Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Ready Or Not!" - The Sermon for SUNDAY, November 12, 2017

"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 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.' 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. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
~ Matthew 25:1-13

"Ready Or Not!"
by Scott Jensen
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Aiea, Hawaii

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen

A young man applied for a job as a farm-hand. When asked for his qualifications, he said, "I can sleep when the wind blows."

This puzzled the farmer, but he took a liking to the young man and hired him.

A few days later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm. They quickly began to check things out to see if all was secure. They found that the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace. The farm implements had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been moved into the garage. The barn had been properly locked. All was well. Even the animals were calm.

It was then that the farmer grasped the meaning of the young man’s words, "I can sleep when the wind blows."

Because the farm-hand had performed loyal and faithful work when the skies were clear, he was prepared for the storm when it broke. Consequently, when the wind blew, he had no fear. He was able to sleep in peace.

In our Gospel message, we heard about a story of 10 virgins. This story was part of the marriage ritual that was much more elaborate than we’re used to today. It was customary in Jewish culture that after a couple was engaged, the groom would go away for about a year and prepare a home for the new family. When he returned, a great celebration was held to commemorate the newly married couple. Where today we honor the arrival of the bride and dedicate the day to her, in the past, the day was dedicated to the groom. There was a bit of mystery in the event as no-one knew precisely when he and the groomsmen would arrive. But, their arrival was led at night with a torch procession and the shouts of joy from the wedding party.

When the groom finally arrived, the bridesmaids would join the procession with their lamps and follow into the wedding feast. It was a huge foah-pah to come without a lit lamp. In fact, any bride’s maid who came without a lamp would be turned away at the door. They didn’t prepare for the feast and were obviously not a friend of the wedding party. The maids who were prepared entered the festivities with shouts of joy. They entered the wedding hall and the celebration that followed.

But, those who were not prepared, were left outside the gates. They were not allowed to join the celebration.

This story is one of the last parables Jesus told his disciples before he was arrested by the authorities. It was meant to reassure them as they prepared for the coming events, to give them courage and hope as they faced the unknown. The story was centered on a wedding celebration, a joyous event. For Christians, the coming of Jesus is good news, not bad. But, to be ready for the festive day, we need to prepare a bit.

After all, having good intentions does not equate to proper actions.

Intentions can be well placed, but they won’t shape your spiritual character.

Acting on intentions is more than thinking about what you’ll do, when you’ll do it, and how to get it done. It’s not a passive life spent waiting for an opportunity to present itself, but acting on the opportunities that are already available. There is no time like the present.

We need to be prepared for the master’s entrance. The 5 foolish virgins were equipped for the wedding feast. They had their lamps and they knew how to use them and where to get the oil. But, they chose to bring only a small amount of oil. They knew that the groom was coming, but they didn’t know when. None of them were able to say “I didn’t know to bring oil.” Instead, they chose to come with only minimal preparations. When they finally did see the master coming, they didn’t go right away and and buy the oil they needed. Instead, they looked for someone else to bail them out of trouble. But, that help never came. Why? Because you can’t establish a relationship through someone else’s actions. You have to do that yourself. The lamps were a symbol of that relationship with the master and we only have one master, Jesus Christ. Only we can build that relationship with Him.

In many ways, we’re not so different from the foolish maids. Although many are often concerned with projecting how the stock market will fluctuate, how retirement accounts are shaping up and where the most comfortable place to settle-down might be, we don’t spend the same type of energy looking at this same criteria in our spiritual life. Sometimes, we let that slide. Sometimes, we let that wait for another day.

Many of those things that we continue to put off, we’ll never get around to completing. What if you did the same thing with your retirement plan? What if you waited until the day you retired to plan your financial future? Would you be financially secure? Most of us would not be ready unless we planned.

Preparing for the future is not something that happens overnight. It takes time. Many students are known to cram for the exams just before midterms and finals. They wait until the last minute to study for the test. More often than not, they know exactly when the finals are going to be given. But, they don’t study all semester. Instead, they wait until the last minute, try to make up for lost time by staying up all hours of the night, and do their best to be minimally prepared for the test. I’ve been one of these students, once or twice. Many of you might have crammed as well. But, this doesn’t work well when preparing for the future feast.

There is no time to procrastinate. We don’t know when the master will arrive to start the celebration. But, we know he’s coming. If we decide to wait until later in life and cram for the exam, we may not be prepared for what’s to come. We may not be ready for the feast and may end up locked outside the celebration.

The message Jesus has for us was one of constant preparation and joy, because we know that the celebration is coming. When the time comes we will be rescued and brought into the joyous affair.

He expects us to act like the men of Sir Ernest Shackleton who were left on Elephant island. In 1912, the Arctic explorer left some of his men on the isolated island with the intent of returning for them and carrying them back to England. But he was delayed. By the time he could go back for them, the sea had frozen and he had no access to the island. Three times he tried to reach them but was prevented by the ice. Finally, on his fourth try, he broke through and found a narrow channel.

Much to his surprise, he found the crewmen waiting for him, supplies packed and ready to board. They were soon on their way back to England. He asked them how they knew to be ready for him. They told him they didn’t know when he would return, but they were sure he would. So every morning, the leader rolled up his bag, and packed his gear and told the crew to do the same saying, “Get your things ready, boys. The boss may come today.” The crew leader did his crew a favor by keeping them prepared, everyday, for twenty-two months.

Preparation like that is what’s expected. Action, not just words. Good intentions to not necessarily become good actions. Procrastinate and you may never get around to it. Cram, and you may never have the time to prepare. Just like Sir Shackleton’s crew, we never know when Jesus will return. But, we can be confident that He’s coming back for us. We have no time to waste and preparations to make. Use the equipment you have available and build your spiritual self. Plan for the future and get ready for the big event. How you choose to prepare is your decision. Opening the door to the celebration is God’s. We have to be ready, because we don’t know when The Master will return. Prepare well, so you too can sleep when the wind blows.

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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Sermon shared by Scott Jensen on Nov 12, 2008.

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