Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service
November 9, 2017
This week’s Thursday’s Thought for Sunday’s Service is based upon Matthew 25:1-13:
““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.’ “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. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:1–13, NIV)
I sometimes have the privilege to help plan for and preside at weddings. What strikes me is the work it takes for what amounts to be a brief, and blissful moment of commitment. Often surrounded by attendants and a gathered congregation, it’s a moment where the bride and groom recite vows and pledge their love for one another. It’s also a precursor which points to the amount of work it will take for the marriage to be successful – sustained by a lasting growth through many encounters, experiences, challenges and celebrations with family, and the wider world.
This passage similarly portrays preparing for a marriage between Christ and the church. The image is characteristic of God’s kingdom. Like a bride who wisely prepares, we can see why church life develops and works through a methodical intentionality and expectation. Getting ready for a bridegroom, approaching the daily commitment to marriage with a seriousness and discipline, a congregation functions through a continual series of plans and programs as a faithful expression of trust, believing that it’s a significant reason for how and why we develop in the nature and love of God. It can happen in many ways: through how we teach and learn about Jesus; encounter and help others across the broad landscape of the mission field; grapple with issues of social justice; order and maintain church organizational polity and structure; grow in personal faith practices like attending regular worship and Bible study; preach with expectant hope; and pray with passion and persistence.
The fruits of our labor are not just for individual gratification, but for relationship in the context of a greater whole. Church life is a primary example in any community of how the teaching of being prepared is and remains a strengthening and stabilizing agent, well suited to meet many needs. It serves as an illuminating and welcoming beacon in our community and beyond, giving witness to God’s love for the world.
Rev. Richard Wagner