Did anyone else have a sense of deja vu at today's service at ECOOS? I sure did. In fact, the reading from 1 Thessalonians presented was the same as last week's reading. It should have been this,
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters,* you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved,* are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Continuing in this theme, Charlie in his sermon brought up the bridesmaids and the lamp oil parable from last week and presented his opinion that this and today's parable were "awful." Today's parable from Matthew 25 was of the slaves and the talents. I had a hard time with today's sermon from the get go. Was it something about the lack of virgins in America or was it trying to make the parable more difficult to understand? Perhaps it was trying to paint the master as a greedy cheating person (for how else does one get rich), or maybe it was portraying the good and trustworthy slaves as also being cheats and bad, or maybe it was an unspoken "God can't be that way" at the conclusion where the worthless slave is thrown into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Of all the sermons I have heard on this parable, this was the most bizzare. Because he could not explain his problems clearly, I am left speculating as to why it gives Charlie such difficulty. Why is liberal theology unable to come to grips with the closed door of the parable of the unwise bridesmaids, or the casting out of the worthless slave? I think that liberal theology has certain assumptions about God that lead to this difficulty. Is it the assumption that God = Love? Has this led us to think that God's love is the same as the human experience? Human ideal love would not be compatible with the closed door or the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Surely a loving God would not keep the unwise or lazy out of the kingdom of heaven.
I think the parables are trying to tell us that this is a dangerous assumption, and that we had better be prepared for the bridegroom, and we should be spreading the Gospel message, multiplying the gift of the spirit that our Lord has given us. God has given each of us the gift of Christ, wouldn't it be wise to increase his gift and not keep it to ourselves?