Pentecost 23- Those Bridesmaids!

Title:Pentecost 23- Those Bridesmaids!

 Eucharist on the River, Nov. 8 -(full size gallery)

We had a small crowd of 16 despite the warm 70’s weather for early Nov. Leaves are beginning to rapidly turn – a pretty time of year for the church.

The sermon considered the words of the Book of Wisdom in the setting of of the Gospel parable about the 5 foolish virgins who were separated from the bridegroom (Jesus) and the second coming.

These parable is designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. This parable focuses on the need to be ready, especially if there is a delay. 5 of the bridesmaids who were wise and took extra oil with them in contrast to the other 5 who did not (foolist bridesmaids).

From the sermon conclusion:

“So I want to be present and waiting, and ready, no matter how long God seems to be delayed.

“As the writer of Wisdom says, when we seek God, then God “graciously appears to us in our paths, and meets us in every thought.”

“So stay the course. Wait on God.

“And as we wait– Desire God’s coming. Wait with intention.

“Humbly ask for instruction. Love God and love keeping God’s laws.

“In doing these things, we will be awake and ready to go into the wedding banquet when he comes again in glory.

“And nothing, not even our own foolishness, will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, if we wait on the Lord.”

Commentary this week is by David Lose on Matthew 25:1-13 – “Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids”. This is the first Sunday of 3 on the subject of judgment as we approach the end of Year A on Nov. 26.

Tom Petty’s song “The Waiting” rings true here- “The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you see one more card. You take it on faith, You take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.”

“In her commentary on Working Preacher, Dr. Susan Hylen offers what I found to be a really helpful insight:

‘the point of the parable is not constant readiness. “Keep awake” does not imply that the disciples should never sleep, standing vigil through the ages for Christ’s imminent return. In fact, all of the bridesmaids, wise and foolish, are asleep when the shout announces the groom’s approach.

What is distinctive about this parable is its focus on the delayed return of the expected one. The passage does not simply call for right action in the groom’s absence. It calls for recognition that he may be delayed.’

“By the time Matthew wrote this parable, the discipleship community may have been waiting for Jesus’ return for fifty years or more. Most of the eye-witnesses were likely dead. The church had spread, but it had also been oppressed. The Temple revered by both the Jews who confessed Jesus and those who did not had been destroyed, wreaking havoc on Jewish and Christian communities (sometimes worshiping together) alike. Where was Jesus? Yes, the waiting is the hardest part.

“Given the anxiety experienced by the Thessalonians (which Paul tries to address in the appointed epistle reading) thirty years earlier, it’s understandable that Matthew would offer a series of parables underscoring both the need for preparedness and the difficulty of waiting. Now extend that challenge two millennia forward to our communities and you can appreciate how little sense it will make to twenty-first century communities to speak about waiting or preparing for Christ’s return, the delay of which already perplexed and vexed first-century communities. The apocalyptic imagination of the earliest Christians (including Paul), even if tempered by a half-century of delay (Matthew’s situation), has dissipated significantly in the two thousand years since.

“And yet the difficulty of waiting is still present. Perhaps more than ever, as we live in a culture where delayed gratification is nearly intolerable and any waiting is often seen as a waste of time.

“I have suggested before that the theme of “waiting” may be a helpful approach to this challenging parable, and will do so again, highlighting this time that not all waiting is the same. Waiting for something good – the birth of a healthy child, the closing on the house of your dreams, the promotion in a job or acceptance from college – is a lot different than waiting for something that is hard – waiting to see if this time you will be able to get pregnant, or for the foreclosure of your home because you couldn’t make the payment, or the doctor’s report confirming that the cancer has returned. And whether you are waiting for something good or bad, when the anticipated arrival is delayed, it’s almost always anxiety-provoking: why haven’t I heard from the college admissions office? Have they arrived safely? When will we hear from the doctor? The waiting, indeed, is the hardest part.

“Perhaps, then, two responses. When the waiting is for something positive, can we slow down to see in the moments of preparation and anticipation blessing. Once it’s here – the baby, the job, the acceptance, life will take on its own new and likely hectic timing. Can waiting at times be seen as gift rather than obstacle? Perhaps practice in waiting for those things we look forward to can help us to increase our patience and perseverance in other areas.

“When waiting is not for something positive, or when it is made harder by delay, can we assure people that they will not wait alone? The obvious tragedy in the parable is that five of the bridesmaids took no oil at all. They didn’t run out. They just didn’t bring any, making no plans, anticipating no delay. Surely there is something to learn here. But the less obvious, but also poignant, tragedy is that the five who had brought “flasks of oil” would not share. Why do they assume there will not be enough for all? The announcement of the groom’s imminent arrival had already been sounded, after all. Can we also learn from the wise but ungenerous bridesmaids and not force people to wait alone, so that no one in our communities has the isolating experience of being locked out?

“We often wonder what we can do as communities of faith to make what we offer more attractive to a culture increasingly disinterested with organized religion. Might we offer ourselves as a community that…. Wait, maybe that’s enough! Can we offer ourselves as a genuine community in a world where more and more people feel isolated? A community that celebrates together. That slows down to prepare together. And that waits together, making sure when the waiting is the hardest part that no one – not one person – has to wait alone? The waiting is the hardest part. We can’t change that reality, but we can change the experience by waiting together, in Christian solidarity, community, and fellowship.”