Summary: Living in an uncertain world requires planning and watchfulness
Matt. 25 : 1 – 13
Television programs have changed in our time. No more well-crafted production with professional actors and actresses, but you can have ordinary people become stars in what has been dubbed reality TV. And so we have the Big Brother Big Sister, Housewives of Atlanta, the Housewives of Beverly Hills and the Housewife of Washington DC. If you want a little spice and youthful opulence, how about seeing how to keep Up with the Kardashians? Perhaps you can see men going abroad to bring their wives into America “Before the 90 Days” or watch those who have already brought their spouses and are counting the 90 days when they must either get married to an American or return to their countries. Congress set up the K1 Visa at the end of WWII to help the GIs bring their girlfriends home to America. It has proven so popular that there is a whole industry and now a television show. Our story today set before the days of the television can fit perfectly into a reality show. Think about the Bachelor reality TV show. A man must choose from among ten girls, but that is the easy part the real test is getting prepared and staying awake to meet the groom. Would the groom be on time; would the brides stay awake? Would they make the necessary preparation and persevere? Would they get distracted? Stay tuned!
There are lots of things that can distract us in our postmodern world. The Mariam Webster’s Dictionary defines watchfulness as “vigilant, wide-awake, alert, being on the lookout especially for danger or opportunity”. If you ask anyone who has experienced war about watchfulness, you may learn a thing or two about what it is like to be vigilant, wide awake, alert and being on the lookout”. The soldier is particularly attuned to sounds and movements and anything unusual quickly arouses the curiosity of the soldier. They have been trained to pay attention to what can be dangerous in the battlefield. Life depends on staying alert and safety requires being familiar with what can be dangerous. In a way we Christians are to borrow a leaf from those in the battlefield and our Lord used the parable of the ten virgins as an illustration of the importance of watchfulness. For those of us not familiar with the culture of the Middle East in the time of Christ, there may be some confusion about the practice of waiting for the bridegroom. There were two phases to the wedding ceremony. The first phase was the banquet or feast where the groom meets the bride. At the second phase, the bride accompanies the groom to his home and meets his family where the festivity continues. The story in our Gospel Reading today concerns the first phase where the bride is waiting for the groom.
Turn with me to the Gospel of Mathew 25 : 1- 13.
Ten brides are waiting for their groom and it is clearly an illustration of what can happen for those waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven. In the days before electricity, the brides each were ready as can be seen in the fact that they all took their lamps (v.1) but notice that it is not just the lamp that is the issue but the details in the preparation. Five of the brides took extra oil for the lamp and the other five described as “foolish” just took the lamp with no planning for any contingency. The other five described as prudent took extra oil for their lamp. They planned ahead and thought about what could go wrong. As is often the case, what can go wrong often goes wrong, in this case, the groom was late and they do what humans do best, they all fell asleep. When we asleep, we remember very little of the world and our surrounding but because the prudent had prepared ahead of time, getting up to meet the groom was not an issue. The groom showed up at midnight and the messenger summoned the brides. Notice that they all had to prepare to meet the groom and make a good impression. They trimmed their lamps (v.7). That was when the other five noticed that they were running out of oil for their lamp and so they asked to borrow some oil from the other five (v.8). Not about to shortchange themselves, the prudent five as was their nature planned well and again look at the future and refused to share since they were concerned with self-preservation. They had a good suggestion though for their colleagues: “go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves,” they suggested (v. 9). Finding themselves between a rock and a hard place, the foolish virgins had to make a quick decision. Do we go out in the dark and meet the groom and lost the chance of being selected or do we rush to the dealer and get some oil and dart back quickly before the dinner starts? They opted to go and get some oil. While they were gone, the groom came, got everyone together, the feast started and the door was shut (v.10). They returned and despite all pleadings, the groom refused to open the door for the other five and days and months of preparation and anticipation went down the drain. Look at verse 12 “But he answered and said, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you”. Our Lord concluded the parable as Mathew often reports with a lesson from the story “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (v. 13).