November 6, 2005
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
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Scripture Readings

Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, 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 the hour.

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Invitation to Communion

One of my favorite books is this little volume – The New Man, by Thomas Merton. He begins his chapter “Called Out of Darkness” by talking about the parable Jesus tells in Matthew – the ten Bridesmaids. Merton says the life of the church is a life of waiting in the darkness – with vigilance ready to “ratify the moral option made in our baptism.” The darkness is the confusion, the mediocrity and the inertia of every day life with its distractions. When Christ tells us that the fundamental obligation of the Christian is vigilance and alertness, he is saying that we must keep our liberty awake, ready at any moment to make decisions that affirm our inner, spiritual identity as children of God.

I don’t know if any one here watched much of the funeral of Rosa Parks this past Wednesday. Certainly she would qualify as someone who ratified the moral option made in her baptism and affirmed – against a world that wanted to deny it – affirmed her inner, spiritual identity as a child of God.

When I tuned into her funeral in the afternoon, Louis Farrakhan, from the Nation of Islam, was beginning to speak from the pulpit of the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan.

It seemed odd to see him in the pulpit behind the words One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. I have never read a word that Farrakhan has written, although I’ve read about him in the newspapers, especially that he has made some hateful anti-Semitic remarks. But on this day his words were powerful and challenging because he held up to the Church the words of Christ and the example of Rosa Parks.

He said he liked to think about Rosa Parks as a disciple of Christ and read our thoughts when he asked – Farrakhan, what do you know about being a disciple of Christ? He said so many of us know the name of Christ, so many of us praise his name, but too few are willing to be his disciple. Rosa Parks was his disciple.

Then Farrakhan quoted the words of Christ about being a disciple. He noted that Christ did not say that to be a disciple you had to go to church – he did not say you had to sing in the choir – he did not even say you had to be baptized. But he said: If any man would be my disciple he must:
first - deny himself
second - must pick up his cross and
third -follow me.

He spoke about how Rosa Parks denied her comfort and security and then picked up the cross – not the cross you wear in your ear or around your neck that says you are what you may not be, he said, but the cross that represents rejection when you are righteous, false accusations when you are innocent. That’s the cross she took up that triggered the Montgomery bus boycott and everything that came from it.

But there is, he said, a problem – and here I thought someone might actually stand up and stop him from speaking. He turned to all the religious leaders and politicians on the podium and said, the problem is we denied ourselves for a moment and then compromised ourselves in the next moment because the cross bearing got too heavy.

And then he said – my appeal in her name is, that the church become the church, that the church never sell its soul, that the church not dirty its garment so that when the bridegroom comes the bride can’t go the altar because her garment is unclean.

To become a disciple, Farrakhan concluded, is to act on principals – deny yourself, don’t worry about self, think about something bigger than self – give up your false life in the name of Christ, take up your cross, and follow in his footsteps.
Well, there were a lot of stony faces on the stage during his words, but in spite of the messenger, I thought the message was important to hear.

It’s important to hear and to remember as we approach the table of our Lord, the table of his fellowship with his disciples the night before his denial of self, his denial of comfort and security, his acceptance of rejection, being falsely accused, taking up his cross, making real the moral choice of his baptism, affirming his spiritual identity as a child of God.

It is a honor to be invited to join him at his table, but also a challenge – the challenge of discipleship, of self denial, of taking up the cross.

We celebrate an open communion. This sacrament is for all who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God's people. Christ welcomes you. Christ recognizes you. Christ invites you into the circle of fellowship in his name.
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