Danny Stone, Marion, IA


Warm-up Question

Share a story about when you were late, unprepared or procrastinated.

It’s the End of the World as We Know it

Ever listened to REM’s 1987 classic, “It’s the End of the World?”  Playing it now prompts listeners to ponder recent disasters.  Texas was battered by Harvey.  Irma devastated the Caribbean Islands and rolled across Florida.  Hurricane Nate made landfall in Mississippi.  Puerto Rico is coping with the overwhelming effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Forest fires burned more than a million acres in Montana and scorched California’s Napa Valley.  The Vegas gunmen opened fire from his hotel suite. World leaders threaten annihilation, and you cannot even talk about football without starting a fight.   Are we watching the end of the world?  What’s next?  Elvis is still dead, right?  Will The Walking Dead become a reality show?

Infamous televangelist, Jim Baker, sells a wide variety of food and gear for those anticipating an epic cataclysm.  You can enjoy a king’s breakfast while the world dies around you.   You can get 31,000 servings of food for $4,500.  National Public Radio’s food critics called it “Apocalypse Chow” and found the meals were far from a royal feast.  However, if you are worried about the Yellowstone super caldera volcano, a meteor from space, or civil collapse, Rev. Baker is hawking the grub you need.

The National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Channel feature end of the world enthusiasts in their shows Doomsday Preppers and Apocalypse Preppers.  Families detail their preparations, training, and weapon mastery.  Viewers get tips on how to purify toilet water, “toilet water on the rocks.”  You can learn how to make a bug-out bag, properly store gasoline, and escape cities when society collapses.

People have been anticipating the end for a long time.  The early Christian church anticipated the return of Jesus in 365, 400, 500 and 800 AD.  Expecting the end of days, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III dug up long dead Charlemagne in the year 999 AD.  Because Otto expected the dead to rise at 12:00 am on January 1, 1000, Charlemagne was propped up in the corner, ready to walk again.  Y2K was going to destroy our modern world with a computer glitch crashing the power grid and financial markets.

Perhaps the question is not, “When will the end come?” but “How should we live in the meantime?”At various points in Martin Luther’s life, he was convinced the end was near.  He felt the church was ruled by the “Antichrist,” Ottoman Turks threatened the West, plagues swept the land, and peasants rose in revolt.  Luther faced these challenges by getting married and worked to reform the church and society.

Discussion Questions

  • What preparations has your family made for a minor disaster?  Where do you go during a storm?  What would you do if the power went out for a day, week or month?
  • Share stories of coping with a disaster like a house fire, tornado, earthquake, flood, riot, blizzard . . .
  • “Christian” author, David Meade, predicted an object from space would end the world on September 23, 2017.  We’re still here.  Why do these predictions make the news?
  • Luther’s response to living in turbulent times was to marry, raise a family and build a religious movement.  How should we live in a stressed world?


Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 5:18-24

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Ever wonder what the kingdom of heaven is like?  Jesus answers our question with a parable – a very difficult parable.  He says the kingdom of heaven is like bridesmaids waiting to enter a wedding banquet.  Some of the bridesmaids have their oil lamps ready.  Others don’t have enough oil, are left in the dark, and miss the groom’s invitation to enter the party.  Being unprepared blocks you from the kingdom of heaven.  Ouch.  I’m a slacker.  I procrastinate.  I’m never fully prepared.  I drive for miles with my gas tank on E.  Who among us is always ready?  Doesn’t Jesus offer grace?  Where is the grace in this parable?

We can find deeper meaning in the story if we focus on the lamps and the oil.  The lamps are simple clay vessels with small fiber wicks fueled by olive oil.  The lamps job is to illuminate – to provide light and help us find the way.

Follow the light and we follow God’s grace. We need to see God, Jesus, the holy and divine in our daily surroundings.   God’s love and grace is the illuminating force.  When we see God’s guiding presence, we can easily follow the bridegroom into the banquet.  We become lost when the wicks run dry and darkness overcomes us.  Luther reminds us that “we are saved by grace through faith.”  The wick and oil must surely be our faith.  How much faith do we need?  That’s another parable.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you find this parable harsh?  Bible texts can be interpreted through the lens of “Law or Gospel.”  How would “Law” comment on this parable?
  • Who or what illuminates God in your life?
  • When have you been a lamp for others?

Activity Suggestions

You have many events that require forethought, planning and grace.  Brainstorm the “prep” lists for:

  • first day of school
  • a big test
  • youth group fundraiser
  • ELCA National Gathering
  • job interview
  • athletic competition
  • prom
  • graduation
  • college
  • wedding
  • expecting a baby

Closing Prayer

Most merciful Father and gracious host, help us to be ready so that we can see your grace and love.  Help us tend your light and be a light to others, in your name we pray. Amen.