March 27, 2019

The Fourth Wednesday in Lent

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Sermon: “Always a Bridesmaid

I am NOT a patient woman. I try to be patient…but God did NOT endow me with that
gift. Can anyone relate to that?!? Hollah! Patience is like, wicked hard for me. I mean I have SO
many things that I could be doing with my time! I don’t want to just, sit. It makes me so tired! I
want to be a part of the action, yah know?! I could be sweeping the dust from the dirt floor…I
could be taking a stroll back from the town well with a 30-pound jug of water on my head. I could
be hanging out with my sisters at the river washing Hezekiah’s robes. I mean… the possibilities
are endless! Not being patient got me into a bit of a “situation.” Do you like, wanna hear about
So…there was this wedding celebration that I was going to be a part of…and like, I was
SO EXCITED! Imagine that, right? Like…you don’t even know…the whole town was a part of
weddings in my time. They were totally major! There is this WHOLE big process and all these
rituals, and they take a LONG time. SO, here is what is supposed to happen. The bride and the
bridegroom get all dressed up and they head out from their separate family homes accompanied
by a parade of people. Musicians and singing led and followed them. They would have a meeting
point and when they came together at that spot there was a huge celebration! Then both of the
parades of people got even bigger and they formed one big long parade and they went
all..over…the village… Their last stop before journey to the “main event” aka the “wedding feast,”
was at the bride’s house. The bridegroom had to negotiate for the bride with the bride’s father.
My job?!? Bridesmaid. One of ten actually! So…my place was to wait “patiently” outside
of the place where the wedding feast was going to happen. It was a BIG honor. Anyways…so we
had these lamps that we were supposed to bring with us. Little clay ones that we filled with
oil…about the size of what I have seen some of you eat your cereal out of??? I saw one this
morning at the hotel you all put me up in. That continental breakfast thing is on point!
Anyways…so me and my girls were getting ready to head to where the wedding feast was going
to be. I filled my lamp with oil, made sure my wick was trimmed and ready to be lit…and then I
lit my lamp. Me and my 4 besties started to head out the door and I looked back and saw that 5 of
the other bridesmaids had lit their lamps too, but they were also filling a flask with oil to take with
them. I was like, “what do you think you are, wise or something?!? Nobody said anything about
taking any extra oil with us! And, lets be real girls…too many accessories clutter an outfit. We
know better! We’re no FOOLS!”
So…we headed out for the wedding feast “wait party.” All ten of us settled in just outside
the house and waited…and waited…and waited. The bridegroom was late. Like “wicked” late.
Remember what I said earlier about God not giving me patience?!? Like, I was SO bored and SO
tired that me and my besties drifted off to sleep. We must have been asleep for a super long
time…because by the time we heard the commotion and the announcement of the bridegroom
approaching, our lamps had gone out! Like seriously?!? Not even a lingering poof or wisp of
smoke from the wick! Well…me and my girls were panicking, and we begged the other 5
bridesmaids for some oil from their extra flasks but they wouldn’t give us any because they didn’t
have enough to share with us! As, if!!! Totally uncool…like, they totally acted like we weren’t
prepared! They were like, “go to those that sell oil and buy some for yourselves.” We were like,
“seriously? It’s midnight! Who is gonna be awake, selling and burning the midnight oil around
here?!?” Anyways…we made a mad dash to the oil dealer, got our oil…relit our lamps…and
hauled bootie back to where we were supposed to meet the bridegroom and welcome him to the
wedding feast! But…when we got there….like the door to the house was closed! The other 5
bridesmaids were already inside with the bridegroom. OMG…we had totally missed our moment!
We went up to the door and cried out, “Lord, lord, open the door for us!” There was the long
awkward silence and then the Lord replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.” Wait…what?!?
We like, all fell asleep…we all TOTALLY slept for a long time…WHATEVER!!! But the truth
is…we weren’t all equally prepared for the uncertainty of how long we were going to be legit
waiting and then we got super distracted…
Have any of you ever felt like you were on the wrong side of a locked door? Have any of
you ever been not prepared enough for something? As I look out at all of you tonight…I realize
that I am learning, like SO much from my visit here to this present time. It seems to me like some
of you have been or are waiting too? Especially right now…Waiting and reflecting and preparing
yourselves during this season you call “Lent?” Are you all waiting for someone?!?!? Who are
you waiting for? (Jesus) WOW! It’s been, like, 2000 years for all of you! Seems also, like for
reals, that some of you have stopped waiting? Not thinking about the return of Jesus? That’s who
I was waiting for, yah know…I was one of the foolish, unprepared bridesmaids waiting for Jesus.
Jesus was the bridegroom in my story. Actually…Jesus was the one telling the story about himself
as the bridegroom and me as a foolish bridesmaid who was unprepared, fell asleep and then got
distracted by things that would not have mattered to him in the long run. I allowed the oil in my
lamp to be more important that Jesus himself.
So, I’ve gotta say…in putting it all together…I’ve definitely learned a lot from my story
and from watching all of you. (drop the accent) My prayer for all of you is that you will heed my
newly discovered wisdom. Stay awake! That doesn’t mean “don’t sleep” of course, but “be
vigilant”! Stay watchful, and attentive and avoid being distracted by the amount of oil in your
lamps. Jesus isn’t concerned with the amount of oil in your lamps! Jesus is concerned with the
relationship that you have with God and the love that is held in that relationship. Be vigilant and
attentive to the way you are living your life and where your priorities are! Be the ones who feed
the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger and clothe the naked. Be the ones who
care for the sick and the lonely…the stranger…the one that is the most different from yourself.
That is the will of God. In fact, Jesus is already among all of you…identifying the lowly and the
oppressed…how we respond to that presence is a crucial beacon of the health of our relationship
with him. Keep the vision of Christ and of our Still Speaking God alive in your hearts and in your
minds. Make that vision become a prayer that is as familiar to you as your own heartbeat and
breath. That vision, and the way that you create and sustain that vision is unique to you and is
yours and yours alone. The Kingdom of God is built on nothing less than that vision and will for
all of the created. An eternal light…from an ever-flowing and unconditional oil of love…attended
to and nurtured by more than 2000 years of faith…that cannot be extinguished. Amen.