I went to the store last week to purchase something and in big letters – CASH NOT ACCEPTED – must pay by card. I never thought I would see the day when cash was not welcome. Some years ago The Good Guys store would have the slogan – less for cash. And there was always the saying Cash is King. And so our society is going more and more to a cashless society where we pay with credit or debit cards.
But there’s another payment method that has been around for some time called Bitcoin. Not sure if you’ve ever heard of that before but it’s a digital currency – Bitcoin. You can’t see it – you can’t hold it – it’s a currency that lives inside your computer. It was introduced around 10 years ago and If you were silly enough to buy One Bitcoin it would cost you about one tenth of a cent. Apparently the first transaction using bitcoin 10 years ago was someone buying two pizzas costing 10,000 bitcoins. That’s how worthless it was. So no one really bothered.
But something happened and the price started edging up. 3 years later one bit coin would cost you around $200. So if you had bought 10 bitcoins for 1 cent when they first were released you would have turned that 1 cent into $2,000. Sounds pretty good as an investment. Today, with our move towards a cashless society bitcoin has gone absolutely ballistic and as of writing this one bitcoin now costs around $20,000. So those 10 bitcoins you bought for 1 cent would now be worth $200,000. Can you imagine how the people feel who may have been offered an opportunity back when they first were introduced – even if they just spent $1.00 would be worth $20,000,000. How would you feel having missed that opportunity? At the end of the day it’s only money.
What we see in today’s Gospel reading is a story about a group of women who also missed an opportunity but it was a lot more than money at stake. These women were bridesmaids who were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. The bridegroom was delayed and so 5 of the bridesmaids ran out of oil for their lamps. They tried to borrow some from the other 5 who had brought extra oil but they were afraid that there wouldn’t be enough to do so. The 5 bridesmaids go to the marketplace to purchase more oil for their lamps. But while they were out the bridegroom came and he and the 5 bridesmaids who brought spare oil went in to the wedding. The other 5 arrived back but it was too late and the bridegroom wouldn’t open the door for them and they missed out.
Now this parable spoken by Jesus is Jesus way of preparing us for his Kingdom. And he does not want anyone to miss out because he has personally prepared a special and unique place for us. One of the hardest things for me, and I know many other Christians, is to understand – if God wants everyone to live with him in Heaven – why do some miss out? If it is God’s will for everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth – then why does our teaching believe that some may not be saved? It is something I struggle with and I know you most likely do to. But, we cannot deny that the Bible, and Jesus himself, does warn that this is the reality. Hear again the closing of our Gospel reading: The door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor he hour.” I don’t know why – so as a Pastor I believe it is my role to proclaim what I DO know. And what I do know is that God loves the world so much that he sent his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. That’s what I do know.
So as a Pastor I preach the Gospel to assure you that through Jesus we are awake; We are assured of eternal life and there is absolutely NO uncertainty of our salvation – of our eternal life in Heaven. And it is that assurance that has gotten me through some difficult times including these past 7 months where we have not been able to gather together and to receive Holy Communion. St Paul also talks about how hope gets us through those difficult periods in life.
In our 2nd reading he says; We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. What is that hope? For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. The difference, as St Paul says is hope:
So that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
And it is not just in death that the Christian faith brings hope – but in every difficult situation as he had said in his letter to the Romans: We rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
What happens in our Gospel reading is sad but it should not frighten us. Remember what Jesus himself says: God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him. As Christians we are called upon to pray for those who do not yet know the love of God in Christ or who have rejected it so that they may have the same comfort that we have. And that is what has always brought me comfort for those of my friends and family who are not Christians. If it is God’s will for all to be saved – and if it is my prayer for all to be saved – then my hope is in Jesus promise in John 14: I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. And even if we think of Jesus own prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where he concludes his prayer: Not my will be done but yours – what great comfort that brings when we know that it is God’s will that all be saved.
We need to keep remembering that God is a God of love and how comforting to know that as we journey to our heavenly home that God has assured us of our salvation. I’m sure we’d all love to be there now but like the Gospel reading says – the bridegroom has been delayed. And St Peter tells us why he has been delayed: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. God wants everyone to be saved – he wants no one to perish. So as Paul says at the conclusion of our 2nd reading: Therefore encourage one another with these words.
We all have friends, family, colleagues that we would love to share the Gospel with and that’s not always easy. But God has assured us, that like us, it is his will that all be saved and to come into a relationship with him. We don’t always know how or when God works but we know he will. And that is our hope and our hope in Christ will never disappoint us.