11/9/2014 Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost The text for today’s sermon is Matthew 25:1-13.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Watching, waiting in anticipation, being ready for the day of the Lord…after working on the lessons for today, I had a sudden urge to do Christmas shopping! It may seem that today’s lessons are rushing the season in the same way that the stores which put up Christmas decorations before Halloween had passed. But as we enter the final weeks of the church year, the urgency of the Gospel call gets stronger and stronger. “Life as usual” cannot go on and on forever. We must prepare and be ready for the day of reckoning will surely come. That day will either be joyful or it will be a day of darkness. It all depends upon our readiness to follow the Lord when he beckons to us to come.
Are you ready? Are you ready to follow the bridegroom to the wedding banquet? Now even though I have not been married, I do know a little bit about weddings. The thing I know the most is that they require a lot of work. Most couples prepare months in advance…renting a hall, picking out clothing and flowers, hiring musicians, selecting a menu. Sometimes, it isn’t until after these things are done that the couple actually calls the church about getting married. It is then that the final preparations begin…a time for the ceremony is set. The couple comes in for premarital work. Lessons and music are selected. And finishing touches are put on the big day.
It’s a festive occasion…a day of happiness and joy. Not even rain or snow can dampen the spirit of the couple or the guests. Everyone is decked out and ready for a good time…with good music, good friends, good conversation and food.
If you can remember the most exquisite reception you ever attended, then you can begin to envision Jesus’ description of the heavenly feast…the banquet prepared for those who believe and trust in the Lord. He is the bridegroom who has paid for the celebration through the sacrifice of his own life on the cross. He is the bridegroom who invites everyone to come and then gathers the guests together. He is the host who opens the door for all who are ready to enter.
The parable we have for today, the parable of the wise and the foolish bridesmaids, tells us that readiness to enter the feast involves more than faith in the coming of the bridegroom. It involves more than the celebration of a one-day event. It involves a life time of making ready, of watching and waiting and replenishing physical and spiritual energy. Just as those selected to serve as bridesmaids at our weddings have long-term relationships with the bride, we are to have a long-term relationship with the church, the bride of Christ of Lord…a relationship that will begin today for Sophia as she is made a member of the church through Holy Baptism.
In the parable, all the bridesmaids wait in anticipation of the bridegroom’s coming. All are as eager as we to enter the wedding feast. But, only the wise bridesmaids are prepared. Only they bring what is needed for following the groom when he comes. The foolish bridesmaids act as though they KNOW when the groom will be there, so they fill their lamps once and that’s all. That’s all they believe they will need. The groom will come and they will follow – and voilà, they will have a good ole time. But, ah, how foolish they are proven to be and how foolish we all are if we feel a one-time prep is good enough. We know that a one-time prep, like baptism, is not enough…that’s why promises are made about coming to the Lord’s house and remaining part of the church. For, the truth is this: if we knew the Lord was on his way, the walls of this building couldn’t hold all those rushing to be baptized. But, we neither know the day nor the hour of the Lord’s coming. If we think we have it all figured out and plan to ready ourselves at the last moment to meet the bridegroom, we may find ourselves badly mistaken. We may be like the foolish bridesmaids who bring only enough oil to pierce the darkness for a short time. We may not be prepared in time to go – and our anticipating and our waiting may be in vain.
Now, I know that waiting is something we don’t do well. I know that I fidget when a doctor is running late, when traffic backs up on the highway, when I have to stand in a long line at the ladies room. When I have not been ready for such delays, things have gone from bad to worse…temper rises, appointments are missed, and embarrassing moments have occurred.
The foolish bridesmaids were caught in an embarrassing situation. When the bridegroom came, much to their surprise, they discovered that they had not brought enough oil with them and the others did not have extra to share with them. So, they missed out on the heavenly banquet. They missed out, not because they had broken one of the commandments, or failed to recognize the bridegroom. They missed out simply because they were unprepared.
It is important for us to realize that our life, work and worship are all signs of our readiness to follow the Lord. Our life will be either judged as meaningful or pointless by the priorities we have set and the acts we have done or left undone. As Christians we are called to be patient workers, but workers nonetheless. Every prayer offered, every deed of love performed, every act of mercy shown becomes a beacon, a sign that we are still watching and waiting. And those who watch and wait will not be disappointed. The bridegroom will come. He will come in his time and will open the doors for those who await him so that they can feast in his presence forever.
So, are you ready? How many times over the course of your lifetime has someone asked you that very question? If necessary we will be ready on time, but given a choice we’d like more preparation time…more time to get ready before leaving on a vacation, taking a test, welcoming guests, preparing a speech, having a baby, playing against a good team on the football field, celebrating Christmas and the coming of Christ. But, time marches on – we have only so long and if we wait for the last second, we may be unpleasantly caught by surprise. For how foolish we are if we make all the necessary preparations for things in this present life, most of which will soon be forgotten, and do not make ourselves ready for the end of our life on this earth.
So, let us not be foolish. Let us be wise by using the time, talents and possessions that God has given to us as beacons of his love. Let us remember that we are all stewards. We are a servant people who form the church, the bride of Christ. So, let us watch and wait together as wise bridesmaids. Let us be ready to follow the Lord when he comes – for he will lead us to the feast he has prepared for those whom he has chosen to be part of the wedding party and who have taken their role seriously.
As you watch and wait for the Lord, my friends, may the peace of God, which surpassed all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.