Rev. James A. Splitt
November 6, 1999
Matthew 25:1-13 Joshua 1-3a, 14-25
Matthew 25:1-13 "At that time 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 took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. "At midnight the cry rang out: Hereís the bridegroom! Come out to meet him! "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out. " No, they replied, there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. Sir! Sir! they said. Open the door for us! "But he replied, I tell you the truth, I donít know you. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Josh. 24:1-3a Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to all the people, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: _Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants.Josh. 24:14-25 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Then the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God." Joshua said to the people, "You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you." But the people said to Joshua, "No! We will serve the LORD." Then Joshua said, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD." Yes, we are witnesses," they replied. "Now then," said Joshua, "throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel." And the people said to Joshua, "We will serve the LORD our God and obey him." On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws.
According to the World Book Dictionary, one of those large detailed and comprehensive dictionaries, the word purpose means "something one has in mind to get or do; plan; aim, intention." [p. 1692]. Most of us are at our best when we have something in mind we want to accomplish. We have a goal and purpose that propels us toward achieving a goal. We have been blessed with one of the most colorful and spectacular Fall seasons. One late afternoon, Kathleen and I headed out to Stonelick Lake with camera in hand to find some dramatic photo opportunities. The sun was bathing the leaves in a rusty orange glow and I was totally engrossed in all of the possibilities of painting a scene in 120th of a second. There were so many pictures waiting to be taken, I wanted to find a real prizewinner. My purpose was to capture the texture and shape of leaves backlit with late afternoon sunlight. Finally after shooting a number of other pictures, I found a seedling Sycamore standing alone, it_s first Fall. Only three leaves on a small narrow stalk, standing alone in the midst of a thicket, gleaming yellow. It appeared to be burning with the sun at its back, a burning bush, sacred ground, and a taste of Godís presence. I positioned my tripod carefully and selected a lens that would capture the striking image that stood before us. I looked through the lens and knew before I tripped the shutter that this would be a special picture. There are lots and lots of fall color pictures; this would be different. I was gazing upon the tree of Zacchaeus, the three leaves of the symbolizing the Trinity. As I achieved my purpose I was swept up in the story of Jesus who set his mind upon a purpose. A purpose of capturing, not images on film, but the souls of men and women created in the image of God. Jesus was on a mission with a divine purpose.
Jesus had a clear destiny. "Throughout his spiritual journey, Jesus moved with a clear sense of destiny _ a focused passion of purposefulness. He sought to expose and explain Godís matchless love to others, and as he moved toward his own personal destiny the cross his message became less about himself and more about the plan for our salvation. The closer Jesus came to Godís presence, the more strongly the God within became evident to those around him." [Leonard Sweet. A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Cafi, p. 54.].
I wonder what it would have been like to be Zacchaeus. Imagine Jesus calling upon you. You want to see Jesus, but you want to stay hidden in a tree. But when the Christ light falls upon you, you are captured in the lens of the Christ eye. You will be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye. Are you ready to come out of the tree and take Christ into your home and into your heart? It is Christís purpose to win you over. You are the prizewinner; Christ wants your soul!
Joshua called the people of God to state their purpose. If you want to serve God then you must "incline your hearts to the Lord". Joshua called them to give up their lustful pursuits, their infatuation with other gods, and set upon their minds serving God. What is your purpose? Are you like Zacchaeus kind of hiding, wanting to get a look at Jesus, but not ready to change those behaviors that perpetuates sin, the radical evil in your life. What are the behaviors in your life that you know contradict everything you know about living life and living it abundantly? Do you need Christ to come into your life right now and have a talk with you, just like he did with Zacchaeus? Jesus wants your sole (soul) commitment.
Are you like the masses of people standing before Joshua who pretend to serve God, but who are stuck in idol worship? Joshua called the masses of people to reform to set their minds upon serving one very awesome God. What are the other gods you pay homage to? What materialistic pursuits do you have that distract your full and complete devotion to God? Joshua says that we have to give the Lord our full attention. The Lord, our God, wants our heart.
When I set out on my photo expedition, I was seeking a time when the light was just right. The light of the setting sun, just before darkness would set in. The other ideal time would be at daybreak, when the morning sunbeams first strike across the horizon. It is this phenomenon of the light that is so much like the Christ light in our lives. When the light is gone, we are in darkness. Christís wants to be the light of our lives. Through Christ, the light of Godís love shines in our lives. What an awesome God! We are chosen to be the light bearers of the eternal light of Godís love. Are you ready to be a part of that awesome purpose?
What are the dark areas of your life? Think about this in a personal context. What part of your life struggles in secret, hidden in the darkness of shame, embarrassment? What is it that you are afraid to talk about with anyone? How does this affect your marriage or your family life, your job, or school? I listened to a talk radio program this past week and the guest speaker said that the one thing that destroys relationships faster than anything else are secrets. TRUTH lives in the light. The dramatic light of Christ comes to us and keeps us from the darkness of Satanís domain. Release the secrets and the hidden parts of your life to the light. One way to do this is by sharing them honestly with God in prayer. Another way to do this is in the company of the person you want to gain a deeper trust and love with. Persons who share and confess their sin bring their life out of darkness and into the light. Remember light was given on the first day of creation. We begin life by coming into the light. In light the unknown becomes known. And, becomes what he set his mind upon being, the truth and the light of our lives.
Sometimes it is in the darkest moments of our lives that we need the Christ light the most. To give birth to purpose, we must seek to the divine intention God has for us. Madeleine L_Engle wrote, "It is when things go wrong, when the good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering winds when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly" [Sweet, p. 56].
Jesus is calling us to become nothing less than disciples. We are the bearers of the God Light, The Christ Light, The Spirit Light. We are the incarnate presence of the Christ love, the God Love, the Spirit Love. And we can do and become all this when we set our minds on getting to be and becoming Christís disciples.
This morning we participate in the most intimate expression of Godís love for us in the celebration of Holy Communion. As you remember Christís divine purpose, know that the God who loves us shines a radiant light upon us so that we might win the prize of ever lasting life. What a blessing! Our God IS an AWESOME GOD!