the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sunday 11/6/05 - Year A - Proper 27

This Week's Texts

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Psalm 78:1-7
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

Are You Prepared for the Lord's Coming?

Today's Gospel text is the parable of the wise and foolish Bridesmaids. Jesus began by saying the "Kingdom of Heaven is like this..." But the wedding he described was not one like the common people were acustomed to. It was a more lavish afair, like the wedding of a King. There was, however, a wedding of similar style in the recent memory of those listening to Jesus. It was a notoriously famous wedding of kingly proportions during the time of the ministry of Jesus. Herod Antipas had divorced his wife, the daugter of King Aretas, and had taken the wife of his brother Philip from Rome back to Palestine. He married her there, against the teaching of the Torah and against the preaching of John the Baptizer, with a wedding that was a public spectacle.

Jesus' story focuses on ten bridesmaids who were ladies in waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom. Part of their role in the wedding was to carry oil lamps to ceremonially light the way for the Bridal party. All was ready, the lamps were lit, all were waiting in anticipation for the coming of the bridegroom. But the bridegroom did not come. He was delayed an unusually long time.

With the lamps burning full bore, the ten bridesmaids fell asleep. They slept until about midnight when an alarm came that the bridegroom was coming. Five of the bridesmaids were thoughtful enough to bring additional oil for their lamps. They were prepared for just such a delay in the coming of the bridegroom. The other five only had the oil that was in their lamps and it was running out fast. They begged the others to let them have some of their oil. But the ones with the extra oil said no, there would not be enough oil to go around.

Have you ever been caught in such a predicament and you were the one prepared. Those who are not prepared can really lay the guilt on thick can't they? Oh, you are selfish. That is such an un-Chrisian attitude. Why, I'd share with you.

Have you ever been on the other side in such a situation? Yea, me too. Did you beg the others to let you borrow some of their supplies? And were you hurt when they didn't help you? And did you make them feel guilty when they wouldn't?

Jesus is not talking about the Golden Rule here. He is talkiing about being prepared for his second coming. Preparation for this event is an inside job. It can't be done for you by someone else. This kind of preparation is between God and each of us individually.

The five ladies who had not brought extra oil had to go out to buy more oil. I have often wondered where they had to go to find a shop open at that time of night. But they found one and bought more oil for their lamps. They hurried back to the wedding party.

In the meantiime, while they were out getting resupplied, the bridegroom came and all went into the wedding. When the bridesmaids who had gone to by oil returned, the party was already inside and the doors were closed and locked. What would they do? What could they do? What would you do? They knocked on the door. They knocked and knocked but to no avail. They screamed "Let us in!" "Let us in!" But the lord answered, "Truly, I tell you, I do not know you."

Now don't feel too sory for the bridesmaids. Like Scarlet at the end of Gone with the Wind, "Tomorrow is another day." The bridesmaids will be embarrassed and will be laughed at by their friends. But they will get over it. And next time, they'll be prepared. And after all, it's just a parable, isn't it?

How easy it would be to shrug off the consequences for the bridesmaids who missed the wedding. But this is not a story told for entertainment like the sad movies that always make us cry. Jesus began the story with the words "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." God's rule over our lives is like this story. When Jesus talks about the rule of God for our lives we need to pay attention.

Of great importance are the two last sentences in today's text. The first sentence is the last line of the story, spoken by the door keeper at the wedding. The second sentence is the moral of the story. This is the whole purpose for it's telling. Here in these two lines are to be found great worth.

First, the lord of the wedding, the keeper of the door. He who governs who gets in and who is kept out said "Go away, I do not know who you are." Now in the Kingdom of God, God's rule over our lives, the keeper of the door is none other than God himself. It is God who decides who will get in and who will be kept out. Can we aford for God to ever say to us "I don't know who you are?" Isn't the question we are always asking of others, "Do you know the Lord?" Do you know Him? But isn't the question turned around? A similar scene is presented by Jesus in Mt 7:21-23:

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?" Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.

What matters is not whether I know Him but whether He knows me.

Second, the central lesson of the parable is that we should always be γρηγορειτε  συν. The New Revised Standard Version renders this phrase "Keep awake!" But both the wise and foolish bridesmaids fell asleep. It isn't the keeping watch or the staying awake that is important. A better translation would be "Be Prepared!" It is the being prepared for the coming of the bridegroom whenever, wherever, however he decides to come.

Whenever is anytime. He tells us that no one knows the hour or the day when the Son of Man comes. So be prepared always.

Wherever is in our hearts. John writes about a prayer Jesus prayed on the night before he was crucified. It is found in John 17:20-26

‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

God and Jesus are in us and we are in Him. We should seek to find the presence of God in our hearts and cultivate our awareness of that presence. That presence can only be found through love, because God is Love.


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