We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Pentecost 24, Proper 27, Year A

I.Theme –   Prepare for Christ – The Second coming – Be Prepared !

 "Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins"

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

Old Testament – Amos 5:18-24
Psalm – Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20
Epistle –1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Gospel – Matthew 25:1-13 

Amos warns that justice and righteousness, not empty ritual and thoughless offerings are how to prepare. Amos’s words speak warning to the people who desire the day of the Lord, the day of judgment. God warns those who desire the day of judgment, thinking God is on their side, because God will execute justice and it will be darkness, not light, for those who seek it. This passage is a warning to those who are so religious they put being religious above doing the teachings of their religions. God says “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” (vs. 21). God does not desire our best religious persona, our best religious face to the public–rather, God desires justice and righteousness (vs. 24). God desires for us to do what our faith teaches us–to lift up the poor and help the oppressed. Do we serve our religion, or do we serve our God? Do we serve a particular religious culture or religious politics, or do we serve God? Do we serve a particular religious image, or do we serve the God who created all of us?

Psalm 70 is a cry for help, a cry for deliverance, a reminder that God desires justice, mercy and righteousness, not religiousness. It is a reminder that we choose to serve God, and that we need to be wary of assuming we are on God’s side. But the plea is for God to remember God’s part of the covenant, too.

The Wisdom readings emphasize we desire wisdom for living now toward our future meeting with Christ and to discover better ways to be prepared. Wisdom encourages us to actively seek wisdom and its rewards

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 also looks ahead to the “day of the Lord,” this time of the reign of Christ coming to fulfillment on earth. When he wrote it, the contemporary Christians, including Paul, expected Jesus to come again in glory quite soon, certainly within their own lifetimes. These paragraphs address a troublesome point: will the few Christians who die in this short period somehow miss out on the benefits of Jesus’ return. Paul says no (although he doesn’t say it simply), because what God has wrought in the death and resurrection of Jesus is powerful enough to save even those already "fallen asleep."

Paul speaks of the faithful who have died rising with Christ, and those who are left being taken up to be with Christ, meeting in the air. It is a beautiful image, and we are reminded in Paul’s day of the belief that heaven was in the sky, the earth was flat and the land of the dead was below (Sheol or Hades). The language loses no beauty even with our greater understanding of the cosmos–something beautiful will happen when Christ comes into our lives in a new way.

Matthew 25:1-13 is the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. This begins a three-parable series in the Gospel of Matthew, the last three parables Jesus tells before he is betrayed. These parables look to the coming reign of God–it has already begun, but it has yet to be fulfilled.

Jesus tells a story about a party of ten bridesmaids or torchbearers for a procession,chosen to participate in a wedding. Each of the ten virgins is carrying a lamp or torch as they await the coming of the bridegroom, which they expect at some time during the night. Five of the virgins are wise and have brought oil for their lamps. Five are foolish and have only brought their lamps.  

At midnight, all the virgins hear the call to come out to meet the bridegroom. Realising their lamps have gone out, the foolish virgins ask the wise ones for oil, but they refuse, saying that there will certainly not be enough for them to share. While the foolish virgins are away trying to get more oil, the bridegroom arrives. The wise virgins then accompany him to the celebration. The others arrive too late and are excluded.

Each of the wise bridesmaids has made her preparation; she is prepared spiritually but preparedness cannot be transferred to others, so their refusal to give oil to the foolish bridesmaids may be intended to show that each one of us is expected to make our own preparation – by living a godly, ethical life. Two surprising events, the door being shut (v. 10) and the failing to recognize the foolish bridesmaids (v. 12), are probably another way of saying that the unprepared will be refused entry to the Kingdom – just as the wicked servant will be punished. We are to be prepared at all times for the end of the age, the Second Coming of Christ

“The Second Coming of Christ is the medicine our condition especially needs” – C. S. Lewis.z
II. Summary

First Reading – Amos 5:18-24

Amos’s reading can be divided into two parts:

1. 18-20

Note that verses 18-20 open with a telling reversal: the word “alas” or “woe” is placed in relationship to the phrase “the day of the Lord.” The word “alas” or “woe connotes sadness and remorse, while the latter phrase “the day of the Lord” typically is a positive reference. In this instance, however, “alas” redefines “the day of the Lord” as a sad, tragic phenomenon.

First , in another rhetorical reversal, he casts the “day of the Lord” unexpectedly as “darkness,” rather than the expected “light” (v. 18). Second, the phrase “fled from a lion, and was met by a bear” signifies that there is no real escape from the judgment of Yahweh (v. 19). In the final image one goes “into the house,” seeking refuge after escaping the lion and the bear, only to be “bitten by a snake.” This image symbolizes that escape from the “bite” of Yahweh’s justice is a vain delusion (v. 19). Amos concludes this section in (v. 20) by repeating the opening image. This time, however, he poses it as a question: “Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” Surely by now, his audience will respond correctly to this question.

vv. 18-20, criticizes Israel’s celebration of the Day of Yahweh. Amos feels sorrow for this attitude (note: Alas) rather than judgmental superiority (note the traditional: Woe to you who desire….). The people apparently expected one of Yahweh’s great victories for Israel on that day as in the past. But Amos says it will be darkness and not light. A person may think she has escaped a lion on that day will discover that she should only to run into a bear if she escapes the lion.

