Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Matthew 25:1-13
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 27-Sunday between November 6 and November 12 Inclusive)
analysis by Al Jabs

1Jesus said to the disciples, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10And 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. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

DIAGNOSIS: Foiled in Foolishness

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Delaying
The theological problem for those waiting for the Bridegroom, in the time of Matthew and in our own time, is precisely that people have attention deficit disorders. While Y2K is around the corner, people look to peculiar promises and Prozac as the answer for depression. It is not only the Bridegroom who delays in coming. The materialism and mire of mammon can suck us in like the story suggests. Some of us sense this, others do not. Desires get distorted in the scheme of things. But we have delayed in getting ready for The Arrival, even turned away.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Not ready
Luther compared the oil in lamps (or the lack thereof) to a matter of faith (or lack thereof). The analogy may still fit, even in light of Matthew 5:16 (letting your light shine so that people may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven). But those who have no oil, and find that their lamps are going out, are the truth of our beings (“lamps”) that are running spiritually dry. When there is no oil (no faith), we are not ready for the return of the Bridegroom. And God knows where we are going to find it so late at night.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Closed Out
Indeed, when we finally show up and the time has come for final judgment, do we really have any oil in our lamps? Can the Bridegroom recognize us? Or do we find the door shut, and ourselves shut out from the final banquet?

PROGNOSIS: Oiled in Wisdom

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: The Bridegroom’s Coming
The Bridegroom’s coming for the final banquet needs to be seen in the light of the Bridegroom’s already having come to dine with us in the midst of our darkness. We were a people already shut out, cast out into the darkness, when the Bridegroom came to unite with us and bring us back into relationship with God. In that coming, we have seen the Light of the Bridegroom in our world, fueling us with the life-giving wisdom that comes from his death and resurrection that we may burn with the fire of his Light.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Ready
There is the source of our constant supply of oil, in this crucified and raised Wedding Presence. Our faith trusts that his Light is enough to see us through the darkness of our being, and overcome the shadows of our weary states, raising us to new hope and life and light that cannot be extinguished. When our lamps burn with the oil that is Christ, we always have enough; and the wedding feast is not kept from us.

Step 6- Final Prognosis: Energetic
Might there, indeed, even be enough to go around, to light the world, to bring the glow of Christ in the tireless performance of good works, loving and forgiving others as we have been loved and forgiven into wholeness? Irrespective of the wreckage and wretchedness that may have stalked our lives, the Light from the Cross illumines us in Christ’s eternal truth. Our attention is turned toward bringing that Light to bear on the dark corners, so that hope may be grounded in a Light that will always bring comfort and cheer.


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