Readings – Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
I can remember as a child sitting next to my father in our 1951 gray Plymouth two-door and cruising the neighborhood gas stations looking for $0.23 gas. Some of you can probably remember even buying lower-priced gas. I don’t think those prices for a gallon of gas will ever be back again. Yesterday it was $3.43 for regular. The price of fueling our cars for the journey ahead has certainly risen with the times.
In a similar way, the cost of fueling our souls for the journey ahead has also risen with the times. Remembering that we stand on the shoulders of others, as we illustrated with our wall figures last week, is helpful. Putting “Be Kind” signs by our front doors is helpful.
Drawing from our Gospel reading for today, Sundays are times for replenishing our “flasks of oil” so that we can keep our lamplights burning in difficult times when darkness seems to be swirling about. Here we sing with others; here we pray with others; here we remember things done and things left undone, and receive absolution and strength; here we listen with others; here we share God’s peace that surpasses our understanding; here we receive God’s grace in bread and wine, in body and blood; here we share our selves around coffee hour tables.
Yet, as we continue our journey of faith in these times, I think we need to raise our times of oil flask replenishment. Joshua called upon the first Israelites at Shechem to “choose this day whom you will serve”. I think we, too, need to begin each and every day with that same call – who am I going to serve this day? At the start of each and every day, I think we need to “put away the foreign gods that are among [us], and incline [our]hearts to the Lord”. There are so many distractions all around us that seek to pull our attention away from loving God and loving neighbors, near and far, as much as we love ourselves. We may need to start our day a little bit earlier as we respond to the call of Joshua. Perhaps while still in bed we begin our devotions. I begin with the Lord’s Prayer, to be followed by the Prayer of St. Francis, the Song of Mary, and the Song of Simeon. Some mornings when I have a bit more time. I will recite each numerous times. Then I get up, get dressed, and am ready for the day of challenges, fueled up for service, for loving God and loving neighbor as self, spiritually awake.
Spiritually awake, my oil lamp is burning brightly no matter what comes my way. Everyone who has served in the armed forces knows the importance of vigilance, of keeping eyes and ears open to the surroundings. So, it is with people of faith, eyes, and ears open for the challenges of the day. A reading from I Peter 5:8-9a comes to mind, it is a reading for Compline.
Be Sober. Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.
So true! So true! Begin the day awake with God’s call to serve. Then, when evening comes, and the day is past, and you settle in for the night, it is time for prayers of thanksgiving, to give thanks for those times during the day when you have loved God, and you have loved your neighbors far and near as you have loved yourself with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Our times are trying to persuade us to retreat to “minding our own business”, and to “look the other way”. Rather, as people of faith, we need to be shining brightly even in dark places, and reaching out in love to our neighbors far and near who are in need of our generosity and our love.
Spend the extra effort. Spend the extra time.
Let your lamp light burn brightly.
Replenish with God’s love today and every day to come.