PROPERS: PROPER 27, YEAR A
TEXT: MATTHEW 25:1-13
PREACHED AT ST. PAUL’S, MAGNOLIA SPRINGS, ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2017.
ONE SENTENCE: Waiting is a part of a Christian journey.
The season is approaching when our children and grandchildren will be tingling with excitement as Christmas morning approaches.
No, I am not going to bypass the season of Advent and its call to prepare, but you know what I mean.
I can remember the palpable sense of excitement that coursed through my veins as a child. I watched the countdown in the paper – 24 shopping until Christmas, 23 shopping days until Christmas, and so on. Now, it seems to start with something like, 194 shopping days until Christmas.
My parents would take us on nighttime drives through neighborhoods to see the decorations in the various houses. I remember to this day that Babe Pierce’s house on Grandview Avenue always had a brilliantly lit silver Christmas tree.
The anticipation would ramp-up to a fever pitch on Christmas Eve when my paternal grandparents would arrive at our home. The trunk of their car would nearly spring open with presents for my sister, brother, and me.
Christmas Eve was a festive occasion – one of great joy and anticipation. But it also seemed to be the longest night of the year.
Would Christmas morning ever get here?
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Contrast that joyful, eager excitement with what I experienced at the Post Office this past week.
I was trying to mail a package. I had meticulously prepared the envelope, making sure that I had completed every element of the Priority Mail shipping label, I turned to move toward the clerk who would process my package.
There were 10 people in line. And there was one postal clerk.
The wait was the antithesis of the excitement of an approaching Christmas.
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I suspect you know both of those kinds of waiting.
I remember awaiting, with great anticipation, the birth of our first child – who was five days late. (We didn’t have to wait on the birth of our son, since he came a week early – the last time he was in a hurry for anything!)
And who among us has not waited on-hold for a customer service representative – replete with cheesy music and the assuring tape-recorded words, “Your call is important to us.”
And what about the agony of awaiting medical test results – knowing that what you will learn can mean life or death.
Waiting is part of life, it seems. For better, or for worse.
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Jesus uses the example of 10 bridesmaids awaiting the coming of the groom in today’s parable. Five are prepared for the wait, and five are not. Five have plenty of oil for their lamps, and five do not.
The parable seems to be eschatological in nature. That is, it has to do with end times, the Second Coming, the return of the Messiah.
It is not something we give a whole lot of thought to. We associate focus on end times with novels such as Tim LaHaye writes, or with tent revivals. In fact, at various pivot points of history – such as the Black Death in Europe – some religious movements anticipate the immediate return of the Messiah.
All this, in spite of Matthew’s words from Jesus that the time is not known and cannot be known.
So, like Christians for the last 2,000 years, we wait.
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What can we learn from the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Maidens?
It is like the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. Another image is hurricane preparedness: Stock your shelves, have plenty of batteries, keep water stored, and board your windows.
Except, in this case, it is stock the shelves of your soul; have plenty of batteries for your spirit; keep water stored to quench the thirst of your heart; and board your windows against those things which will distract you.
The Christian journey – down through the millennia – has been a time of waiting. And while each of us will have our ultimate time to come face-to-face with our Creator, our life, here and now, is one of patiently waiting, like the bridesmaids in the parable.
The challenge for us is to keep feeding our souls, to keep building our faith, and to stay focused on the work that our Lord calls us to.