Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. -Amen
The church year will begin again soon. The new year in the church calendar begins from the 2nd of December this time. So, the next Sunday will be the last Sunday of the church calendar 2018.
On the last couple of Sundays of the church calendar, we usually read Bible texts about the last day of this world, or the transition from this world to the Kingdom of God.
This occasion is sometimes called Judgement Day. It sounds a bit horrifying, but I don’t think we need to be scared of it. Instead, I think we should take it seriously, and pay the appropriate attention to it.
Today’s Gospel story tells of ten virgins, or young women. Five of them were wise and prepared well for coming of the bridegroom, but the other five were not so wise and neglected to prepare. They missed the opportunity to accompany the bridegroom.
The lesson of the story is obviously to be awake, and to prepare well for the last day of this world: the coming of our Lord at the End.
The last day of the world, and the last day of my life or your lives; precisely speaking, these two things are not same. Even were today the last day of my life, it would not be the end of the world. You would continue to live. Nevertheless, when we read the story of the last day of the world, we often think about the last day of our individual lives.
And I think that is rather reasonable. Because, for example, if I die today, though it’s not the end of the world for you, I would not be able to do anything more in this earthly life. I cannot change my way of living anymore.
I cannot add anything to my life, and I cannot finish any incomplete job. I have to wait until the day when the Lord comes back and calls me back to life. The same applies to each of you.
This means that we can prepare well for the last day of the world, while we are alive here on Earth, now. Our chance to prepare for the coming of the Lord only exists before our earthly lives are done. It is therefore with good reason that associates Judgement Day with the last day of our own lives.
How, then, should we prepare for the last day of our lives, or the last day of the world? If we think about the coming of the Lord, and how we shall stand before him, we ought to think of our relationship with him. Are we baptized, joining to the church and taking part in Holy Communion – and other religious observances?
Surely Jesus would consider these signs of faith as good preparations, since it is right to thank God our Father, and stand close to Jesus. But Jesus teaches us that the importance of loving our neighbors is equal to loving God our Father.
How should we, and how can we prepare ourselves regarding our relationship with our neighbors? And I would say that here we should include the relationship with ourselves. We need to look back at how we have been treated ourselves, as well as how we have treated our neighbors.
OK. Then we should love our neighbors, and ourselves. At least, try to love them. It’s not the first time we think about it, but we may try once more, try to love more than before. But soon, we have to recognize that our relationships with our neighbors are more complicated and cannot be described in an easy way such as “I love my neighbor as myself.”
There must be many things filed under “unfinished business”: for instance, not having come to a clear conclusion regarding a relationship with somebody in particular. We might still owe debts to somebody that we need to pay back. We might have earned someone’s resentment, and have let the matter be without apologizing.
Often, we know we have to do something in the relationship with a particular person, including us ourselves, but we don’t know what we should do, and so on and so on.
So, when it comes to our relationships with our neighbors and ourselves, it’s complicated and many things are left uncompleted. But if we want to put things in order before the last day of our lives, there are two kinds of problems facing us.
The first is to see those things that we can change, and fix them. The second kind of problem is facing those things that we cannot change anymore. It’s too late to do anything about them.
Some of us have already come a long way in our lives, and others not so far. But I think for everyone here, it is still possible to fix many things in life, towards a desirable conclusion. Recently I heard an interesting interview on TV.
Today, many Japanese baseball players have careers in America, in the major league. The Chicago Cubs have a player called Yu Darvish. His father is from Pakistan. He was an outstanding player already when he was in high-school, and he joined a professional team in Japan at the age of 18.
But after 3 years, he was not doing as well as expected. He thought, “Oh, I will probably end up as one of the so-so players.” But then Yu Darvish got some inspiration. He imagined himself at the age of 40. He imagined himself unemployed ex-baseball player, impoverished and lost in a miserable situation.
Then he imagined God appearing to him saying, “I will give you only one more chance and send you back to 20 years ago, when you were 20. You may reconsider the choices you made then.”
Darvish tried to imagine that he was the 20-year-old man sent back from a miserable future. And Darvish began to think what he should do with this second chance. He learned how to exercise better, changed his diet, and did everything he could to be the best player possible.
And then he became an absolutely outstanding player again, even compared to professionals in the major league. And he is one of the star players now today.
He says today: “There are many children who were born with physical handicaps, and cannot play baseball though they want to. I believe that if they could play, they would make the effort to make the best of themselves. When I could begin to understand those things, I realized how I should live as a professional ball player.”
The inspiration that pushed him to be the very best player he could be, was to recognize that the things in his hands are an irreplaceable gift from God.
Perhaps that applies to us, too. Young people, especially, who have a long future ahead of them, should be able to learn something from this episode. Usually, we first recognize the grace of God when we lose it. That’s human nature, or our sin. It’s not easy to see the grace of God as grace, really.
But when we can recognize it for what it is, we can behave much better than we had previously. Most of the things we have to fix must have remained broken because of our negligence, laziness, or lack of preparation. Because we haven’t coped with things appropriately. Then they will be fixed by doing things again, with all our might, all our soul.
Those are things that we can still fix today. We know, however, especially we those of us who are not so young anymore, that there are so many things that are too late to fix. For example, suppose we did something wrong to somebody, and even though we want to make an apology for it, that person might not be alive anymore, or we might not know where that person is today.
In a more serious case, somebody might have lost his or her life because of a mistake we had made. How can we fix that? I don’t think we can, actually. Then what are we supposed to do to prepare for the last day of the world and the coming of our Lord?
Even though there is really nothing we can do to fix that issue, still we have two ways to go forward.
One way is to forget. Seriously, it is a gift from God to be able to forget. If something in the past has only a negative influence on your life, perhaps having no active responsibility for that incident, the best thing would be to forget it. It could help us.
Tough I am not sure whether it can be a part of preparing for the Judgement Day or not, it would be useful for continuing our lives on Earth.
The second way to move forward from a situation we cannot change anything is to ask God. If we did something wrong, and if it is not possible to make any apology or compensation, then we should repent and talk to Jesus with a penitent heart. Then we encounter the real meaning of penitence.
I believe that this penitence is accompanied by pain in our hearts. I cannot imagine that someone who regrets his deed, and truly repents, doesn’t feel any pain. When we repent, we feel pain. And we cannot get rid of the pain.
Let’s not get confused: repentance is not the solution for something that happened. Repentance is the attitude of the person, and the pain in his heart, about the thing that happened. The pain will remain as long as we walk on the Earth.
But when we enter the Kingdom of God on the last day of the world, our souls and hearts will be healed, and the pain will disappear in peace. Because the Kingdom of God is such a place. Because Jesus awaits us there.
We don’t know when the last day will dawn upon this world. We cannot foretell, either, the last day of our lives. But we know that it will come someday, for sure. It can be a frightening occasion, full of regret; or it can be a blessed and thankful occasion. The reality will remain somewhere between those two, maybe.
Anyway, before we see it, we need to finish our lives on this Earth first. This life, that each of us lives today, is the gift from God our Father. We should be thankful for the gift and enjoy it. And we can make the best use of it when we acknowledge where it leads us, at last; and who is waiting for us there.
The Grace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Amen.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the
bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the
wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.