“If we could turn back time”
Matthew 25: 1-13
If I could turn back time I would find a way to take back those words that hurt you and you’d stay
Too strong to tell you I was sorry
Too proud to tell you I was wrong
I know that I was blind.”
Words from Musicians Cher’s late 80’s song if I could turn back time that go well with the saying “If I had my time again…” and I’m sure there are many things we wish we could change from the past. But would we really want to go back and not just change a particular incident if had to start everything again. Personally even if I wanted too I wouldn’t and I couldn’t because in being forewarned of what lies ahead I honestly don’t know if I could make it through a second time.
But those words from Cher could also apply to the five virgins from today’s Gospel who unprepared for the lord’s return beg to enter His kingdom with “Lord, lord, open (the door) to us only to hear the most harrowing words of “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” finishing with a warning to all through history “Watch therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour.” It is a parable that can unsettle us like the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25:31 where “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (and) before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth.”
The separation of the sheep and the goats, the good and the bad does not always sit comfortably with me as I imagine when my eulogy is read at my funeral the things I’ve done through life may be a lot different to one’s that that stick in my mind. Ironically, during the sorting of the sheep and the goats, both groups are just surprised as the other of their fate with the unsaved asking when did we do wrong and with the saved asking when did we actually do anything good.
A man was on death row awaiting execution the very next day for the life he took at a convenience store when at 17 years old and under the grip of drugs and needing a fix in a bungled hold up shot and killed an innocent man remarked that though that person I was twenty years ago I don’t even know now, I know what I’ve done and I’m sorry for it and so tomorrow I will get what I deserve and I are not angry because locked behind these bars I’ve found what I don’t deserve and that is forgiveness in Jesus.
When I was sixteen my friend and I were waiting for the last bus out of the city at the end of Hindley Street, which is Adelaide’s equivalent of King’s cross when about 12 youths of the same age attacked us. Three were punching and kicking me in the face with the others bashing my friends head against a brick wall and too this day I do not know how I somehow managed to wrestle from my attackers and rip my friend from their grasp and escape. He was badly beaten and not thinking soundly and upon getting home to the house in North Adelaide about two kilometers away he started his Toyota tray top and loaded his 303 rifle. I tried to calm him down but he was going with or without me and so with the view to talk him down there I am driving down Hindley Street with my friend and his loaded 303 on his lap. I drove to every spot I thought they would not me and it still scares me of how life would be so different if we had come across them. The earthly outcomes in our life can be split by a hair. The attendant at the convenience store who didn’t come that day to be killed like his attacker never intentionally came to kill.
Two boys attacked and responding in ways they never thought possible by twelve others that once ate ice cream and watched cartoons before somehow being turned to rage on the world.
At the end of the book of Genesis, Joseph looked back on the sinful decisions his brothers made towards him out of jealously of firstly conspiring to kill him before rather receiving money by selling him to slave traders. The same Joseph that went onto to hold great power in Egypt and yet despite his many bad memories when given the opportunity to pay back to his brothers the same for same saw how God has been at work and responds to them with “You meant evil against me but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive.”
If we could go back in time and fall in error again, or remain here and see how a gracious God did not unleash his wrath on us, but send his Son to walk with us through those moments.
To go back in time to fix our wrongs and be a better person or remain here knowing of both the good and the bad that has brought us to throw ourselves at the mercy of Christ and know His forgiveness.
When my brother died alone on a lonely bush track I wished I could have done one of two things. Firstly to try and talk him out of it, and if I couldn’t, to be with him so he would not have been alone in such a time.
God doesn’t need to bring pain to our lives because as we did in the Garden of Eden so does the human race do a good enough job of it itself and yet though that be the case, He still makes the 5 virgins prepared that though we don’t know the day nor the time when we will meet Him in the flesh, in all ways he has met us now and like the sheep given eternal life and ask how can that be? We see it can only be through faith in Christ alone. Jesus Christ who did not discard us when we discarded Him. But the Jesus Christ who was with us at our worst but treated us as His best.
A Hymn writer in the 16th century penned these words:
“I know my faith is founded
On Jesus Christ, my God and Lord;
And this my faith confessing,
Unmoved I stand on His sure Word.
Our reason cannot fathom
The truth of God profound;
Who trusts in human wisdom?
Relies on shifting ground.
God’s Word is all-sufficient,
It makes divinely sure,
And trusting in its wisdom,
My faith shall rest secure.”
When my brother died I was in my first term at the sem. And confused I prayed all night and after eventually falling asleep I awoke with the clearest of thoughts. A sure but not accusing “It did not have to end this way” and then “know my Word.”
Though we travel by faith in times of shifting ground and hardships we still are led to ask why? Not a why of disbelief in our Lord and Savior but a question asked through faith in our Lord and Savior and though that question might linger in reason we cannot fathom, unmoved we stand on the only sure ground we have which is the sure and all-sufficient inspired Words of The Father, the Son and Holy Spirit who tell us:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us” so “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith” “whose Word does not return empty, but accomplishes what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.” To know “that the punishment that has brought us peace was upon Him, and by his wounds we are healed.” And your “Faith has come from hearing the message that is heard through the Word of Christ” and in His Word “Who shall separate you from the love of God. Shall trouble or hardship, or famine and weakness, or danger or sword. No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” “For neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord.”
And to us as to the Roman jailor who in fear called to Paul and asked “what must I do to be saved” we hear his reply to both that man in the dungeons imprisoning innocent Christians and to us here in His Holy house: “To believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”
All in faith and you here today:
The Lord has blessed you and kept you.
The Lord has made His face shine on you and been gracious to you
The Lord has looked upon you with His favor
And so in those gifts:
You have been given the right to be in peace and rejoice in all things knowing and never questioning that as you sit here today, in heaven together with the angels and the archangels, and all the company of heaven, there too you will stand. Praise be to Christ. Amen.