Based on the latest Monroe County data and weighing the impact in our local community, all church activities, including worship, will be offered online only. We hope to return to in-person activities on Sunday, February 6

Sermon Text: Matthew 25:1-13

I have had the privilege of listening to Daniel Kostakis talk about what it has been like to move through the confirmation process with many of our youth.? Two have stepped forward today but all have done the work, participated in the discussions and taken active part in the spiritual discernment of their lives.? We have many absolutely brilliant young women and men who are going to serve and lead the church in our coming generations.? I thank Daniel for his consistent leadership and our youth for plowing through the process and bringing new light to us as they continue to make decisions about who they are and whose they are as they tackle their lives alongside of us.? We have in them many faithful partners.

It is interesting that our lectionary lesson this morning is about ten virgins, or perhaps for the early part of the 21st century, ten innocent young people.? It is one of the most horrible and spiritually offensive readings in our Christian Scriptures.? Among other things, it takes 10 young women, probably around 12 years old and forces upon them cultural stereotypes and patterns of behavior that are totally patriarchal (to the disadvantage of the youth) and further suggests that half of them are doomed and damned for not having enough oil in their lamps, while the other half are rewarded for not sharing when they could have.

This is not a Jesus parable, this is a parable written by the author of Matthew?s Gospel.? It is one those parables that even if you shake your Bible upside down and all around, you can find nothing of Jesus to fall out of it.? What falls out is that the early community of Jesus followers still believed that God was going to come through and end life as we know it on this planet and usher in?through violence, destruction and punishment?the loving, just Kingdom of God.? And the parable goes so far as to claim even the most innocent will be lost to eternal damnation.

I soundly reject this parable and those that we will see throughout the month of November as meaningful expressions of the love of God, the justice of God and the mercy of God.? In the lectionary cycle we are now three weeks before the beginning of a new lectionary cycle.? We are about done with Matthew?s Gospel and about to begin a year with Luke?s.

Matthew?s community was sure that God did not love the world but only those who believed the right things.? It is okay to disagree with typical, traditional and majorly-held biblical themes.? We might get struck by lightning as we are doing so, but it won?t be because God sent lightening.? God delights in God?s love, mercy, and tenderness being fully exposed, shared and allowed to be experienced even by people that we find reprehensible.

Our job is to realize how greatly we are loved and valued by the divine presence and then to step out and do the hard work of bringing the justice of God, the reality of God, the fullness of God to bear upon the issues and realities of our day and times.? The world and our lives have some of the most significant and troublesome concerns in front of us, including that the world has added environmental catastrophe to the possible apocalyptic destructions that we human beings are capable of.

God does not desire the destruction and degradation of our planet.? God, I have to think, desires for our planet and all the creatures therein to be fruitful and multiply and be sincere steward-caretakers of this great gift of life that we have.? It will take the combined gifts of the greatest spiritual leaders merged with all that science and technology can muster to bring this world to a secure future from so many human-made dilemmas.

Our confirmands understand that God is not going to magically zoom down and save God?s favored ones.? Let us join our comfirmands in realizing that what the world needs is the awareness that God is fully present and fully invested in healing our world, as well as our lives.? What it takes is our full investment, immersion and involvement in a spirituality that has worldwide ramifications.? Narcissistic salvation is no longer a viable alternative; it will take the whole world-village to bring about the wholeness of God for which we ache.

I join with our confirmands and place my future along with theirs and promise to be one with them in desiring the full expression of God in my life?s efforts.

Amen.