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Stay Awake


Passage: Matthew 25:1-13

Speaker: Rev. Jason Smith

Stay Awake! Jesus says, for you don’t even know the day or the hour.

Well I was trying to tell myself to stay awake very recently, this week. This past Tuesday night, some of us sought to get away from the election, like Alliance colleague Stephanie Cooper, who took the week as vacation and went with her wife camping in the woods. But some of us turned the tv on and were glued in.

As I sat there on Tuesday night waiting for a winner to be declared I saw 9pm pass, then 10pm, 11pm, it’s midnight, then 1am… and I called it quits thinking, “Why can’t I stay awake to see who it’s called for.”

And Wednesday came and Wednesday is today, at about 1:45 pm. And I am here, awake, but ignorant of what the result of the election is, knowing that this sermon is being played in the future, on Sunday, not knowing what the news or the world holds.

I still don’t know what is going to happen, even though I could not stay, awake.

It’s been an interesting process, writing a sermon in the midst of a very tense few days, but its given me some space to think of the universality of Jesus’ words, the story he shares with his disciples.

Matthew 25
Ten bridesmaids are going to meet the one groom, and Jesus tells us right at the start that five are wise, and five are not. All had lamps.

According to Thomas Stegman, professor at Boston College School of Theology, These women were most likely a part of the household of the bridegroom, who has left to complete dowry arrangements with the father in law, and that the bride should come to his household to consummate the marriage. So the bridesmaids are waiting for the groom and bride to come back so they might begin the wedding festivities inside.

Now weddings could last from 5 to 7 days, but even for tonight’s events, we know that the main players are delayed. Significantly delayed. So the bridesmaids look at their clocks, you want to get some coffee, let’s get some coffee, wait, dinner, wait, and it gets dark. So they take their lamps.

And some are ready but some aren’t. And Matthew wants us to make sure we know who was wise and who wasn’t.  Some brought extra oil and some did not.

And so they naturally, fall asleep.

I’ve been wondering about this; according to the text, five of the bridesmaids are wise, because they are prepared, and five of them are unwise, but all ten of them fall asleep. All ten. And then Jesus’ words in summation of this story, refer to the eschatological hope of a return, a day which no one will know, nor will anyone know the hour, an unexpected day in the future, when the injustices and desperations and hate that find a haven in this world will be replaced by the all-encompassing power of Gods justice, hope and love. Both the prepared and unprepared lie asleep, but all must remain awake, Jesus says.

Stay Awake! Jesus says, for you don’t even know the day or the hour.

We at the Alliance are trying to live out the wisdom of preparation, of keeping our wicks trimmed, our energy reservoirs filled. The Alliance has shifted our gatherings and programs to virtual ones, gathering in fellowship for trivia nights and karaoke, and gathering for spiritual renewal to hear from Rev. Dr. William Barber, and Rev. Dr. James Forbes, we have launched a Journey Groups program to support clergy at Alliance churches, and we have sought to prioritize supporting our partners around the world.

 But are we remaining awake, Jesus asks?

We at the Alliance of Baptists are beginning to become awake to our privilege, to become awake and aware of how white supremacy has had a root in our organization’s structures, systems, and ideas, and we have to be awake to that reality. We are beginning to become awake to that reality.

For so many of our partners around the world, keeping awake has also been a focus. Being prepared in the midst of the pandemic has been a true challenge. For our partners in Brazil, Morocco, Mexico, the Republic of Georgia, churches themselves. Churches are keeping prepared and staying awake by providing assistance, and strengthening social projects with low-income communities and homeless families.

If anything, this is a text that validates the work of the Alliance of Baptists, that validates the ministry of Royal Lane Baptist Church, that validates what you as a committed person as part of a community are doing for justice in our world. We’ve got to keep the wind blowing our sails, we’ve got to keep well-nourished for strength on this journey, we have to have energy in our lamps to lead us into a future toward justice. And yes, we have to keep awake.

For we follow the one who was continually awake and yet continually dreaming. Dreaming with God for a world with more love. Dreaming with God for a world with more justice. Dreaming with God for a world with more peace. And yes, that dreaming took him all the way, took Christ all the way to face the powers of this world, to face death itself. And yet in dreaming there was New Life. In dreaming there was too resurrection. Dreaming for a future where God’s love is everywhere resurrects us.

None of us can keep asleep in the midst of injustices, in the midst of hopelessness, in the midst of a world in so much pain. We must rest, but we also must be able to rise in a moment to join in and advocate with God’s people. Jesus is not saying we can’t ever sleep, he is saying even when we sleep we should dream of a world in which God’s vision for beloved community is energized, shining a light through us and our communities, burning brightly in our hearts.

We have to stay awake.

As Andre Thomas piece said a few minutes ago,
“Keep your lamps trimmed and burning,
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning,
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning,
the time is drawing nigh.”

So let us be prepared! And let us stay awake! Thanks be to God.