Today, I will begin my sermon with a Japanese short poem, a Haiku of Mantaro Kubota.
clocks in a clock store
a spring night, which one,
In the spring, and on the night. A man enters into a clock store. All kinds of clocks are hung on the wall, and also many watches are displayed in the stand. But, the hands of every clock and watch in the store point to different time. Each clock and watch have each time. The hands of some clock stand at ten, some at eleven. Some watch points to nine, some to twelve. Even some clock seems to have stopped for a long time. He doesn’t know which clock is correct. He asks one of his friends, … “What time is it by your watch?” Then, he looks at his watch.
The world is sick. The world is broken. That we witness, experience, and know. In everyday, we see the suffering, cruelty, violence, pain, tears, sorrow, hate, and despair in this world, in our society, in our neighbor, in our lives, and even in the church. We ask the Lord just as the disciples did, “Lord, tell us, when will you come, and what is the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Jesus answers to his disciples and to us, “… about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36). Then, we look at our watches again. Someone may say, “Not today, Lord. Last Monday, I bought lottery tickets, and last night I had a good dream. Today will be my day, I pretty sure. I will let you know tomorrow when it will be good time for you to come. At least, Not today.” His watch is set by the lottery tickets that he bought. A newly married couple who are going to Italy for their honeymoon may say, “For us, not today. Not this month. Not this year. Probably, thirty or fifty years later? No. at least not today, not this month.” But, after one year, I hope not, but one of them might say, “Yes, Lord, come anytime. It doesn’t matter for me. No. Not Today. I would like to give a chance to him.” Their watches are set by their own plan and expectation and condition. Some people cry to God in agonies and tears of pain, “Come, Lord, come to me right here, right now. I have no hope anymore. Come, Lord.”
Then, again we look at our own watches again.
As Jesus came out of the temple, he said about the destruction of the temple to his disciples. And they asked him, “Tell us, when will the destruction of Jerusalem temple happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3). The focus of attention of his disciples was only the day and the hour when it will happen. Then, Jesus says the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids today. In this parable, we see that, not all of the ten bridesmaids who took their torches and went to meet the bridegroom, could share the joy with him and join the wedding banquet. The bridegroom said, “you do not know the day and the hour, and you dare not say, ‘Not Today’ or ‘Not Tomorrow’, or ‘Yes, Today’ or ‘Tomorrow’.” He came at a time of his own choosing. And the ten bridesmaids were all accountable for their own lives. As we read, all of them became drowsy and fell asleep. But, the Lord does not call the perfect. He does not see their perfectness. He sees their readiness for his coming. All of the ten came to the wedding, and carried the torches to serve the wedding. They did not ignore his call. But, it was not enough. They were all there. But, it was not enough. All of them carried their torches. But, it was not enough. Jesus askes his disciples to redirect their focus of attention to God’s plan, God’s purpose, and God’s time in Christ. They are preoccupied with the day and the hour of his coming only, and imprisoned with his delay itself. But, he urges them to turn their eyes from “when he will come” to “what to do in the delay, in between now and then. For the disciples, and for the ten maids, his delay should not be just a period of time of ‘not coming yet’. The delay does not mean the absence of the Lord. It is not a period of time for us to await in passiveness or anxiety or apathy, but a period of time to be filled with our hope in the coming of the risen Lord. His delay is a practical time and place for his disciples, the ten maids, and the church and us to live in. We are called to live out the hope of the coming of the risen Lord in its delay. We are called not only to await his coming but also to do what we are commanded and entrusted to do by him.
Christian community is a community living out the hope and faith in the coming of the Lord, and doing our tasks and performing our parts between his ascension and his coming in glory. The last word of the Revelation is, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). And it becomes the first word of our journey of faith to God, and on the way of our journey the word will keep us awake in God. Jesus urges us not to be preoccupied with looking at our watches which are set to our own times, thoughts, plans, and expectations. We are not waiting for his coming and his wedding as an audience in a theatre. Jesus says, “no one dare to say that my watch is accurate.” We do not know which clock at the clock store is correct. The master of the store knows. We do not know when the final day will come. We do not know when the Lord will come. Only God the Father knows. However, we believe in our risen Lord, coming in glory. With his coming, all things will be made new. New heaven, new earth, new humanity. Joy without pain and suffering. But not yet.
He will come, and we live in ‘the between’, holding the torches to serve his wedding, and holding the hope of the coming of the risen Lord. The delay is not a period of time of the emptiness of hope, of the absence of the bridegroom. It is not the period of time being filled with these words, “sorrow, tears, agony, suffering, hate, cruelty, violence, inequity, discrimination, sexism, racism.” These should not become the words describing the ‘between now and then’. Instead, the ‘between now and then’ should be filled with other words, “Respect, cooperation, freedom, spirit, strength, support, happy, inspire, belong, faith, pride, future, trust, positivity, be yourself, build, smile, toy, heal, life, courage, community, same, live, love, beauty, empathy, peace, unity, safe, wish, sorry, joy, dream, bright, remember, and hope.” These are the words that I have met and seen in the streets, at the park, and on the faces of the people on the day of ‘Reconciliation Marching’ on a Sunday morning of the last September. These words show us the vision and mission of this world and this society. A theologian (Richard Bauckham) says, “the delay of his coming is filled with the mission of the church.” The vision we share in Christ, will give light to the village and the yards and the streets through which the Lord is coming, and the mission we do in Christ, will keep the torches and lamps burning and lighting until his coming. After church today, we will have vision and mission town-hall for preparing our next sixty-five years. The vision that we share in Christ will light the way of his coming, and the mission that we share with Christ will fill the wedding with joy. We are called not to just an audience. We are on the stage. We are called to perform our roles in the drama. There is no delay on the stage. The curtain has been up already. The show will go on until the director stops it. Jesus directs us to keep our torches burning whatever the wind, the storm, the rain and the snow come, and to light the way which the bridegroom is coming through, and giving warm light to one another in the chill of the night. Let us keep our torches burning in us, in our neighbor, in our society, in our world.