12 November 2023

There is a strong connection between hope, wisdom and connection. Without hope, we struggle to stay the course, and we make foolish, impulsive mistakes. With hope, we discover stamina and perseverance we didn’t know we had, and we are able to slow ourselves down and move beyond our fear to the choices that bring life. This is the basic message of the Lectionary this week.

May our worship renew our hope, and, through it, give us strength to commit to, and the wisdom to act in alignment with, God’s always coming reign – for which we remain always watchful.

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25: Joshua challenges the people to turn from their idols and serve only God, and they commit to doing so.
OR Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16: A celebration of Wisdom, which brings great benefit to those who seek her, and who searches for those who are worthy of her.
OR Amos 5:18-24: The prophet challenges the people who long for the Day of the Lord, warning them that it won’t be what they imagine, but will be a time of pain and judgement. Then he calls the people to justice and mercy.

Psalm 78:1-7: A call for people to hear a message of God’s greatness and goodness, remembering how God gave the people laws and instructions so that they and their children could remember God’s deeds and hope in God.
OR Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20: Those who desire instruction are those who find the beginning of wisdom, and who enjoy long life and closeness with God.
OR Psalm 70: A plea for God’s help to come with haste, for those who seek the Psalmist’s downfall to be stopped, and for those who seek God to rejoice.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: A word of encouragement to remind the believers that death is not the end, but that believers, both dead and alive, will enjoy life eternal in union with Christ, which is our Christian hope.

Matthew 25:1-13: Jesus tells a story about bridesmaids who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom at a wedding. Some have extra oil and are able to wait for as long as it takes, while others, who do not have extra, have to leave to find more and so miss the groom’s arrival. Then, when they return, they are shut out and not allowed in. Then Jesus encourages his hearers to be alert.

As we begin to move closer to the end of this year and the start of the Advent season, the Lectionary offers a set of readings that make a good preparation. In the Gospel Jesus’ parable of the bridesmaids is a reminder that God is always coming to us, and that we need to be alert and watchful so that we don’t miss God’s presence and activity in our lives. In the letter to the Thessalonians, this reminder extends to death and to the end of time when our hope in Christ is fulfilled. The connection, though, of course, is that we need to live this hope now in each day of our lives. In the Old Testament related readings, the Day of the Lord is viewed by the prophet Amos as a time to be watchful of, and a reason to embrace justice and mercy. In the continuous Old Testament reading, Joshua challenges the people to be committed to God alone. Finally, in the Psalms and Wisdom readings, there is the celebration of living with wisdom, of remembering God’s gracious acts on behalf of God’s people, and of trust in God’s help. When all of these ideas are brought together, we find there is a single, cohesive theme that emerges: As we hope and trust in God’s coming and God’s activity in our lives and our world – past, present and future – we are inspired and challenged to live out this faith and hope by being alert, mindful and wise. Our hope in Christ, then, forms the basis for wise and abundant living.

GLOBAL APPLICATION: Despair never solves problems , creates justice or brings life. To make a positive impact on the world requires faith, hope and love. This is the challenge of the Lectionary this week. In the face of the overwhelming challenges of our world, it is tempting to despair. But when we remember our hope in Christ, when we commit to stay true to Christ’s message and mission, we discover resources that empower and sustain us for our work. These resources include an alert watchfulness to recognise God’s coming – God’s presence and activity – and co-operate with what God is doing, the wisdom to know how best to respond to the challenges we face, and the stamina to keep going when it gets tough. When we remember that God’s reign arrives in the subtle, unexpected ways Jesus spoke of, we discover that these resources are exactly what we need to make the small, consistent commitments and contributions that really do change the world for the better.

LOCAL APPLICATION: It is unfortunate that Christianity has become an ‘evacuation’ faith (to borrow Brian McLaren’s word). Instead of engaging our communities and getting involved in the struggles of people, we have offered an escape and a lame hope that may promise bliss in eternity but has nothing to contribute to our world now. This is tragic and misguided. But, when we allow the hope that the Scriptures offer us (as in the Lectionary readings this week) to capture us, our engagement with the world changes dramatically. As we embrace our hope for the future we live differently now. We gain the wisdom of God’s perspective and the faith to work as agents of inspiration and possibility in our communities. We begin to be alert and watchful for the signs of God’s coming in the lives of those we serve and we become more committed to live out our hope now. In this way we are able to contribute to the manifestation of God’s reign where we are. And when our lives and ministries reflect Christ in this way, we can’t help but be agents of grace, healing, and salvation to hurting, hopeless people.

Watching and Waiting
God of Presence and Light
Staying Faithful

Hymn Suggestions:
There’s A Light Upon The Mountains
Be Thou My Vision
My Jesus, I Love Thee
Take My Life And Let It Be
Lord, I Give You My Heart (Link to YouTube video)
I Will Offer Up My Life (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

Video Suggestions:
Psalm 70