Summary: At any given time, on any given day, God's kingdom is revealing itself to us. Are you alert and ready to respond?
November 8, 2020
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
On Being Ready
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)
Caribou Coffee opened its doors in Edina, Minnesota in 1992. Since then, they’ve mushroomed into hundreds of locations throughout the United States, including here in Eau Claire.
For a coffee joint, they came up with a most fitting motto: “Life is short. Stay awake for it.”
Caffeinated coffee is the favored pick-me-up for many of us. Whether we’re waking up in the morning or struggling through a post-lunch slump, coffee can get our gears moving again. Caribou’s saying captures the urgency of living fully. Let us relish and appreciate every single day we’re given.
However, there are ways we can sleep through life that no amount of caffeine can remedy. Jesus’ parable of the ten maidens is addressing this mental and spiritual sleepiness. How are we shuffling through our days on autopilot? How have we become numbed and sedated to the struggles and silent crises going on around us? Are we sleepwalking on our faith journey?
We hear today one of Jesus’ parables. It’s a kingdom parable. Something about this story describes an aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven. This parable highlights the importance of staying alert and prepared.
The parable centers on a wedding celebration. In first century Palestine, a wedding was a huge event. The festivities went on for a week. The groom made his way from his house to that of his bride where the ceremony would take place. The bridesmaids stood outside and kept watch for him. They were to meet him and join the procession to the wedding. However, the exact time of his arrival was unknown. As he came near, someone in the groom’s party hailed his arrival so people would know he was coming.
In Jesus’ parable, the bridesmaids have taken their posts to wait for the groom to arrive. Hour after hour passed, but still he hadn’t come. Finally, in the middle of the night, the shout was heard. The groom was on his way.
Some of the bridesmaids had come prepared for a later than anticipated arrival. They’d brought extra oil for their lamps. But other bridesmaids weren’t as foresightful. Their lamps had nearly run out of oil when the groom arrived. As he was approaching, they had to run off to purchase more oil. They missed his arrival. By the time they returned, the door to the banquet had been shut.
The foolish maidens had not been prepared for extenuating circumstances. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Being prepared helps the student whose teacher plans an unexpected pop quiz. Surgeons and their teams go through extensive efforts to prepare for an operation. Expecting parents prepare their house for a newborn. Every month we hold a fire drill for the Rachel’s Place children to prepare them on what to do if there should be a fire.
A number of years ago I had the opportunity to hear Robert O’Neill speak. O’Neill had been part of the Seal Team 6 which raided the Bin Laden compound. He spoke about the extensive training that candidates for the Navy Seals go through. Not only is it physically and mentally grueling, it also formulates their thinking. They’re constantly learning to plan ahead. They want to be ready for any potential turn of events. They’re trained to keep a hawk-like awareness of all that goes on around them.
O’Neill related the thorough training the team went through to prepare for the raid on the Bin Laden compound. They went over and over their plans and actions. They memorized the compound. They knew exactly where their helicopters would land, how far they would need to travel by foot. The team knew who would go first and who would follow. They prepared for potential complications, including what to do if they lost a helicopter.
It was very moving and motivational to listen to him. His message boiled down to the critical importance of preparation. Don’t put off til tomorrow which you should do today. I think we all came away from his presentation determined to be as prepared and diligent as possible.
Jesus’ parable of the maidens accentuates the importance of preparation and alertness. He bids us to keep awake and be ready.
But what does this look like in God’s kingdom? Whenever I hear one of Jesus’ kingdom parables, my antennae immediately point towards Martin Luther’s explanation on “Thy kingdom come.” He writes:
“God’s kingdom comes indeed without our praying for it, but we ask in this prayer that it may come also to us.”