OH MY GOSH WHAT A WEEKEND!!!!!
Turkey Supper, Church Bazaar, Mom/Sister/Nephew in town, Association Fall Meeting – is my head still screwed on straight?? Here is this morning’s sermon! I’ve got lots to share later …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
November 9, 2014
We Have To Be Ready
The day that Bruce and I got married, I told him that he and his groomsmen needed to be at the church by 1:00 in the afternoon. He kept telling me he thought that would be too early, but I was worried that they would get distracted and end up late, that the parking lot would fill up and there would be no place for them to park, that we would all somehow cross paths before we were supposed to or a host of other irrational things that brides obsess over before their wedding.
So Bruce and his groomsmen, knowing better than to cross a bride on the day of her wedding, showed up at the church promptly at 1:00.
The wedding started at 3:00.
I may have overreacted slightly.
But here is the thing – our wedding day was upon us and I wanted everyone to be on time and prepared.
(Although – full disclosure – my bridesmaids and I actually ended up being about ten minutes late, but that is besides the point.)
In this morning’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told a parable where he compared the kingdom of heaven to a wedding with ten bridesmaids. The bridesmaids were waiting for the bridegroom, who had not yet arrived, to return to the house. While they were waiting, they all fell asleep.
We do not know many of the details of this particular wedding, but – in general – weddings back in that time were quite an elaborate process. Guests would meet at the home of the bride’s family and her parents would entertain everyone while they waited for the bridegroom to arrive. When the bridegroom did arrive, everyone – including the bridesmaids – would light torches or lamps and would go outside and greet him. They would then lead the bridegroom to his parents’ house, where his parents would be waiting for the ceremony and the wedding banquet.
For whatever reason, the bridegroom in this parable was late.
(See, I made sure that would not happen at my wedding.)
So the bridegroom was late and the bridesmaids all fell asleep. Eventually the bridegroom did arrive and it was time to for everyone to escort him to his parents’ house for his wedding ceremony and banquet.
But only half of the bridesmaids were really prepared. Five of the bridesmaids did not put oil in their lamps that were supposed to light the way. And when they were awoken at midnight to greet the bridegroom, those five bridesmaids – the foolish bridesmaids, as they were referred to in the scripture – were not able to light their lamps.
The foolish bridesmaids asked the bridesmaids who did bring oil – the wise bridesmaids, as they were referred to in the scripture – if they could use some of their oil, but the wise bridesmaids did not think that they had enough for all ten lamps, so they sent the foolish bridesmaids to the store. But while they were at the store, the bridegroom was ready to go and he left with the wise bridesmaids. By the time the foolish bridesmaids returned, they were too late – everyone had left to go to the wedding ceremony and banquet.
As much as I would like to believe that Jesus was actually talking about a wedding here (it would help me justify the fact that I forced the groomsmen to show up at the church two hours prior to our wedding with nothing to do because LOOK BRUCE YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED IT SAYS SO IN THE BIBLE), Jesus was not talking about a wedding. He was talking about the kingdom of heaven.
The bridegroom represents Jesus in this parable. The wedding banquet represents the second coming, the presence of God on earth that is still unknown. And the bridesmaids represent us, those that Jesus was speaking this parable to 2,000 years ago and us today – the Church, Disciples of Christ, the Priesthood of all Believers, Children of God.
Half of the bridesmaids were not ready for the bridegroom. They had no oil in their lamps; no way of lighting his path to the wedding ceremony and banquet. And while they tried to run to the store and get ready at the last minute, by the time they went there and came back, everyone was gone. It was too late.
Do not let it be too late in your life.
Jesus is the bridegroom. We are the bridesmaids. And we have to be ready for the moment in our lives when God breaks through our humanity and calls us to minister throughout the world.
Jesus ended the parable by saying, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Jesus is calling us in this parable to stay awake; to be able to know when God is in our midst and to be ready for that moment. We have to keep awake; we have to be ready for the moment in our lives when God comes to us and calls us.
On the outside, all ten of the bridesmaids looked the same. They all had lamps, they were all waiting and they all fell asleep together.
But only half of them were ready – really ready – for the moment when the bridegroom showed up and it was time to go to the wedding banquet.
And that made all the difference.
How many of us are ready – really ready – for the moment in our lives when God comes into our midst and calls us to do his work in the world?
Our readiness will make all the difference when that happens.
God created the world and when he did, he created human beings. But God did not just create human beings; God called human beings as well.
Look at how The Message – which is a translation of the bible written in contemporary language – translates the chapter in Genesis where God creates human beings.
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
From the very beginning, God called us to be ready to hear his call and to live out that call on earth. If we do not do it, then no one else will.
But we have to be ready. We have to make ourselves ready.
Discipleship is not something that just happens; discipleship is something that we choose to actively participate in throughout our lives. We choose to open ourselves up for the moment that God will come into our midst. We choose to prepare ourselves for that moment. We choose to embrace and celebrate both that moment and our readiness for that moment.
So how do we prepare?
First of all, we have to open our eyes and ears and minds and our hearts so that we are able to know when God is in our midst. We desperately have to try to eliminate the distractions that keep us from knowing God; that shift our focus away from our faith; that push us to give in to who we are as humans and not who we are as blessed children of God.
We have to come to church and truly be committed to its life and to its ministries. We have to worship, serve and learn. We have to give of ourselves and give of our gifts. We have to take care of ourselves so that we are able to take care of others.
We have to have patience. We have to be humble. We have to be willing to speak less and listen more. We have to be gentle with others, knowing that they are traveling on a faith journey of their own.
Now is the time! Now is the time to be committed, to let our lights shine, to be active disciples and to show God that we are ready to be called – and to answer that call – to minister throughout the world. We cannot be complacent in our efforts to be who God is calling us to be; we have to try harder than that.
We are here – which is half the battle.
But now the work begins.
So perhaps Bruce and his groomsmen did not need to arrive at the church a full two hours before the start of our wedding ceremony.
But we do have to be intentional in our lives to be ready for God.
The moment is now. It is time to look carefully at ourselves and decide if we want to be the foolish bridesmaids or if we want to be the wise bridesmaids.
Let us – with great joy and anticipation of what is and what is to come – prepare ourselves for the moment when God will enter our lives and be ready and willing to respond.
Thanks be to God!