11/12/2023 SERMON: ‘Are YOU Ready?!
Rev. Jane Courtright
O.K. then. I have another confession to make this morning.
I am often a procrastinator!
I can tell if a job is one that I really hate to do!
Then, even if I do think it consciously,
I act out the saying:
“Don’t’ do today
what you can put off until tomorrow!’
that means that I often have too many clothes
in my closet, dresser, hanging about.
It seems that I’ll tackle almost any job
rather than set aside to sort through my clothes
and take them to the resale shop.
In my own defense, however,
there are lots of my clothes hanging in the shop.
& I have grown better at downsizing my wardrobe.
I was actually able to fit an extra hanging rod
in my closet a couple of weeks ago!
This tendency toward procrastination does
give me some sympathy for the young bridesmaids
who were so excited about
and looking forward to the wedding feast
that they didn’t bother to take
any extra oil for their lamps.
And what about those other smug bridesmaids
who were just so perfectly prepared,
but wouldn’t even share any of their extra oil
with their friends!
I can tell you one thing:
this would never have happened
If those young women had had cell phones!
After all, the wedding itself was supposed
to happen during the day, NOT AT NIGHT!
So, It’s kind of amazing that any of them
took lamps, let alone oil!
ALL of them had enough oil
to last all through the day & evening.
Who would expect the bridegroom
to make his grand entrance
at his OWN wedding at midnight?!
If he’d been on time,
everything would have been dandy,
because no one would need lamps.
BLAME THE BRIDEGROOM?
from the Hebrew scriptures through the Gospels,
& on through the rest of the Christian scriptures,
tells us of a God who cares deeply for the people,
& who therefore,
Expects us to care deeply about each other.
“Love me, & love others as you love yourself.’
The book of Deuteronomy commands us
To take special care of foreigners, resident aliens
(we call them immigrants now,) orphans & widows.
Jesus continued this tradition & also
paid special attention to people who were poor.
He told parables about sharing.
Like the story of the farmer
who wanted to keep all his riches to himself,
but died that very night.
Or when Jesus taught to have compassion
on the poor and ignored, saying to his followers:
Jesus answered them,
“Whenever you did one of these things
(give the hungry a meal, a drink to the thirsty;
offer the homeless a bed, the shivering clothes,
the sick & in prison, a visit.
THAT WAS ME- you did it for ME.”
Jesus walked his talk as well!
Remember when he was tired to the bone
& the crowds followed him up on a mountain,
& THEY grew hungry and tired?
Jesus made sure there was enough food
to go around!
That’s why this story of the bridesmaids
comes as something of a surprise!
Jesus is actually praising
those selfish young women
who won’t share their oil with their friends!
You’d kind of expect Jesus to have compassion
on the bridesmaids who ran out of oil.
But that’s not really what this story is about.
ALL of the young women were invited
to the wedding. ALL WERE WELCOME,
& because they were bridesmaids,
They were guests of honor.
This story really focuses on the bridegrooms
It’s like the parable of the talents:
(which is next week’s Gospel reading)
The man who buried his talent is just fine….
until the master suddenly & unexpectantly appears.
THEN IT’S TOO LATE.
Or how about the parable of the tenants
in the vineyard?
Those tenants were convinced
that the owner of the vineyard
would NEVER show up,
So they did all sorts of corruption & cheating
& trying to make sure
That the owner wouldn’t make an appearance.
But he DID
& their punishment was almost immediate!
Reminds me of a story about my brother.
Once, when he was a teenager
(I must have been a young teenager myself!,)
my parents decided that we were old enough
to spend a weekend by ourselves,
So they set off to visit some relatives in Ohio.
They left on Friday afternoon and
were set to come home on Sunday afternoon.
So, my brother decided, in their absence,
to throw a wild party for his friends!
I was out on a date with my boyfriend that night,
& when he was about to drop me off at my house,
I noticed my parent’s car in the driveway.
I remember asking my boyfriend to pull back out
so we could just drive around for awhile.
I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE!!!
Of course, my parents had arrived home early-
at the height of my brother’s wild party-
What a mess they found!
He was in BIG trouble.
IT WAS TOO LATE FOR HIM!.
And then, there’s today’s Gospel story:
Everything was hunky-dory for the bridesmaids
until the late & sudden arrival of the bridegroom.
For half of the bridesmaids,
IT WAS TOO LATE.
Few, if any of us, knows the future…
or exactly what will happen.
Reminds me of a conversation in
the ‘Little House on the Prairie books.
When they were hit with a blizzard
unexpectedly in April, Ma remarked,
“But whoever could have expected
a blizzard so late?”
Pa replied, “Nobody knows what will happen.
Prepare for the worst,
Then you’ve some grounds to hope for the best,
That’s all you can do.”
“You were all prepared for the worst last winter, Pa,
and all that work was wasted.
There wasn’t one blizzard until now
when we’re not prepared for it.”
Then Laura said,
“I don’t see how anyone can be prepared for anything.
When you expect something
And then something else always happens.”
Ma had the last word when she observed,
“Even the weather has more sense
In it than you give it credit for.
Blizzards come only blizzard country.
You may be well prepared to teach school
And still not be a school teacher,
But if you’re not prepared, it’s certain you won’t be.”
Sometimes we take things for granted.
Sometimes we take God for granted.
Isn’t it usually when things
are going along swimmingly, smoothly,
& the sky seems bright blue, cloudless,
that disaster hits….the unexpected happens?
When that happens
& it’s bound to happen sometime,
That’s when we really need strength, courage,
& God’s power to see us through!
But these things don’t just magically appear.
That’s why people react in different ways
to challenges and disasters in their lives.
It’s during the relatively smooth times…
Those times we can recognize as ‘the good old days’
that we can bulk those muscles up
– suck up strength!
It’s when we can stock up on extra reserves of oil
to keep OUR lamps burning.
It’s when we can fill….OVERfill our souls
with the powerful spirit of God.
Because then the chips are down,
when our lives reach a real crisis point,
and the oil in our spiritual lamps grows dim
and burns down or ever sputters out,
we may not know how to replace it!
Actually, that kind of preparation
is not so overwhelming.
The ‘wise’ bridesmaids just picked up
An extra container of oil & took it with them,
JUST IN CASE.
They believed the bridegroom would show up
at some point, even later.
The ‘foolish’ bridesmaids had no such belief.
They didn’t know much about the bridegroom
or they might have though he JUST might be late.
(Do YOU have any relatives like that?)
Biblical scholars point out that this wedding
references End Times or the Second Coming.
We don’t know much about where or when
this might happen, or even
what it could look or feel like.
What we do know is that in every life,
there comes a moment of crisis.
Likely, many moments of crisis.
Those of us who want to be able to handle that crisis,
without it taking us completely down,
And make it through the crisis mostly intact
(although with some scars,)
maybe even grow stronger and wiser,
had better pick up & keep
an extra container of oil.
Because we are going to NEED God.
We are going to need
the love & comfort & support & power
that IS God.
DO YOU HAVE IT? ARE YOU READY? Amen.