Pentecost – Proper 27 – COMMITMENT SUNDAY
Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78: 1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
During the time of Jesus, the customs surrounding marriage were different than they are today. There were no wedding coordinators, no destination weddings, no getting married in Las Vegas – it was different back then. One of the ways wedding custom of Israel were different involved the bride and the groom. On the day of the actual wedding, the groom would go with a group of friends to the home of the bride – usually in the evening.
Once at her parent’s home, the family of the bride would present her to the groom and the bride and groom would go to their new home, and once they arrived there, this would begin a wedding celebration that would last for several days – that’s a lot of wedding cake.
Young women from the groom’s family would wait in the house at night until the
wedding party arrived. No one knew when the bride and the groom would return to their new home, so their arrival was never predictable.
In the story Jesus tells today, ten bridesmaids wait in the home for the groom. It is evening, and each bridesmaid has an oil lamp which they keep lit because it is dark. Five of the bridesmaids came prepared with extra oil for their lamps in case they needed it, while the other five bridesmaids did not bring extra oil. For the five who did not have extra oil for their lamps, when they ran out, they asked the other five who had extra oil if they could borrow some, but they did not have enough to share.
So the bridesmaids who had no oil left the house in search of more. While they were gone, groom and bride arrived and the party started. When the bridesmaids returned, they found themselves locked out of the party. Because they left to look for more oil, they missed the couple’s return, they missed their big moment, because they were not prepared.
The message of the story is summed up in the two words of the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.” In the story, Jesus is the bridegroom, and we are the bridesmaids – waiting for them.
The question pointed to each of us is simple – do we have enough oil in our lamps? Are we prepared?
Thirteen years ago, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School opened its doors to students for the first time. There was much careful planning that occurred prior to its opening – teachers were hired, rooms were outfitted for Montessori education. Everything was ready, every preparation made, and the school celebrated its opening day…on September 10, 2001. There are some things even the most careful preparation cannot account for.
We are often unprepared for what comes next in our lives, despite our constant preoccupation with the future. Sometimes a premature ending takes us by surprise. On other occasions, we are unprepared for something to take longer than we had anticipated. We find ourselves thinking we have all the time in the world to achieve an important goal, to discontinue a bad habit or begin a new one, to take care of ourselves, to develop a relationship with God, to read an important book. But how much time do we really have?
Today is Commitment Sunday at St. Andrew’s. What that means is that in a few moments after the altar is prepared for Eucharist, together we will, one by one, come forward and place our filled out pledge card into this basket in the chancel. If you have already submitted your pledge card, wonderful – please fill out another one - I promise we won’t count your pledge twice – and join us as we present what we have as a gift to God.
The dollar amount you write on your pledge card is truly the oil for our lamps at St. Andrew’s. We are prepared to step out in faith, to do the work that God has called us to do. St. Andrew’s is prepared because of each of you – because of your generosity, and your ministry. So - until the bridegroom returns…AMEN.