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Joy At Midnight

Together In Christ
Sermons and Prayers For the Christian Year
I went to the hardware store the other day to buy a snow shovel, because we all were told about a storm coming that night. Needless to say, I was not alone. The hardware store was full of other last-minute shoppers looking to do the same thing.

As I stood there in line with my shovel and my bag of salt, I thought about the parable of the ten maidens, which is our text this morning, and I thought about a new way to tell the story:

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten people who sat down one night to watch the evening news. Before long, the All-Wise, All-Knowing and Always Acccurate Weatherman appeared on the TV set and spoke. "Behold," he said, "the first snow storm of the year approaches, so be prepared. At midnight, it shall be upon you and in the morning, there shall be whiteness on the ground which shall reach up to your knees. Thus says your weatherman."

Five of the ten people were prepared, so they sat comfortably in their homes and watched the rest of the news. But the other five were not prepared. They had no shovels and they wondered where they had left their winter gloves. So, they jumped into their cars and raced to the store with money in hand, desperately hoping they could lay an offering upon the altar of the Cash Register and get a shovel in return. But behold, they were too late. The door to the store was locked. The gods of commerce would accept no more offerings until the morning.

The five people went home and asked their neighbors, "Do you have a shovel I can borrow?" Their neighbors said, "No, I don't. I only have one and I'll be using it tomorrow. The snow approaches and you paid no attention to the day or the hour. You should have been prepared."

Clearly, Jesus' parable teaches us about judgment. Just as some people weren't prepared for last week's snow storm, so were the foolish maidens unprepared when the bridegroom came. They were locked out of the wedding feast, they were locked out of the kingdom of heaven! On the other hand, the wise maidens were let in. A judgment was made - the ten maidens were separated into one group or the other when the bridegroom came at midnight.

But more than judgment, the parable is also about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The bridegroom in the story is Christ and the story says that He is coming again.

Many Christians have a hard time believing this. Perhaps you would include yourselves among those who have trouble believing that Christ who lived among us so long ago is coming back again. But consider for a moment what you give up when you don't believe it! You give up all hope for the world and all faith for the future!

I mean: do you want to believe that the fate of the earth rests solely in human hands? Do you want to think that all we can ever expect or hope for is more of what we've got - more of the same lawlessness and violence, greed and callousness, which the world has always known? Injustice and inhumanity will surely be our fate if the future belongs solely to us.

But all of that will change if Christ is coming again. If Christ is coming again, then He has the final Word, and the future belongs to Him. The misery and tears which fill the world will someday pass away and the meek will inherit the earth, because God will not abandon us. Jesus Christ will come again to establish His kingdom in all its fullness for the rest of time.

I, for one, find great joy and comfort in knowing that Christ is coming again. But I am also greatly disturbed when I hear Christians abuse this promise of Christ's return. They aren't satisfied with telling you that He's coming back, they want to tell you when He is coming back. "The Lord is coming soon," they say, or "The Lord has told me that He's coming soon." Don't let anyone tell you that! It goes against Biblical faith and it divides the church.

They asked Jesus the very same thing: "Lord, when will You return to establish Your kingdom?" And Jesus always gave the same answer: "No one knows the day or the hour," He said. "The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour," like "a thief in the night," He said. He said it six times in three different gospels and again in the Book of Acts: "It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority" (1:7). Jesus even said that He Himself didn't know! Read it in Matthew 24:36: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."

At least four times in the gospels, Jesus warned that people would come along claiming to be the Christ, or claiming that the Christ is coming soon. "Take heed," Jesus said, "and do not be led astray" (Matthew 24:4-8). "Do not believe them" when they say that the Kingdom is coming here or there (Luke 17:20-24).

If Jesus said so clearly that no one knows the day or the hour, why do people insist that they know differently? Why do people who claim to love Jesus ignore what He Himself has said?

The first reason is that people are overwhelmed by the evil of the world. They see wars and rumors of wars, famine and earthquakes; they see suffering and tribulation on every side. "This is the evil generation Christ told us about," they say, "and these are the things He said would happen before He comes again."

But when we single out the present generation like this, we show an appalling ignorance of history. Consider the single most evil event of our lifetime - the Nazi holocaust against the Jews. Was that unique in human history? Have we forgotten what happened to the Armenians a generation before? Have we forgotten the horrors of the African slave trade, which involved not one million or six million, but thirty million people? Go back in the Bible and see the savagery of the Assyrians, or the brutality of the Romans. Then read Ecclesiastes and understand why it says that "There is nothing new under the sun" (1:9).

Sensitive people have always felt that their own generation is the most immoral of all. A young man spoke for many people when he said, "I dare not marry - the future is so unsettled." His name was William Wilberforce and he said it in 1791. Another young man said, "There is scarcely anything round us but ruin and despair." That was William Pitt in 1806. People who now predict Christ's imminent return because of the evils of the present don't know very much about the evils of the past.

Another problem is more serious. When people insist they know that Christ is coming soon, they aren't trusting very much in the promises of God. They aren't showing much faith in His Word. Christ has already said that He is coming again, that should be enough for us! We shouldn't try to force His hand. We shouldn't expect Him to come on our timetable, but only on His own. When we pretend to know that Christ is coming soon, we pretend to know what God alone can know and this is the highest form of pride (Genesis 3:5), the height of spiritual arrogance.

