November 8, 2020 “There’s Gonna Be a Wedding….Eventually”
“There’s Gonna Be a Wedding….Eventually”
Matthew 25: 1-13
Joshua 24:1-31, 14-25
The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. I have one word for this somewhat perplexing parable. Actually, I have quite a few words: befuddled, bewildered, bamboozled; and I’ll just stop right there. Is it just me, or does anyone else have “issues” with this story? I mean, I get it that it was the custom of the time for all the guests to gather at the house of the groom’s father. And I get it that as soon as the groom arrived there would be a big party followed by the actual wedding. And I also get it that it was tradition for the bridesmaids to wait outside for the groom to arrive and then to escort him into the house for this glorious event. I get that. But what I don’t get is how all the goofy details of this parable are supposed to enlighten me when it comes to the kingdom of heaven.
First of all, what’s the big idea of showing up at midnight for your own wedding? How is that OK? Second, it’s bad enough that the bridesmaids had to supply their own lamps and oil, but how does it serve my understanding of God’s kingdom that the wise bridesmaids were the ones that were stingy in this parable? You can’t tell me they couldn’t have spared a little extra fuel for the lamps of those who were running short. So many questions; so few the solutions. But you know, I have found that in the study of scripture, as in life, sometimes it is best when we are befuddled and bewildered, to step back; to step away from the confusing details and the questions and take a long hard look at the big picture. Sometimes that works. But I’ve got to say, that as I tried to do just that, all I could think about was Joshua.
When Joshua gave the nation of Israel the choice of who to serve, it was done honestly and openly. (Josh 24: 14… and I’m paraphrasing here) Joshua addressed the people saying, “So now, revere the Lord. Serve him honestly and faithfully. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served…But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Now your first reaction to this is going to be, “But of course we do! We are believers; we serve the Lord.” But Joshua is not asking us to choose to believe or not, he’s asking us to choose our gods. I was advised once that if you ever want to honestly preach on this text from Joshua, it might be a good idea to spread out all your credit cards on the desk with your favorite on the top. Keep them there, and while you’re at it think about what else you serve in your day to day living. What are the things that occupy your thoughts? What causes you to rally, what causes you to rebel? What gets you hepped up and what make you spitting mad? Now, I’m not fixing to throw any kind of a guilt trip here. We need our sports, we need our need to create things, we need our families and our friends and our careers and our love of the country in which we live along with a burning desire that it will be governed in a way that reflects that love. We need our love of this life that we live. But through it all, we need to ask ourselves, “Where is our God in the mix?” How does our love of God ‘serve’ to guide us through this life we lead?
For many of us who were raised in the faith, you might say that our service to God is automatic. All the stories and morals and codes of ethics that we have learned since childhood are …well, they’re just there. We were reciting the Golden Rule when we were 8 years old, after all, which is simply a rewording of the 2nd great commandment of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” For those of us who were drawn to the ministry of Christ as adults, however, the decision to serve is bound to be more intentional. We are drawn for all kinds of reasons, but when we start a journey of faith later in life, we do it with your eyes wide open.
One thing we have in common is our understanding of what it is to serve the Lord, and to be honest, it’s pretty sketchy. The Apostles and early Christians of Paul’s time were on fire. They lived and breathed for the Gospel. Today, not so much. And I have to think that this came from the belief that when Jesus promised he would return, the early Christians believed it would happen in their lifetimes. Well, obviously that didn’t happen. But here’s the thing: the promise is still out there. I have to think that’s what bothers me about the Parable of the Bridesmaids because sooner or later I have to admit that when I am called to be patient and wait for the Lord to show up, I get distracted. The news of the day catches my attention and sometimes captures my imagination. And when I am called to hold the torch for the coming of Christ into this world, there’s a good chance that sooner or later I’m going to run out of gas. This is my sin: I forget. I forget that God’s time is not my time and God’s ways are not my ways. The promise of a Kingdom come didn’t come with a timetable yet we are called to be patient, we are called to prepare, we are called to be ready. There’s going to be a wedding …eventually. There’s going to be a wedding and the sooner the world tunes into that invitation the better we will be.
As I was writing this sermon, the announcement was made that for one of the most contentious presidential elections of my lifetime – or was it? I vaguely remember Bush vs. Gore back in 2000. I even remember canvassing the neighborhood with another kid in our wagon during the Nixon-Kennedy race. Yea, I’m old. My point is that whether you find yourself all kinds of disappointed or dancing in the streets, the words of Joshua to the people of Israel need to be spoken loud and clear: “So now, revere the Lord. Serve him honestly and faithfully. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served…But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
There’s going to be a wedding…eventually, and I can’t wait.
Amen & Shalom
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