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Staying Prepared: The Bridegroom is Coming

12 November 2023

Year A

Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed+

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

Psalm 78:1-7

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

Sunday Cycle of Prayer

Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola

All Saints’ Church, Lakeland

Christ the King Church, Lakeland

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

God is coming again: Fuel your lamp for Christ!! At first glance, in this morning’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is giving us advice, advice any Scout Master or hurricane preparedness instructor might share always be prepared, plan ahead, have enough oil for your camping lamp, knowwhere the candles and matches are.... Be prepared.

While we are preparing living day to day. We are also waiting for the Lord and His second coming. How are YOU waiting? Waiting can be hard for me, I can get impatient, maybe you do too.

How many times have you heard “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.”

“Please take a number and have a seat until you are called.” “Dr. So and So’s next available appointment is in six months.” Just hearing about those situations tend to raise our blood pressure. We, North Americans, according to research, see time as our OWN possession and our SCARCEST resource.

How often you and I may think if I am not creating or producing something or getting a task done, I am wasting my time. Interruptions and pauses can be especially frustrating because we expect we will receive something valuable in exchange for our time.

“I have always complained my work was constantly interrupted.” wrote theologian Henri Nouwen, “and then I realized the interruptions were my work!” Jesus challenges us to examine interruptions and delays this morning in the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. How are we doing waiting for HIM? (244)

This morning Jesus tells the first of three parables about preparing for the Kingdom of Heaven. The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. back in Jesus’ day,. like today weddings were very important community events. The party began at the Bride’s home with the family entertaining guests. Then near sundown and nightfall the bridegroom would appear to invite the bride

to process to his family’s home for the wedding and a five to seven day celebration.

The Bridesmaids had ONE role to provide light for the procession with their oil lamps, guide the bride and groom along the way in a world without streetlights, electricity or even head lamps to prevent them stumbling or getting off course. Bridesmaids today as I am sure you know have many more responsibilities`

When our daughter Kami’ married AJ back in May, the bridesmaids supported Kami, the bride.

Providing an early wedding morning breakfast, laughing and joking during their hair and makeup session, singing all the way to the ceremony in the limousine.

But, unlike Kami’s faithful bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable only half of the bridesmaids, five were prepared with a lamp and extra oil to meet the bridegroom after He was delayed. So when he finally arrived five bridesmaids went off to the local oil trader to buy extra oil to refill their lamps. But by the time they returned the party had started, the door locked and Jesus does not know them, for them it was too little, too late.

In our church tradition, the bridegroom symbolizes Christ and his arrival symbolizes His Second Coming in which He invites the faithful, all believers to the heavenly banquet. The Great Feast lasting for eternity.

This parable reminds us that we are people who wait. Yes for Christ’s Second Coming but also for our Lord to Come to us and answer our prayers, comfort us in the midst of our broken hearts and broken world, meet us when we die.

How are you waiting for him? (584) In this parable the lamp represents us, you and me and the oil is the fruit of your relationship with God, your attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, understanding and knowledge of God’s Holy Word, compassion for your neighbors and yourself.

Now as we heard in the Book of Joshua the spiritual journey is a life-long journey for the nations of Israel formed with YHWH’s covenant with Abraham, took time to grow, mature, and become faithful to YHWH, one God and the people like all of us wandered in and out of the desert pulled by their fascination with idols and repenting and returning to God.

Unlike today in which we can just flip a switch to order almost anything from the internet, log onto news across the world, communicate instantly with family and friends, cultivating our relationship with Christ is a life-long journey.

We don’t RETIRE from our spiritual journey or our let go of our NEED to be in relationship with Jesus. In fact, as some folks like to say, “in these last days of our lives we are cramming for the final exam!!” And yet sometimes in our prayer life it is easy to interact with God as if God

were a fast food drive through employee. Oh Hello Lord, I’ll take a breakfast sandwich and a medium coffee. Well, thank you for your order, says our Lord, would you like cream with your coffee? Oh yes Lord thank you I would like some cream. Wonderful please drive around your order is free of charge, I am your Lord.

Rather than telling God what to do God invites us to sit and listen in prayer for God’s voice and encourages us in our day to day life to be awake, alert, expecting and watching for God’s presence, Holy interruption in creation, music, worship with each other and our own hearts

which fill our lamps with holy oil..

Like the wise bridesmaids Jesus calls us to remember we ARE the light of Christ, Lamps to share His light to guide others away from worldly deceptions and toward the light and love of Christ.

And Jesus calls us to know, as the wise bridesmaids knew we have to be prepared, willing to open our hearts to receive God’s sacred oil, the presence of the Holy Spirit , God’s holy Word,

the joy of community and to be willing to learn about who God is and how God calls us to serve. Both the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah remind and reassure us of the benefits of cultivating a relationship with our Lord. The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.” (Lamentations)

those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.. (Isaiah 40: 31)

Waiting on the Lord does not mean we wait passively, doing nothing and guess what as we wait on the Lord the Lord is not doing nothing, God hasn’t forgotten you. God is always at work in you and me doing “far more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3: 20). God awaits our decisions to fill our lamps with holy oil as we listen, follow, and learn to live according to HIS will.

As Henri Nouwen teaches us Jesus’ life reminds us that we still live in a world in which there are many political and economic decisions we have little control over. Much of our existence involves waiting and waiting on our Lord and remembering God is acting upon our hearts,

loving us as we follow Him, convicting us when we stray, empowering us to respond with love for our God, neighbors, and ourselves.

Jesus’s life reminds us we join hands with God who is already at work in our lives and our world.

The choice is ours yours and mine. We can be foolish bridesmaids who are unaware,unprepared, and perhaps untrusting that God is at work in us and as a result we may keep God at arms’ length most of the time relying upon Sunday only to open our Bibles, offer our prayers, listen to a 15 minutes sermon and take a pass from life long learning opportunities in which God hopes to fill our lamps.

Or we can be wise bridesmaids who understand Christ calls us to bring the light of Christ to the world and promises to fill our lamps which need to be filled and refilled daily with God’s love and God’s sacred word which open our hearts to the presence of the Holy Spirit. And as the wise bridesmaids knew in not sharing their oil that each of us can only do our own spiritual work have our own prayer life, build our own relationship with Christ Jesus.

Our parents, children, grandchildren or friends cannot have a relationship with Jesus for us.

Waiting for our Lord does not mean being inactive as you know with other relationships, your spouse, friends, children and grandchildren you have to put time into them to cultivate connection and trust in spending time with God. God will help us discern the mixture of practices which yield the richest finest holy oil. All are pathways into our relationship with Christ, reading and studying holy scripture, worshipping and singing, spending time together caring for one another and our planet. enjoying nature’s beauty, sewing, reading, writing,

Baking, building God invites us to connect with Christ in all these activities, to discover God at work in our lives, to allow God to fill our lamps, build our oil stock in Him, stay connected to God’s love for you and me and our neighbor.

How full is your oil stock? How is God calling you to let God refuel your soul?

This week. be mindful and with God’s help refill your oil stock with fragrant oil

that soothes your soul so your lamp shines with the light of Christ.


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