Summary: Being prepared in life is very helpful in reducing stress when one faces the inevitable delays of everyday life. Scripture teaches us that being prepared in faith is useful as well as we a wait the coming of the kingdom of heaven.

Delays; they are an inevitable part of our everyday lives. We experience delays in a variety of ways, but one of the most common delays that we all experience is in our travels, be it from weather, road construction, or traffic. While these delays are unavoidable, there are steps that we can take in order to plan for them. For instance, when we know the weather may impact our travel, may be we leave earlier than planned or wait for the weather to be clear. If there is major road construction or traffic in our daily commute, perhaps we leave early or take another route altogether. Preparing for delays can save us quite a bit of stress, anxiety, and worry that none of us really need in our lives. Just consider these tips for airline travel and preparing for delays from the blog [i]:

Flight delays rank up at the top of traveler’s worst nightmares. Delays claim the sanity of victims worldwide on a daily basis, but they needn’t be the bane of your existence. While you can’t control weather patterns or the airline’s tardiness, you can be a savvy traveler and avoid the fear, turmoil, and uncertainty of flight schedules with just a few tips and some preparedness.

- Have airline and hotel's customer service numbers handy

-Download some time-killing apps and games

-Buy travel insurance

-Check weather conditions

-Pack more supplies than you think you need in the event of a flight delay

-Pack extra power cables and/or batteries

-Bring plenty of snacks

Just by taking some simple steps when preparing for travel, inevitable delays can come and go with little to no stress. The gospel lesson before us today also speaks of delays and the importance of preparing for those delays. However, it may be surprising to find out what it truly means to be prepared in this situation.

This gospel lesson from Matthew presents to us a parable in a series of parables that Jesus was telling his disciples concerning the signs of the End of the Age and the Coming of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem here, around the area of the temple, and the disciples are marveling over the beauty and awe of the buildings that are surrounding them. This particular parable comes in the middle of Jesus' diatribe using a familiar setting for his parable - a wedding. Jesus tells a tale of 10 bridesmaids, or virgins (unmarried girls) in the original Greek, who are responsible for getting the bride ready while they wait for the bridegroom to arrive. In ancient Jewish wedding traditions these bridesmaids would be the ones to receive the groom at the ceremonial house the night before the wedding ceremony and banquet, typically seven days long, was set to begin. Here in this tale five of the ten bridesmaids bring plenty of oil to help keep there lamps lit would the bridegroom be delayed in arriving. The other five, however, did not bring such provisions, and when the bridegroom does arrive they have run out of oil in their lamps and leave the ceremonial house in order to try to buy more. Having missed the bridegrooms arrival, and being away when they entered the house, those latter five bridesmaids are left outside not being allowed to enter.

Jesus finishes this parable with what seems to be a warning that those waiting for the coming kingdom of heaven must keep watch, and be prepared for no one knows when that day or hour may come. An assumption then can be made that to be prepared, would be to bring enough oil so that your lamp does not run out. Perhaps, however, this understanding of the parable is too narrow. Consider for a moment, the request the five unprepared bridesmaids make. They ask the first five to share some of their oil, but if they were to do this they may all run out of oil and then no one would have a light in order to guide them when the bridegroom does come, thus they decline to share their oil. The question I have here is did those five bridesmaids need lamps to begin with? If they are all in a group waiting for the bridegroom, and once he arrived if they all went into the ceremonial house together, would not the five lamps that did have enough oil give off enough light for them all to see? Logic would tell us that yes, those five lamps would be enough. If that is the case, it is not so much that the latter five bridesmaids did not have enough oil, but the fact that they were focused too much on having enough oil and worried that they did not have enough that when the bridegroom came they were not there to meet him. If we extrapolate this out to what it means for the coming of the kingdom of heaven, the oil is faith. And if we are worried about not having enough faith instead of just being there waiting, we may miss the coming of the kingdom of heaven. The truth is, that if it is about having enough faith to be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven then I am afraid we will all be on the outside of the ceremonial house door instead of on the inside. Maybe we should focus not on having enough faith, but trusting that God will accept us for the amount of faith we do have.

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