Proper 27A (OT 32)


245: November 12, 2017

  1. Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

  2. Matthew 25:1-13

  3. Psalm 78:1-7

  4. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

voice in the WILDERNESS: Lee Saylor

Featured Musician: RED MOLLY


 Tasty Wafer: 

88: November 9, 2014

  1. Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
  2. Matthew 25:1-13

Featured Musician: RED MOLLY

Exegetical Notes

Matthew 25:1-13

Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Matthew 24 is skipped by lectionary

      • Started with the disciples being impressed by the Temple. Jesus then proclaims that the Temple will be destroyed. After he says this, they come to him wanting to learn more, and he goes into 24:4-51

      • Many warnings about coming trouble and the rise of false messiahs.

      • Ends with a warning to be prepared.

    • Next passage is covered in next week’s lectionary, but it is a second part of this general illustration about preparedness (interesting lead in to Advent, which is a season of preparation).

  • The parable

    • Virgins (NIV) is the literal translation, but could also be translated as "bridesmaids" which is how the NRSV translates it.

      • I would read bridesmaids instead of virgins. "Virgins" can lead to a focus on sexuality which is out of context in this story

    • Bridegroom - parousia of Jesus' second coming

    • Bridesmaid - the faithful community

    • Bride - ? Oddly absent, usually is the faithful community

      • Could the bride be the world? The bridesmaids as the church then it is our duty to prepare creation for the parousia (Jesus coming or the culminating Kingdom of heaven)

  • Bridegroom

    • Delay does not insinuate that the parousia will be delayed indefinitely, but emphasizes that the time is unknown

    • The arrival then is "the Kingdom of heaven"

    • John M Buchanan (Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 ),

      • “—Jesus Christ comes when Christian people live in hope and never give up.

      • Jesus Christ comes when faithful disciples express love and compassion and work for justice.

      • Jesus Christ comes when critically ill people know they are ultimately safe in God's love.

      • Heaven breaks into earth when faithful women and men live in hope and give themselves to the work of the kingdom.”

  • Oil - according to M. Eugene Boring (NIB vol. 8) are the good deeds that will count in the parousia

    • What counts? See Matthew 25:31-46 (TWIBLE)

    • What matters is not being faithful once (all the bridesmaids started with oil),  but a life of faith

    • the idea of buying oil at midnight is as absurd as pretending you have loved good and neighbor you while life when you haven't. (see v. 11 and Matthew 7:21-24)

  • Wise vs. foolish

    • Being prepared - they all look the same and act the same, but only the wise ones are prepared or ready

    • It is not until the midnight hour that you can really tell the wise from the foolish

    • Does not mean we will always be in a state of constant alertness because they all fall asleep (v.5..which seems to contradict v.13)

    • The foolish are not prepared for the “long haul” they only came prepared for the evening- are we in it for the long haul? Are we willing to wait and remain faithful knowing that the wait may be long?

      • Reminds me of Cathedral building which would take generations- are we Cathedral building or do we need instant gratification?

      • Mark Douglass (feasting on the word) argues that this text is a warning against those who are in it for the short run, constantly predicting Jesus’ return

  • Troubling aspect of the Parable - It just doesn't sound like Gospel

    • Greg Carey: “Is that how it works, that one apparently arbitrary decision marks the line between inclusion and exclusion from the ultimate party? This parable just doesn’t feel like the gospel.”
    • David Lose: “And while all these parables present their own distinct challenges, I have to confess that I find this one the most challenging. Three reasons:”
      • Cultural differences between modern weddings and what Jesus is talking about puts added distance between us and this story.

      • Written for a community that is under greater and greater duress (see destruction of Temple), and are really stressing out about the fact that they might have “missed” Jesus.

      • “The parable seems, quite frankly, a little unfair. All the bridesmaids brought oil, all waited, all fell asleep. And the decision about who gets in comes down to who anticipated the bridegroom would be this incredibly late and so brought more oil.”
    • David Henson: “If the bridegroom is already with his bride when he arrives, then how can this parable be interpreted as the return of Christ for his bride? It can’t. Because this parable isn’t about the return of Christ.”

