Sermon Extra – “Long Time In Coming”

July 26, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

I am not a person who likes to wait.  I can remember standing in the HEB automatic checkout line a  few years back behind a person who was painfully slow as he scanned and bagged his groceries.  He would search intently for each item’s barcode and then carefully slide it across the scanner only to find that it did not register.  So he would inspect the barcode and try it again.  And again.  And again.  It took him a full ten minutes to check out his “20 items or fewer.”  I was furious.  “If these people can’t figure out how to use this machine, they should go to a checker,” I fumed to Melody.  My wife, of course, was embarrassed by my bad attitude and she reminded me that I was a pastor who needed to act charitably.  My anger, however, was not dissuaded.  “This is ridiculous,” I protested, “I don’t have all day!”  My turn finally did come to check out my items.  And so I, employing my best breakneck speed, frantically slide my first item over the scanner just to prove how competent I was in using this machine and how inept the person before me was.  I had to scan the item again.  And again.  And again.  Maybe the machine wasn’t as user friendly as I thought it was.  It took me ten minutes to check out.

In our text for this weekend from Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable about ten bridesmaids who are waiting on the arrival of the groom so that they can escort both the bride and groom to the wedding reception.  Jesus makes this simple note about the groom’s anxiously anticipated arrival:  “The bridegroom was a long time in coming” (verse 5).  The Greek word for “long time” is chronizo, from which we get our English word “chronology.”  Apparently, this groom took so long to arrive to meet his bride, it felt to the bridesmaids as if they were waiting through decades long chronological epic.

Jesus’ parable, of course, is meant to give us insight into His Second Coming.  He too will be “a long time in coming.”  And indeed He has been.  2,000 years after His first advent, we are still awaiting His second.  But already in the first century, people were becoming impatient as they waited for their Lord.  They were not people who liked to wait.  Thus, the apostle Peter must remind them that Jesus has already promised to be “a long time in coming.”  Peter writes:  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  The Lord’s slowness in returning is not really slowness at all, Peter argues.  Rather, it’s an opportunity for repentance and faith.

In 1910, a German theologian and physician named Albert Schweitzer published a book titled The Quest of the Historical Jesus. In it, he portrayed Jesus as a failed eschatological prophet who believed that the advent of God would come sooner and quicker than it did.  Thus, Schweitzer estimates Jesus’ ministry to be a failure and the belief that Christ will come again to be delusional.  Schweitzer cynically states:

The whole history of “Christianity” down to the present day, that is to say, the real inner history of it, is based on the delay of the Parousia, the non-occurrence of the Parousia, the abandonment of eschatology, the progress of the “de-eschatologis-ing of religion which has been connected therewith. (Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 358)

The Church, Schweitzer contends, has deliberately downplayed and dismissed the urgent eschatological expectations of Jesus and His first century followers.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  For we remember Jesus’ words:  “The bridegroom was a long time in coming.”  Our Lord is a long time in coming.  But make no mistake about it, He will come.  And so we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20), no matter how long that coming may take.

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