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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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One Sunday, after worship, a young dad wondered why, right before Jesus tells the disciples to see him in the faces of people who are suffering, Jesus tells the story about five foolish bridesmaids who don’t remember to take oil for their lamps when going to meet the bridegroom Matthew 25.1-13. When they asked the wise bridesmaids for a little oil, they were told, “no way! We won’t have enough for ourselves! Go buy your own!”

Nate wondered why, when on one hand Jesus is telling us that God is in the suffering, why couldn’t they spare a little oil?

Jesus is a complex person. He has a story for pretty much every situation, and this story about the five foolish bridesmaids is a lesson about being prepared — or rather not being prepared to welcome God’s kingdom. And in the story, the kingdom is like a big wedding party and the five bridesmaids who didn’t take extra oil with them missed the party while they were off buying oil. This story could be hoarder’s perfect rationale!

This isn’t about having enough food in case visitors drop by; it isn’t about buying supplies for a 72 hour emergency; it’s about living your life in a constant state of preparedness for joy to come to you.

Mark 13:24-37 carries the same meaning — both are passages that we call apocalyptic — which means ‘unveiling’ and refers to predictions about end times. Apocalyptic writings exist in Judaism from after the exile through the early church until the time of the Middle Ages. But never were apolcalyptic ideas more popular than today — apocalypse runs through so many movies and video games, it is a major theme of pop culture. In popular culture it seems apocalyptic themes always emphasize doom and gloom .

But when Jesus talks about God’s kingdom, it’s not the doom and gloom he is emphasizing for theatrical effect. In the Gospel of Thomas, one of the books that didn’t make it into the bible, the disciple asks Jesus when the “new world” would arrive and Jesus replies “What you are looking forward to has come, but you don’t know it.” They ask him when the “kingdom” will come. “It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Rather, the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.”

God’s kingdom is pure joy and he wants us to live our lives in constantly prepared for that joy to come to us, constantly looking for God’s joy, hidden all around us. hidden behind the faces of the suffering. We should always have enough oil, so that the darkness never overcomes us, we should be like the fig tree in a constant spring — sprouting with the new life that is within us.

Recently, a young widow said that what she missed most about her late husband was that he was always full of excitement and life. He was crazily prepared — being silly with his kids, rocking in the front row at the Gospel rock service.

God didn’t want us to skulk in the shadows of life with a blown out candle. Rather, God wants our lamps trimmed with plenty of back up oil, awake and alert to the signs of God coming, ready for the party.

And even when the sun and moon cease to give off light, when the stars fall and the heavens groan, watch for the coming of God.

Advent is a time to look for the hidden joys behind the negatives:

  • the white cop hugging a black teen in Ferguson;
  • the healing possible when stories of assault and harassment are believed;
  • Jews and Palestinians working together for peace and justice;
  • expressions of love in the midst of pain.

There is joy in the world. It is there to be found. And it is a sign that God is persistently seeking to come to us yet again this Christmas. Get ready!



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