Rev. Joel L. Tolbert
The Kingdom is like "The Bachelor"
"Parousia" a three-week sermon series on Matthew 25, and Jesus’ words about the coming kingdom of God, week 1 of 3, preached November 8, 2020 for the 9:30am Worship
For these last three weeks of the Christian year before we turn to Advent, we are going to hear three different parables of Jesus from Matthew 25 that describe the arrival, the presence, the Parousia of the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s pray, then hear the word of the Lord from…
Scripture Matthew 25:1-13
25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this.
Ten young women[a] took their oil lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.[b] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no (extra) oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil (in addition to) their lamps.
5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all (ten) of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those young women[c] got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No, then there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut.
11 Later the other young women[d] came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
(This is the word of the Lord… Thanks be to God!)
Sermon “The Kingdom is like The Bachelor”
There’s a popular TV show called “The Bachelor”. On the show, one single guy is surrounded by a gaggle of single gals, in the most recent season, thirty. The show arranges introductions, mingling moments, small parties, dinners, and conversations. The ladies often compete for his attention, telling something personal, making a show of themselves, being funny or memorable, or cutting off one another. Show by show, the bachelor sends home some of the ladies, maybe eight the first week are sent home, maybe four or two in the middle weeks. Eventually, when it’s down to fewer ladies, they go on one-on-one dates with the bachelor. At the end, with only two or three ladies left, the bachelor presents the final rose to one of them, on the assumption THIS is the person, the relationship he’s been seeking and waiting and watching for.
In today’s scripture, Jesus is trying to explain the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. He says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like The Bachelor.”
A guy, whom his family has said is ready to marry, is headed into town. In the town, ten young women old enough and pure enough to marry are sent by their families to see if they might be the “lucky” one to get picked by the groom. The ten, I’m sure, are dressed to nines, and do what they think will be make them ready. It will be after sunset when the bridegroom arrives, so each lady has a lamp, an oil burning lamp, to provide some light into the night and to hold in front of themselves when he arrives, so he can see them.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like this? And then adds, the bridegroom is delayed, and the ladies fall asleep waiting. Suddenly, he arrives. They all wake. They all “trim” their lamps, meaning increase the wick back up so it burns more oil but gives off more light.
Five of them try to trim their lamps back up but they begin to smoke and smolder, and it won’t burn they realize, “Oh, we are almost out of oil!” So they ask for extra oil from the others, but they’ve already poured it into their lamps.
As the ten of them trim their lamps, to increase the flame and the light, they all have the same problem. The wick is not very bright. While sleeping, the oil in the lamps is almost gone. The five who brought extra pour it into their lamps, raise their wicks, and their flame is bright again. The know they will need enough light to complete the journey with the bridegroom, all the way to his home. The foolish five beg for some from the wise, but that wont work. Then all their lamps would run out before they reach the destination. They send them out buy more.
When the bridegroom arrives, he is introduced to five young women, and sees their well-lit faces. Off they go to the party together. The other five run off to the oil broker, in the middle of the night. Somehow, they wake the broker and convince him to sell them oil in the middle of the night, for a pretty penny I imagine. Somehow, they do find their way to the party. But when they knock, and the bridegroom looks out through a little peephole, even though their lamps are burning bright now, the bridegroom says “sorry, I don’t know your faces.” (She-kunck) The peephole slides shut.
I wonder what your first reaction is to the kingdom of heaven being like that. For me, its awkward. Jesus says the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven is like this. Then he says to all those listening, “Therefore, stay awake, because you don’t know when the bridegroom might arrive.” Wait a minute, they all fell asleep. What does stay awake have to do with it.
Jesus has been preaching the Kingdom of heaven since the beginning. At the beginning of Matthew, Jesus is baptized, goes into the wilderness, and is tempted. When he comes out of the wilderness, he begins preaching the good news. And what was the new good thing Jesus proclaims first? Matthew 4:17 says, “Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand.” Before we can understand how the kingdom of heaven is like the bachelor, we need to get in sync with Jesus that the GOOD NEWS is that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
The Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand. That IS Jesus’ definition of Good News. The good new thing Jesus came to teach and exhibit to all people, all creation, is how things are and will be in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is the goal of all God is doing, the reason Jesus came among us, and our greatest priority in life, and deserves more of our effort and attention than anything else. All throughout Matthew, from Jesus’ first sermon to today’s parable, Jesus is trying to wake us up to presence and the arrival of God’s Kingdom.
Since his very first sermon, Jesus has been saying about the Kingdom, “Repent” meaning change, turn around, be different. Jesus’ good news about the Kingdom of Heaven is a command for us to change, to see things differently, and to be different. The way God does Kingdom, meaning society, civilization, community, how we are in relationship with one another, is different and we will need to change to fully participate in it.
Jesus has also been saying the Kingdom is “at hand,” meaning is arriving, is close, is coming, is almost present. Jesus’ good news is that God’s beloved community, God’s better way of being in relationship together is not far away in distance, in the heavens, something we have to get to on our own, or something far away in time, in some distant future only attainable at the end, or after death. God’s kingdom, God’s beloved community is closer, nearer, more present, and sooner than we have been told. Then he says be awake.
Whenever we gather as church, we are here to remember ourselves and remind each other and all the world of this good news. God’s kingdom is real. God’s community is not something far off in distance or time, but something that upon us. God’s kingdom is different, and requires us to change. And Jesus wants us all to prepare for it, not just show up and assume, but really prepare, so we can enthusiastically participate in it whenever it comes for us. Jesus wants us to do relationships differently, and to prepare for that. We might get tired, or impatient. Be prepared, should it delay, so we can last for the long journey home.
Of the 24 seasons of the Bachelor, only one of the relationships is still in tact. All the others have broken up, probably because they didn’t really come to the show looking for and prepared for the long haul. They showed up for 8 or 9 weeks and played the game. But they didn’t come with the extra oil, to make something last all the way to the end.
When we come here, to church, let’s not come like bachelors or bachelorettes. Let's show up anticipating something beautiful, and be ready to wait for it. Let’s be prepared that things may be different than we want. Let’s be ready for things to take way longer than we thought. Let’s be committed to the relationships even if things get delayed. Let’s keep our eyes open, looking for any sign of the beautiful new ways of doing old relationships. Let’s trim our lamps back when things are not going well, and conserve that oil without letting the flame go out, then burn our lamps bright when things take a turn toward hope, wholeness, honesty, and compassion so all the world see it.
The Kingdom of God is at hand and is coming. And that is the new thing that is so good. Are you prepared for it? Did you bring oil? Do you want the rose?
To this God be all glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.
Now, Blessing, laughter, and loving be yours, and may the love of a great God, who names you and holds you as the earth turns and the flowers grow be with you, this day, this night, this moment and forevermore.
Rev. Joel L. Tolbert
Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Chestertown