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New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
To the leader. Of David, for the memorial offering.
1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me! 2 Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me. 3 Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame.
4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” 5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten young women took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those young women got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. 11 Later the other young women came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
What is our psalmist trying to say? Help me, God! Be on my side, God! I need you now, God! I have enemies that I need protection from – turn them away from me – turn them toward you so that they recognize the error of their ways. Let my accusers be concerned with their own faults and failures and leave me alone. Please, God, do this for me. Do it now, prays the psalmist.
The wisdom in this psalm is that when read openly, communally, it leads us all to seek God’s counsel not only for ourselves but for everyone. It can create the desire that we all rejoice in God’s presence, that we all proclaim God’s greatness.
Let us pray this for ourselves and for all others, that we all be centered in God’s love. Let us pray that we seek for others what we seek for ourselves. Help us, God! Be on our side, God! We need you now, God!
Now more than ever we recognize the importance of this need. The world is crying out in pain, crying out for justice, crying out…
Our Bible, and our life experiences give us plenty of examples of our failure to come together as God’s people.
These verses of Matthew’s gospel shine a light on this very failure. What was happening in the community when Matthew framed this parable in the context of a wedding party? The return of Jesus was not happening as soon as they were expecting. Matthew was speaking to a community that was splintering down the middle. They were arguing about who was wise and who was foolish among them. Arguing about who was prepared and who was not prepared for the expected second coming of Christ.
Matthew, like others then and now, used scare tactics to make his point. Jesus is coming… Be ready or be locked out of the banquet. Be ready or be left behind.
This parable makes me wonder about the core teachings of Jesus, of Christianity, and their absence in this setting. One steeped in the teachings of Jesus might expect that the “haves” would share with the “have nots.” One might expect that Jesus, the bridegroom, would welcome the latecomers as effusively as he welcomed those who were ready and waiting when he arrived. One might expect that Jesus would accept them at any hour, as they were, with or without oil for their lamps.
For the sake of the parable, we will put those questions aside. Matthew was rallying his community together, trying to heal the fissure splitting them apart.
How can we individually, or we as a church, know if we are ready for Jesus?
Are our lights shining, expectantly? If we are ready today, will we still be ready tomorrow?
Waiting. We all spend countless hours waiting – for doctors, for car repairs, for babies to be born, for the next episode of our favorite show to drop. Waiting is a reality that we don’t have much control over. How we spend our time while waiting is something that we may ascribe the labels wise or foolish.
Matthew was concerned with how his community spent their time while waiting. Were they preparing themselves to meet the risen Christ or were they wasting their time doing other things?
Being ready seems a way of life, not a once and done checklist for preparedness.
There is no time to waste. Life is short… What do we do while we wait? Are we concerned with improving our relationships, with God and with one another?
We are all both saint and sinner… Let us hear the prayer of the psalmist as universal prayer for all. Let us strive to want for others the relationship riches we desire for ourselves.
Rev. TJ Mack – November 12, 2023