Readings for the day (Sunday, November 12, 2017):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Are you a patient person? A patient person, someone who is able to accept or tolerate delays. Patience would not be how I would describe my children or my wife. This impatience certainly comes out during harvest time. As we’re going down the road and we come up behind a tractor, combine, or other slow moving vehicles, I’ll hear from the back seat of the car, “Why you slowing down, Daddy? Go faster!” Or when I’m sitting at a red light, I’ll hear from the back seat, “Go daddy!” And then the second the light turns green, I’ll hear from the passenger seat, “It’s green.”
We are not always the most patient people, are we? I wonder, is our impatience a result of the advancement of technology that keeps getting faster and more connected? Or is our impatience self-inflicted by how busy we have become? We can certainly blame technology for making us impatient. My boys get frustrated when a Netflix show takes a little longer to load because of slow internet. But what we would consider slow internet today is nothing like what dial up internet was just 15 plus years ago. So yes, technology can be blamed. But we also need to look at ourselves. If we are impatient and unable to accept or tolerate delays because we have too much going on at once, then maybe our busyness has created our impatience.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of the ten bridesmaids. These bridesmaids are eager to meet the bridegroom. They head out to wait for his arrival. They all take oil burning lamps with them, but only five of the ten take a flask of extra oil. And their eagerness begins to dwindle as the bridegroom’s arrival is delayed. He is delayed so much that all ten became drowsy and fell asleep. The wise and the foolish fall asleep. No one is able to stay ready and awake for the bridegroom; especially with the bridegroom’s delay.
This parable is one of the many reasons why I like the lectionary and the flow of the church year; because without this structure, we wouldn’t study this parable much. Who really wants to hear about the foolish ones who were not properly prepared for when Jesus returned and who inevitably were late to the party and were locked out of the wedding banquet? But as we near the season of Advent, which is next month, we hear and study places in scripture where Jesus talks about His second coming – His coming in glory to judge the quick and the dead. This parable being one of those texts.
In many parables, including this one, the main point of the teaching is to show the relationship between the Father, and the Son, and the church. At the end of all things, when Jesus returns, there is going to be a wedding and more specifically a wedding banquet or what today we call a wedding reception. And our Heavenly Father is throwing this party because his Son, Jesus, the bridegroom, is getting married. He is getting married to the church, the whole church, the Body of Christ.
So we have these bridesmaids, or we could call them, the church. The Body of Christ, some wise, some foolish, went to meet the bridegroom, Jesus. But Jesus was delayed in coming for the wedding. So the church must wait for Christ to return. Waiting takes patience and preparation. How good are you at waiting? And what do you do while you wait? The five foolish bridesmaids went out to meet the bridegroom, but they were not prepared for the delay. And when Jesus did finally come, they had to run to get oil and ended up being late to the party. What do you do while you wait? Do you just wait? Or do you use this time to prepare yourself for the bridegroom’s delay?
Some ways in which we prepare ourselves for the bridegroom’s delay and eventual arrival, are two simple things: Word and Sacrament. Hear and study God’s Word and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The wise bridesmaids were prepared. With extra oil, they were prepared for the future. They were looking to the day of the resurrection and judgment when Jesus would return. The foolish bridesmaids were not prepared. With no extra oil, they were only prepared and focused on the present. In order to prepare ourselves for the bridegroom’s arrival, and delay, we must not get caught up in the here and now. Rather than placing your hope in things of this world (which cannot save you nor can they prepare you for Christ’s return), instead place your hope in God (who can and does save you). So continue to hear and study the Word of God throughout the week. For it is through scripture that we fill our flasks with oil and thus preparing us for whenever the bridegroom returns. And continue to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Through Christ’s Body and Blood, we are given the strength and the stamina to await the unknown arrival of the bridegroom.
The bridegroom might be delayed, but He is still coming. Many in the church have been too impatient for the bridegroom. So they have given up on waiting and have returned to living their lives focused on the present, here and now without any hope of the future resurrection and wedding banquet to come. And they are the ones who will be sorry, for they will be the foolish bridesmaids who troubled themselves only with present matters, and forgot about God. They are the ones who will scramble at the last minute to get oil, but by the time they return, they will be too late. The wedding banquet between Christ and His church will have already begun. And there the wise bridesmaids will be enjoying communion with all of the saints for all of eternity.
Until the day of Resurrection and of judgment, we gather around our Lord’s Table and feast on the Body and Blood of Christ. For it is this simple meal of bread and wine that gives us a foretaste of that heavenly feast to come. Can you patiently wait for that? Amen.
© 2017 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.