Preaching Thoughts

“For most of my life, I have identified with the five wise bridesmaids, always seeking to have enough of the good stuff in my lamp – good works and faith – to persevere in a dark, sinful world.
I envisioned myself as one of the wise, holding onto my lamp in the dead of night.
But my sympathies changed when I spiraled into deep doubt for the first, but certainly not the last, time. Suddenly, I saw myself as a foolish bridesmaid, watching as my lamp’s light evaporated into a thin tendril of smoke, quite jealous of those whose faith still burned so brightly….
And it was the bridegroom, not the bridal party, who broke social protocol and arrived exceptionally late for their own banquet. Surely they cannot be shut out for being late to the banquet. The bridegroom was the late one!
But what would have happened, I wonder, had the bridesmaids simply continued to wait, with sputtering lamps and dwindling lights?
What would have happened had the bridesmaids simply waited in the darkness of the night?
To me, this was their mistake. They left, when they should have stayed. The bridal couple surely would have welcomed their friends into the light of the banquet, unconcerned about the state of their oil lamps, happy just to see their friends waiting for them.
What faith it would have taken, though, to wait in such frailty, in such honesty!”
  • How do we nurture life long faith outside of Sunday worship?

  • Are we ready for Jesus? If Jesus were to come down from heaven and stand before you, would you be proud to show him your life (or your church)?

  • How do we respond as churches and individuals when the midnight hour strikes? Do we blame others for not sharing their "oil" or do we take responsibility and repent?

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

Initial Thoughts

  • “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” makes a beautiful arts and craft project to hang in your home.  Somehow, I feel like this cheapens the solemn act of covenant that happens here.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Near the closing verses of Joshua.  One of the last things he does alive. Before it closes, they bury the bones of Joseph in the promised land

    • Promise of Genesis: You will be a great nation in this land.

    • Genesis closes with a great nation in the wrong land

    • Exodus closes with the nation on the border of the land.

    • Joshua is the story of possessing the land.  It contains some of the most disturbing parts of the Bible. They are now a great people in the land

      • Do you read Joshua as God ordaining horrendous violence OR do you read Joshua as a history of the victors justifying the violence they used to win?  Is there another way to read Joshua?

  • Lectionary Issues

    • The verses cut out are a retelling of the history of the people.

    • Verses 4-12 retells Exodus and Joshua.

    • Focus is on God’s work, “I sent.. I plagued… I brought… I handed…”

  • “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built…”

    • Not a self-made nation

    • God reminds them that their existence is dependent upon God, and God alone.

    • NRSV and CEB translates: “Now go and revere the Lord.”

      • CEB Study Bible note: “The word revere is sometimes translated ‘fear,’ but the rendering here is most helpful.  The term has to do with the reverence and honor for God seen in complete devotion.”

      • “Fear the Lord,” seems to be in direct contrast to Jesus’ call to “Fear not.”  How are these things related?  Does this reveal the nature of God that is changed from the Old and New Testaments?  Is Jesus claim to “fear not,” go against the OT claim to “fear the Lord.”  Or is it a misunderstanding of the OT’s use of the word ‘fear.’  There is no way that Jesus is saying “Respect Not,” or “Be irreverent.”  Or maybe he is saying, “lighten up.”

  • Joshua puts forth a choice: “Serve the Lord” or “serve the other gods.”  You cannot serve both (reminiscent of Jesus’ claim that no one can serve two masters)

    • Joshua: “My family is going to serve the Lord.  What about you?”

    • People:  “Of course we’ll serve the Lord, he’s awesome.”

    • Joshua: “I don’t think you realize what you’re saying.  Serving the Lord is really hard, and he’ll get extra pissed if you promise to serve him, and then don’t.”

    • People: “No really, we will serve the Lord.”

    • Joshua: “Alright.  Let’s mark this agreement with this big rock just in case someone forgets.  And by ‘someone’ I mean you, because God won’t forget.”

Preaching Thoughts

  • What does it mean to “serve the Lord?”

    • Put away other gods. - What is the modern equivalent of putting away other gods?  

