Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sermon preview--The Ten Virgins

I know this is an unusual title for this message, but that’s what the parable we’re studying today (Matthew 25:1-13) is commonly called. Perhaps a better title would be, “How to have hope.” Hope is one of the key concepts of the New Testament; it’s a trait all Christians should have. But not many of us seem to have hope these days. What is hope? It’s not the kind of desperate wishing that we often think of when we hear the word. It’s not, “I hope my team wins tomorrow,” or “I hope my teenager isn’t getting into trouble.” It is a confident expectation of something you know will be yours someday, but you just don’t possess it yet.

The metaphor Jesus used to describe hope was usually a wedding. Isn’t it interesting that a man who never married saw a wedding as the ultimate picture of hope? I think about my own wedding when I read parables like this. Carrie and I got engaged a full year and a half before we would be able to get married. I know a long engagement isn’t ideal, but I was very intentional about that. I saw the way guys on our campus and at Carrie’s church looked at her. I wanted a rock on her finger (or in my case, a pebble, unfortunately) so that I could let everyone know she was mine. That was indeed a long year and a half, but I wouldn’t do it differently if I could. It gave me something to look forward to, something to keep my hopes up. I knew that even if my car broke down, or I didn’t get the job I applied for, or I got an annoying roommate (and all of those things happened over that year and a half) that none of that could change the fact that I was going to marry her in May of 1992. My theme song then was the old Beach Boys’ tune: Wouldn’t It Be Nice.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older, and we didn’t have to wait so long?

Wouldn’t it be nice to live together in the kind of world where we belong?

You know it’s gonna make it that much better, when we can say goodnight and stay together. Oh wouldn’t it be nice?

Jesus wants us to live in that kind of hope. He wants us to have something the world can’t take away from us. That kind of hope will help us to live holier, more meaningful lives, because we know that every day, we have a chance to impact eternity for good. So our lives aren’t just about surviving the work week and waiting for the weekend, or paying our bills; our lives are about doing something that lasts forever to the glory of God. And that kind of hope leads to joy that our circumstances can’t erase. Because even if our dreams in this life fall apart, even if loved ones die—and they will—even if our bodies disintegrate—and they will—the world can’t take away this hope of being with our Lord in a perfect place forever. So even things like sickness and aging and sorrow, things that the rest of the world has no answer for, are just reminders that a better world is coming, that we will live in perfect bodies someday in the presence of the one who makes all things new. That hope is why early Christians were willing to die rather than forsake Christ. It’s why they were willing to stay in plague-ravaged cities, taking care of the sick, both Christian and pagan, when everyone else had abandoned the city. It’s why those early Christians lived such distinctively loving and holy and joyful lives, because while everyone else was focused on the here and now, they lived in hope of something far better.

So how do we live in that kind of hope? How can we keep our eyes on a future that we’ve never seen? Jesus spoke at length about His return in chapter 24. Then He capped it off with a series of parables, including this one. This Sunday, we'll explore the parable, and see what it takes to live in hope. I "hope" you'll be there!

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