Our Lesson today can seem a little outdated... a little antiquated, I suppose. And I’ll admit it... right here, in front of God and everyone... that I wouldn’t be preaching on this particular lesson today, had it not been today’s Lectionary reading.
All this talk about lamps, and oil... trimming wicks.... virgins, for heaven’s sake... that’s pushing the limits for any good Presbyterian!
We just don’t think in such terms today, for the most part. So we tend to “write-off” such Lessons as insignificant... out-of-touch... or not-so-relevant for our lives today... and we just move on to something, somewhere else that makes more sense to us as 21st century Christians.
But, the older I get... it’s becoming more and more apparent to me... that many times.... the scripture Lessons that I don’t immediately appreciate or relate to... contain valuable truths that we all need to wrestle with... there’s always a word of truth that we need to hear in Jesus’ words... even when we have to dig a little... or sift through some obsolete sounding stuff to get there!
Jesus offers us a Parable about a wedding feast... and 10 virgins... or bridesmaids. Of the ten young women, half we’re told were wise, half were foolish. The wise made preparations for the coming of the bridegroom. They made sure that they had oil for their lamps, so they could participate in the wedding parade... even if that procession was at night!
Back in Jesus’ day, engagements often lasted a pretty long time... and when the day for the wedding arrived... the wedding party would gather at the home of the bride, and wait for the groom to arrive (and apparently that occasionally took a while, even into the wee hours of the morning)... and once the groom arrived... they’d make a procession together to the groom’s home, where the wedding festivities would be held.
But the five foolish bride’s maids were unprepared... they had lamps, for the procession... but no oil...
We’re told, as fate would have it, the bridegroom was delayed... a “long time in coming.” In fact... the groom was so late... that all the young women (the wise and foolish alike) had fallen asleep...
But when the announcement rang out (in the middle of the night) that the Bridegroom had finally arrived... they 10 virgins woke up... running out to meet the groom!
And that’s when it dawned on the foolish bridesmaids, that they were unprepared. They tried to borrow lamp oil from the others.... the wise... but the answer was no.
Of course, by they time the unwise women had secured oil for their lamps.... the procession was over... the doors were locked... the banquet had begun.
So they begged and pleaded, “Lord, lord, open the door for us.” But the bridegroom replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”
Jesus wrapped-up his odd little parable up... with a word of advice: “Keep watch (or stay awake) because you do not know the day or the hour.”
In other words, be prepared... live wisely.
The Christian Church has been waiting for Christ’s return for over 2000 years. It’s easy to lose focus when you’ve been waiting for so long... to become drowsy... and maybe even fall asleep.
How many times (in our lifetime) have we heard the Church referred to as a “sleeping giant?”
It kinda begs the question: Are we, as a church awake? Are we prepared? Have we put in the work required to be ready?
We prepare for all sorts of things in life, don’t we? Most working people have retirement plans of some sort, a 401k or any IRA... or at least Social Security. We know the day’s coming when we’re gonna need those funds in order to provide the necessities of life.
If a hurricane’s brewing and forecasters say it’s possibly heading our direction, we store up water, milk and bread! Just mention the word SNOW and bread will fly off the shelves faster than a box of donuts disappears at a preacher’s meeting!
I was watching a segment on “College Game Day” last Saturday, on how coaches... Division 1 College coaches (who tend to be 50-70 years old), sometimes struggle to relate to the young players they recruit (who tend to be 18-21 years old)... Some try to keep up with the music the players listen to... some will try to know what video games are popular... things like that. But one way for the older coaches to relate to the younger players... is to stay up-to-date on the lingo, the phrases, the terminology the young players use... the way they speak... what they say.
And one phrase or word that stuck out, was the work “WOKE.” Have you ever heard that? “Woke” means to be alert... to be “all-in”... to be mentally aware, and focused on the game plan. “Woke.”
Well, for the church... our church... us... being “woke” means being wise.... being prepared. Jesus expects his Church to be “woke”.... to be working in this world... He calls us to be the living, breathing hands and feet of Christ... preparing for the day when He will finally make all things new!
It’s our job and calling to let Christ lead us into his truth... and to live that truth... using everything God has given us, for His honor & glory. Using the gifts and graces God has blessed us with in Christ, to do His work and will in the Church and the community.
Live wisely. Be wise... be prepared. Let’s intentionally seek out ways to show God to others – and to do the work of the Lord. It takes preparation... it takes commitment... It takes energy and effort - it takes prayer! Lots and lots of prayer!
Like we talked about two Sundays back... We're called to love the Lord with all... All our heart, mind, soul and strength... And we're called to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we live our faith in such a way... we will be prepared... we will be "woke." If we back that up with what we talked about last week... keeping Jesus FIRST, others SECOND, and you (ourselves) last... we’ll find And we'll also be able to say, “God, I used what You gave me for Your glory – and to do Your work and will in the Church and the community.” That’s living wisely and being wise.
Jesus said, “Keep watch (stay “woke”) because you do not know the day or the hour.”