    • “Inner devotion can be so vaporous, so vague and unmeasurable, that it is meaningless.  Perhaps for that reason verse 14 recalls Genesis 35:2-4, in which Jacob leads a ceremony of collecting and burying idols.  Joshua 24:14 may suggest a ritual removing of gods that might compete with the Lord as a sign of exclusive devotion.  This can be important for contemporary people of faith who find it difficult to reject the pervasive societal and cultural influences that mitigate faith in God” (Jerome Creach, Interpretation: Joshua, p. 125).  

      • This sort of ritual burying of false idols could have some potential for modern worship services, but could also slip into ‘book burning’ type of ritual that could be counter productive.

  • Is a wall hanging a pleasant reminder of the covenant, or a cheapening of what is meant?  It depends on the motivation, and the heart of those in the covenant.

    • An analogy: “A fitting similitude for modern people is the relationship of a person to a passionate lover.  If the relationship leads to a marriage covenant, certain formal agreements apply.  The obligation to the lover, however, is not fulfilled by mechanical compliance with stipulations.  Imagine the absurdity of a partner in marriage greeting the spouse at the end of the day, ‘My commitment to you is complete today because  I have not committed adultery.’  The relationship requires multiple expressions of love that can never be legislated fully.  Moreover, the passion of the lover is naturally expressed as anger if the partner ignores or neglects the relationship” (Creach, p. 127)

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Initial Thoughts

  • Advent of Advent :)

  • Nice carry over from All Saints Day

  • Rapture passage - primary text for Pre-Millennial Dispensationalist rapture theology - which both a) lacks theological integrity and b) is dangerous, has led and continues to lead to much bloodshed and pain the Middle East

  • 100 year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration which led to much of the strife in Israel-Palestine and is deeply rooted in pre-millennial dispensationalism

    • History is the agent of carrying out Divine purpose

  • For resources see: The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation by Barbara Rossing or Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon? By Stephen Sizer

Bible Study

  • Structure:

    • V.13 - distinction between those who have no hope and believers

    • V. 14-17a - the basis of believer's hopes

    • V.17b - permanent union between Christ and believers

    • V. 18 - mutual support

  • Parousia - the advent or coming of Christ- the second coming

    • Word of consolation to those who believed the Parousia would occur before they died, but now members of the community are dying and the Parousia still hasn’t occurred - Paul brings this word of comfort

    • Threefold

      • Past: Incarnate in the vulnerable birth of Christ

      • Future: Parousia - Second Coming

      • Present:  “in the Spirit who brings the new into our this-worldly life, into our historical context. The coming of Christ is for us, today, affecting particular personal, social, and political consequence here and now.” Jennifer McBride, Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

  • v. 13 - Those who have hope and those who don’t

    • Does a lack of hope mean damnation? No- that isn’t what the text says, but a lack of hope may lead us to despair

    • For those of us who “believe that Jesus died and rose again” we know that death is not the final word- therefore we have hope. Paul is reminding the church of the hope rooted in their belief.

    • Sometimes we need to be reminded of the core values of our faith

    • Paul is not putting limits on the love and grace of God, but reminding the Thessalonians that there are no limits and to remember their creedal declaration

  • Apocalypse is a message of hope - God’s love embraces all - even those who have died.

    • Apocalypse weds the present suffering with the hoped for coming of the Kingdom

    • Best captured by Slave Spirituals from the South which speak both to the pain and agony of the current situation via coded language (“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, “Down by the Riverside”, “Steal Away Jesus”) and imagines a better future in the Kingdom (“My Lord What a Morning”, “That Great Gittin’ Up Morning”, “Roll, Jordan, Roll”) - Abraham Smith, NIB XI

Preaching Thoughts

  • When was the last time you preached on the second coming- the parousia? How do you see your life or community affected by the three-fold advent of Christ (incarnation, Second coming, and continual inbreaking of the spirit)? Perhaps this Sunday is a time to delve into the “mystery of our faith”: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

  • How do we make room for grief “make a space for sorrow and keep it open” while also affirming hope in the resurrection? 14b - those who have died, “rest”, “sleep” are “at peace” with Christ. Grieve, but do not give up hope- a tension of faith.


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).