You can say, "I hope Christ is coming soon," or "I pray Christ is coming soon." In fact, we all pray for Christ's return every week when we bow our heads to say, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

But don't say, "I know the Lord is coming soon." Be faithful and trust in God's Word. Believe in your bones that Christ is coming again, but be humble enough to remember that neither you nor I nor anyone else can know the day or the hour, the times or the season which God Himself has fixed.

But we can also read the parable of the ten maidens in a more personal way. Yes, there will be a Second Coming to redeem the world, but Christ also continually comes to each of us in our time of trial, to redeem us from our troubles.

If we read the parable in this more personal way, we know exactly when He will come. The bridegroom in the story came at midnight, didn't he? That's when Christ returns as well.

There was a popular song a few years ago which said, "The darkest hour is just before dawn." Well, we know that isn't true. The darkest hour is midnight. The darkest hour is that midnight of the soul which is our moment of deepest need. It is the hour when doubts cover us with gloom, when hope and happiness are gone, when we are most afraid and most alone.

But then there is a cry at midnight, a cry of joy: "Behold the bridegroom comes!" When we are most lost, that is when we are found. When we are at our weakest, that is when we are given strength. When we have reached our lowest ebb, the tide of Christ's love comes in to lift us up safely to the shore.

What darkness is too dark for Him? What pit is too deep, what sorrow too severe? Whatever our midnights might be in life, whatever our troubles, our doubts, our pains or fears may be, when they are strongest at the midnight hour, that is the time for faith. That is the time to "Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28).

Yes, Christ is coming again - for the sake of the world, for the sake of all human hope and history. He may come tomorrow; He may come a thousand years from tomorrow. None of us knows the day or the hour.

But in the meantime, we can all be sure of this: that Christ comes continually to His people, bringing us joy at midnight. Isn't it nice to know! Isn't it comforting to know that in the hour of our deepest need, He comes again to stand with us through the fearsome night, to the dawn of morning's saving light. Amen

Pastoral Prayer

Everlasting and Faithful God, who created all worlds in the distant past and now is Lord over our distant future, help us to pray more faithfully that "Thy kingdom come." Help us to yearn and look forward to the time of our Lord's return and save us from vain speculations about the day or the hour. Keep us prepared and expectant towards Your promises, yet humble toward Your mysteries, that the faith we live may be pleasing in Your sight.

Gracious God, whose Son, Jesus, is the Light of the world, let Him come to us in the midnights of our need. Help us to see Him in the darkness which sometimes surrounds us, that we may never be afraid. Bring us the joy of knowing His nearness when we are sick or discouraged, when we are lonely or lacking in faith. Precious Lord, teach us to pray to You from the shadows of night, that we may joyfully receive the bright light of a brand new day. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

New & Featured This Week


C. David Mckirachan
"Hook and Line" by C. David McKirachan
"When?" by C. David McKirachan

Hook and Line
by C. David McKirachan
Mark 1:14-20

I went fishing with my father as a child. The scene those words probably paint in your head is not the way it was. He went with others when invited, taking me as a companion. It always seemed to me he was there but not comfortable with what went on. I inherited his attitude about hook and line.


Arley K. Fadness
“And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fish for people.'” (v. 17)

Good morning boys and girls,

So fun to see you today. How are you? If you were a smiley face what would you look like? Would you be sunny smiley or sad sack or sort of in between? (kids respond) I am a smiley face today because you are here and I have a good news story to tell you.

The Immediate Word

Mary Austin
Dean Feldmeyer
Ron Love
George Reed
Christopher Keating
In the stories of Jonah proclaiming God’s judgment to the Ninevites and Jesus calling fishermen to be his disciples, the lectionary provides us this week with two stories of God sending a simple, pointed message -- and against what might seem to be common sense, the targets for those messages actually responding to them. After all, Nineveh was a big enough city that its residents likely did not have to worry about its security -- and yet the people “turned from their evil ways.” And the fishermen at the Sea of Galilee dropped their nets and followed Jesus into a highly uncertain future.

Emphasis Preaching Journal

Bonnie Bates
Bill Thomas
Ron Love
Mark Ellingsen
Bob Ove
Frank Ramirez
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Frank Ramirez
Jonah later claimed that the reason he fled after the command of God to condemn Nineveh was he knew all along God is merciful and would forgive their sins. Is that true? How could Jonah know in advance that the Destroyer of Nations who built pillars to commemorate their atrocities would don sackcloth and ashes and repent? The rules just changed.

Although Paul’s directions are confusing he’s right about one thing -- the rules just changed. The present form of this world is passing away and we’re playing by new rules!

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Some prisons have recently introduced a scheme whereby very dangerous prisoners who pose a high security risk earn spending power through playing sport or helping with cleaning. Thus these prisoners may be paid for playing Scrabble. This has produced something of an outcry amongst some sections of the general population. They find it outrageous that men who have committed horrendous crimes such as rape and murder, should be paid for playing games. Prison should be for punishment, they say, not a holiday camp.


Mark Ellingsen
Theme of the Day
Now is the time!

Collect of the Day
Acknowledging our call by grace, we pray for the Spirit to strengthen us to make us worthy of our call. Stress on grace and Sanctification again.

Psalm of the Day
Psalm 62:5-12
* Psalm attributed to David which refers to God as Elohim. Expression of confidence in God's protection.
* Total dependence on God (v. 7). For life is but an instant (v. 9).

Special Occasion