In the liturgy of the church, we are at the end of human time. That’s the yearly theme. As Scripture reminds us, every living being is challenged by the limits of time.
We concluded the church year with the hopeful proclamation for the reign of Christ to govern the world with justice, and then launched into the Advent season of hopeful expectancy for the coming of Christ. The language of liturgy articulates our hope: Christ has come. Christ is come. Christ will come again.
If we were gambling people, we could righteously claim: Two out of three! Not bad. The Biblical record tells the story Christ has come. Your personal faith confirms that Christ is come, the risen Lord is present in your daily life. But what about the affirmation Christ will come again?
Since the days of the early church, Christians have been waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ — again. The Advent season reminds us to be alert, keep awake, be ready, get prepared. Christ is coming again to the earth. The question then is: What do you do with the delay? The early church had to come to terms with a delay in Christ’s return. So do we.
From the human point of view, it is a question about what do you do with your time. What do you do with the time allotted you between now and then? There are two dominate thoughts about this waiting period. One: Christ will come again and bless you and the world with eternal love. Two: You will die and Christ will meet you in the next life and usher you into the strong arms of God. Both possibilities inspire our religious imagination.
Biblical scholars refer to the gospel of Matthew, chapters 24-25, as the little apocalypse. Here, Jesus tells three parables about using your time in the delay of Christ’s return. In the parable of the ten bridesmaids — five wise; five foolish — the foolish fail to fill their lamps with oil. In the parable of the talents, the fearful slave buried his treasure. In the parable of the sheep and goats, both sheep and goats fail to recognize Jesus in the lives of suffering people.
Yet, the goats are identified as unwilling to extend a helping hand to a suffering world. The point being: Fill your life with the oil of wisdom. Invest your life in the good purposes of the Master. Offer a helping hand to relieve a suffering world. Be savvy smart in this world.
In our culture, the dominate theme has to do with warnings about safety. Wear your seat belt. Ride your bike with a helmet. Pay attention to your surroundings. Be safe. The argument could be made that safety and wisdom go together; however, like the fearful slave who buried his talent, safety denied the slave the opportunity to live more fully into the rich opportunities of life. The resources given him would have been better used investing in wisdom, a virtue our culture has decidedly taken a vacation.
The end of human time serves as humble motivation to not fritter your life away in foolishness. Seek wisdom. Resist evil; invest in the good. The time is short, therefore, lean into the challenge of a well-lived life.
Doug Goodwin serves as pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in downtown Sheridan.