Ready for the Party?
25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
25:2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
25:3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;
25:4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
25:5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.
25:6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
25:7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps.
25:8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
25:9 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.’
25:10 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.
25:11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’
25:12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
25:13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
- Delay is hard. Waiting for anything is hard. ( ex. on the phone if put on hold, in line at a store, driving through construction, reconnection when internet is down, when golfer ahead of youis taking too long between holes, counting of ballots). We are used to life in the fast lane and in general, we are accustomed to a fast- paced world. We look for our food to be delivered quickly, for an immediate or prompt reply to texts or emails, faster modes of travel, and we can get easily duped chasing get rich quick or lose weight quick plans.
- Though we pray about and read in scripture about the virtue of having patience as a value, we don’t live like we really embrace the idea. And as Christians, what would it look like if we did have patience? Let’s read today’s text to dig deeper into this question.
- This parable is part of Jesus’ teaching about the end times. Background on the customs of the times: Guests arrive at the home of the bride where they are entertained by her parents. When the groom arrives, the guests and bridesmaids light torches and go greet him. Then he escorts them back his home where his parents have prepared for the ceremony and a grand banquet afterwards.
- In this case, the groom is late, finally showing up at an unexpected time, midnight, with loud shouts of joy! Jesus tells us right up front that the bridesmaids are one of two types: wise and foolish. He tells us this implying that we could not tell them apart by superficial observation. They are all dressed appropriately, all have their lanterns, all appear to be ready for the party. So what distinguishes them? Their preparedness.
- What does it mean to be prepared for the wedding feast? Stockpiling toilet paper, canned goods, paper towels, going to hairdresser or barber, or your favorite restaurant that may not be open beyond this season of warm weather? Does it look like being prepared for another shut down which is the situation that many around the country are finding themselves as cases of Covid-19 begin to surge once again?
- Answer—no. Real preparation comes in cultivating faith, love, and depth of relationship with God continually, such that you don’t “rest” on your reserves. By continuing to intentionally prepare, we ready ourselves for the real party that will start when the Bridegroom, which is Jesus, comes back.
- How do we get prepared? Attending to spiritual disciplines—Bible reading, prayer, fasting, gathering with others who are waiting like you are—worship, phone, zoom, etc., and engaging in acts of generosity and service.
- The early church and the church of today has had to adjust to the fact that Jesus has not returned as quickly as we would have expected or wanted. We have to wait with patience. In the meanwhile, we need to live with faith, hope, and courage, knowing that the God who created the world will continue to keep it and us in God’s providential care until Jesus does come again.
- Though this parable is talking primarily about Jesus’ triumphant return and the final day of judgment (the Eschaton), I would suggest that it could also point to mini versions of an eschaton (time of Jesus revelation) of sorts. Every time, we find the strength to continue on, not giving up, in the face of extreme challenges—Jesus has shown up and vanquished the power of despair. When we show love for others by working for justice, stepping out in faith, despite obstacles and threats, Jesus has shown up overturning the powers of oppression. Every time those who are ill are comforted in inexplicable ways and by the kindness of others, Jesus has shown up and overcome the power of fear. Every time someone has their need met for the necessities of life, Jesus has shown up overwhelming the power of scarcity and want. Jesus will keep showing up until he finally all things are made new!
- The parable shows that in our normal rhythms and routine of life, Jesus keeps showing up. Remember both the wise and the foolish fell asleep waiting for the groom. But the question is when he does show up at an unexpected time, will he find us with our flames burning or extinguished?
- The wise bridesmaids were the ones who had prepared themselves with acts of kindness, mercy and justice, represented symbolically by the oil. The ones who had been working on the character traits outlined in the other sermon on the mount in chapters 5-7. These were the ones whose lamps were aglow such that their light would shine before others so that their good deeds might be seen and bring glory to God. The foolish are caught off guard, and all they can do is ask to borrow from the wise. But that’s impossible. You can’t borrow righteousness, character, moral fiber, from someone else or from a group of people. We cannot share spiritual reserves.
- The same things that prepared the wise bridesmaids for the Groom’s arrival sustained them until his arrival. In the midst of life’s joy and sorrow, triumphs and adversities, excitement and the mundane, faith and hope enable us to lay down in peace and wake up in peace.
- So let’s get ready for the party! We don’t want to be counted among the foolish, crying out Lord Lord, then hearing ‘not everyone who says to me, Lord Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven’. 7:21
- The time to prepare for that party is now. Let’s not get caught up worrying about the time of Jesus’ return, but with patience let us wait. While we’re waiting, let’s be about building up our own oil supply to sustain us in the waiting and to demonstrate our readiness to go with him when he DOES come. There are people who will benefit from our attention now. Our country needs us to live out our faith and hold fast to the character traits Jesus outlined now. Jesus might delay in returning, but our delay in acting not only could affect us individually, but our nation and even the world. Let’s get dressed up and light up our lanterns. We won’t worry about running out of oil because we’re going to get to work, intentionally pursuing spiritual disciplines that cultivate and reflect a life of someone actively following Jesus… continuing until the he comes to take us to the party.