Ten Bridesmaids

Matthew 25.1-13

 

Bridesmaids.Ten of them all dressed up for the occasion.There were ten bridesmaids.Waiting.

And for what were these ten bridesmaids waiting?These members of the wedding party were awaiting the arrival of the groom, the guy getting married.They had their ceremonial lamps ready, had trimmed and lit the wicks of their oil lamps, and were waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom.They were expecting him soon, any minute now.

Waiting.Waiting, and what are you waiting for?For what are we waiting?We, each one of us, we trim our wicks and light our lamps.We do.We trim our wicks and light our lamps and wait.But what are you waiting for?What are you expecting, anticipating?

I have to tell you a funny story here.I canít help it.Mary and I flew out here to California at Christmas time several years ago to take care of Maryís mother while Maryís sister and her family were in Hawaii.On a Saturday afternoon, Mary said to me, Letís go someplace.OK.Where do you want to go?I donít know.How about we go up to Donner Pass?Now, here in California, you know about the Donner Party and what happened at Donner Pass.I donít need to explain.Mary said to me, Letís go up to Donner Pass.I said to her, I donít know, Mary.Itís raining down here.And it was.Itís raining down here.Itís probably snowing up there, up there at Donner Pass.Oh, Neal, said Mary to me impatiently, whatís the worst that could happen?

Funniest thing I had heard anyone say in months.Just so you know, we went up to Donner Pass.And it was, well, it was raining up there, too.

But the worst, the worst that could happen.Is this what we are waiting for?The worst that can happen, is this what we are expecting, anticipating?For the other shoe to drop?

Oh, sometimes I find myself doing just that.Maybe you do, too, sometimes.The worst, the worst case scenario.What if this happened?And that could happen too, you know.And a dark cloud of worry descends.Anticipating, expecting, the worst.Waiting for that other shoe to drop.

Sometimes I find the worst that could happen running around and around in my head.Does that happen to you sometimes?The worst that could happen, but it isnít what I want.How about you?Is it what you want?No.What we want is good.Good?Why, we want the best.We want what is best for ourselves.We want what is best for our families, those we love.And for our friends, for our nation, might as well throw in the rest of the world, we want what is good, what is best.

We hope for the best.We always do and we always will hope for the best.

We cannot help ourselves.Think about it.You always hope for the best.Sure you do.You are a member of the human race.You are created in the image of God.You are a child of God and to God you belong.You will always hope for the best.You canít help yourself.To your dying day will you hope for the best.

It is what we expect and anticipate.The good.The best.The best good.This is what we are waiting for.You and me, this is what we are waiting for.Itís true, isnít it?Itís just true.For this do we trim and light the wicks of our lamps.For this we wait.For the good, the best good.For God do we wait.

I wait for the Lord, says the Psalmist.My soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.So do we; so do our souls.

Bridesmaids.Ten of them all dressed up for the occasion.There were ten bridesmaids waiting.

They had their ceremonial lamps ready, had trimmed and lit the wicks of their oil lamps, and were waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom.They were expecting him to arrive any minute nowÖany minute now.

Well, the bridegroom was late.And the minutes turned to hours.And the bridesmaids, all ten of them, fell asleep.As they slept, their oil lamps began to sputter and gutter.

At midnight, there came a shout: Look!Here is the bridegroom!And five of the bridesmaidsóthey were wiseóhad brought extra oil for their lamps.They replenished the fuel for their lamps and went out to meet him.The other fiveóthey werenít so wiseóhad no more oil.By the time they found some, it was too late.They missed the wedding banquet, the ceremony.

And the idea, you would have to say, is to not run out of oil while you are waiting.The idea is to be ready and watching, for you know neither the day nor the hour.Keep your lamp burning bright.

But how?How can we be sure to have plenty of oil?How can we be ready, watching?What can we do to keep that hope within us burning bright?

Well, we can read.We can read the Bible.And pray.We can pray as we read the Bible, can pray about what we read.

We can read the gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, the books that tell us of the things Jesus did.I would start with the Gospel of Mark; thereís less talk and more action.

We read about a man with an unclean spirit, a man who was not quite himself, who was possessed and had lost control of himself.Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to leave the man and it did, which is good.I mean, thatís good, isnít it?

And we can pray, can pray for people who have lost control of themselves to, say, alcohol or drugs.We can pray for them, can hope for them the very best.We might pray for ourselves, too.

We read how a leper came to Jesus.This fellow, because he had leprosy, no one would even talk with him, let alone touch him.If you choose, you can make me clean.I do choose, says Jesus.And he touches him.He is cleansed of his leprosy, which is good.Thatís good, right?

And we can pray, can pray for those who are isolated and lonely, sort of on the outside of things.We can pray for them, can pray wanting the very best for them.We might pray for ourselves, too.

We then read how a paralyzed man was lowered by his friends through the roof.He forgave the manís sin and then healed him.The man got up and walked, which is good.I mean, thatís really good, isnít it?

And we can pray for everyone paralyzed by sin, their own or someone elseís.We can pray that they find forgiveness or could be forgiving.We can pray hoping the very best for them.We might say a prayer for ourselves, too.

I could go on.We can read, read the Bible and pray, pray as we read.And then do.Read, pray, and do.Maybe there is something we can do to help those who arenít quite themselves.Maybe there is someone alone and on the outside that we can somehow welcome.Or maybe there is someone who needs forgiveness, and maybe we can give it to them.

I could go on, but maybe you get the idea.Read. Pray.And do.And your lamp will shine brightly.

And remember.Remember what you are waiting for.The best, the very best.Remember that your hope is in God who raised Jesus from the dead.Jesus has been raised from the dead.One shoe has been dropped.Weíre waiting, waiting for the other one, for that shout, Look.Here is the bridegroom!

We donít know at what hour or on what day, but it will be a good day.Good?It will be the best day.And the best, the very best, will be ours.It will be yours.

Neal Kentch, Cottage Way Christian Church, Sacramento, November 9, 2008