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Winter Is Coming, Part 2

Like I said last time, winter is coming. Yes, I see the weather, but it’s still coming. Again, like I said before, wait for January and February and you’ll think this wasn’t really winter yet. More importantly, I think I also suggested that winter can be a metaphor, not just a seasonal change in climate.

Still, it’s begun and my question is: are you ready?

I had a light-hearted story about not having my snow tires on until this week as a way of approaching that question, but that seems excessively trivial now. Since I think the question is really “ready for what?” let’s go hard at it.

Crosses bearing the names of the mass shooting victims stand near the First Baptist Church where the shooting took place. Source: CBC

On Sunday, November 5, in the afternoon, I ran into someone who wondered if it was safe to go to church anymore. I hadn’t seen the news yet and I was tempted to answer with something humorous, but it was a mother with small children and she didn’t seem to be joking. I didn’t know that, that morning, someone walked into a church in Sutherland Springs,Texas, and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing twenty-six and wounding another twenty, including children.  The church was a busy part of the community, a community a little smaller than the town I live in.

How do you “be ready” for that?

Whether you believe what I believe or think or do what I do, put that aside for a moment. When the place that ought to most exemplify the love and light of God is enveloped in darkness and hate, how do you “be ready” for that?  Can you be ready for that?

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells a story about ten bridesmaids waiting for a bridegroom who is delayed. They all fall asleep and when the bridegroom finally comes, they go to meet him in the dark.  But only five of the bridesmaids have brought enough extra oil for their lamps, the other five have to go find some and when they return, it’s too late. The door’s shut and locked and they’re left out.  Be ready, Jesus says.

The story is part of a conversation with the disciples about the second coming, the end of days when Jesus will return, the world will end and we’ll all be judged.

I have so many questions about this story. Like, why is the bridegroom “delayed?” Why didn’t those who had enough share with those who didn’t, trusting in God, like Jesus would have? Why were the others excluded from the wedding (it’s not like there’s no precedent for being late)? Where’s the forgiveness?  Where’s the love?

Another time for those, maybe, or you might like to ponder them yourself. Or maybe they’re just not as important as the essential point we’ve always thought Jesus was trying to make: be ready, I’ll be back. Yes, Jesus said it before Schwarzenegger.

But, look, what if Jesus didn’t mean he was coming back in the traditional blaze of glory with the sound of trumpets and the heavenly host sometime in the distant future after more bad stuff happens.  What if Jesus meant I’ll be back tomorrow? In your neighbour who shovelled the snow on your sidewalk. Or a stranger who played cards with someone who’s lonely. Or an elderly person who volunteered to read to small children. Or a young person who ran an errand for a busy friend. Or someone who brought food to a hungry person. Maybe a grateful citizen who brought coffee to the RCMP or firefighters or EMS. Anybody who took the time to sit with someone who’s grieving. Or struggling or angry or hurt. Or someone who was there when you needed someone to just be there.

What if, in all the darkness that seems to envelope the world in these days, we were able to see the little lights that aren’t the lamps of those who were waiting, but the light of Jesus, breaking through in every moment of kindness, grace and love?

And what if those lights inspired others? What if we all acted like Jesus was here, now, in the midst of all this brokenness and pain? Isn’t this a moment for convergence, not division?

If you believe we should live the example of Jesus, then do it. If you believe Jesus is coming back and there will be a day of judgement, then maybe it’s time to see that it may be now and, well, be ready by doing something about it.  If you believe that God or some “higher power” is with us, do something about it. If you don’t believe any of that, and there is only “us,” well then, do something about that.

The point is, don’t just be sitting there waiting. Life is happening every day. Don’t be afraid of the darkness – you have light.

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