this will bring positive changes. The expectations are impossibly high. In time, President Obama’s star will fade – for he is only human. In the end it is not up to one person to bring change. All of us must work for justice to roll down like waters.
Even with the excitement of this historical election, may our greater expectation be in preparing for the arrival of God’s kingdom, even now, and for the eventual return of the Christ.