Amos is the earliest biblical prophet to refer to the Day of the LORD. Later references make clear that the Day of the LORD is an eschatological time when God will punish the earth: "in the fire of His passion, the whole earth shall be consumed, for a full, a terrible end He will make of all the inhabitants of the earth" (Zephaniah 1:18).

Amos deplores the fact that his people seem to be rejoicing in the prospect of the Day of the LORD. This will be a day of darkness and destruction, not just for Israel’s enemies but for Israel itself. God will hold Israel accountable for sin along with the foreign nations. This echoes the stunning ironic move that we see in Amos 1-2. There the prophet invites his audience’s assent to stirring oracles of doom against foreign nations, only to entrap them by having Judah and Israel appear unexpectedly as the last "foreign nations" in the series (2:4-8). 

The antithesis of "darkness" and "light" is commonly used in the Bible to suggest others like good and evil, safety and danger, hiddenness and openness. Here it reminds us of the interchange of dark and light in the hymnic fragments.

2. 21-24

In (vv. 21-23), Amos unleashes a sharp critique of three Temple rituals: festivals, sacrificial offerings, and worship. The message is clear. The ritual practices of the Temple are of little value without the practice of social justice!

Amos uses stirring verbs to characterize Yahweh’s wholesale rejection of the practices of the priesthood and congregation. Without justice, Yahweh will only “hate and despise” their religious celebrations (v. 21). Yahweh “will not accept” their burnt offerings (v. 22). And Yahweh “will not listen” to their songs of worship (v. 23).

Perhaps the people’s ritual offerings and sacrifices can save them.

The second part of the passage criticizes those who substitute formal worship practices for the seeking of justice. The prophets have sometimes been labeled anti-sacrificial or anti-liturgical, but that is to miss the point. Rather, Amos and the others are opposed to those who fail to realize that good worship should be followed by good social ministry

His point is that worship cannot replace justice or be a substitute for it. His final, famous plea is that justice should roll down like waters, and righteousness like a stream that keeps flowing, even in the dry summers of Palestine

The "festivals and solemn assemblies" of Israel’s worship articulate formative truths about who God has been to Israel. Their faithful observance is commanded by God (Exodus 23:14-17, Leviticus 23, Deuteronomy 16). The festival of Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. In the annual retelling of the old story, Israel teaches new generations about the joy of God’s redemption. The story is a source of blessed memory that offers hope to believers in current tribulations. The festival of Tabernacles celebrates the communal resilience that Israel showed in its forty-year pilgrimage through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Having once survived on manna and miraculous water from a rock, Israel is reminded that reliance on God and hospitality to the sojourner are essential for its ongoing spiritual journey. Other festivals celebrate the offering of the first fruits of the harvest and mature grain to God, showing Israel’s gratitude for God’s abundant gifts. Another festival crucially important to the Israelite cultural imagination is the Day of Atonement. This annual fast emphasizes awareness of sin in the Israelite community, promoting self-denial as an expression of the community’s earnest desire to "be clean before the LORD" (Leviticus 16:30).

Through these powerful rituals, a chastened and renewed Israel may approach the Holy One. But the God of Amos thunders that these observances are despicable. Neither does God find acceptable the daily and weekly offerings that sanctify Israel’s living as a holy people. Even songs of praise offend God. Why? Because God stands with the poor, and those who do not show compassion to the poor cannot possibly be worshiping God.

Israel cannot prosper through ritual offerings, feasts, and fasts alone. Israel must "seek God and live" (5:4, 6), and the God whom they seek is an uncompromising God of justice (5:14-15). The famous line, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (5:24) is not a rousing call to believers to do good deeds. It is a roar of outrage. Because of the hypocrisy of the community of faith, God’s own justice will roll down like floodwaters, and God’s own righteousness like a perpetual torrent! "Ever-flowing stream" is far too gentle an image for the meaning of the Hebrew here. Amos’s point is this: because God’s people have not shown justice to the poor, God has no choice but to unleash God’s own justice and righteousness as punishment.

Israel has always known that ritual observance and compassion for the powerless should not be separated. The Holiness Code is quite clear about this (see Leviticus 19). God has formed Israel to be both holy and merciful. What God condemns, then, is ritualism without heart. Here it may be productive to reflect with your congregation on the particular kinds of ritualism that plague your own tradition. Worshippers who place a high premium on the preached word may be prone to idolize a charismatic preacher. The congregation that revels in the beauty of liturgy may become too focused on aesthetics and sacramentalism. What are the temptations for your own church?

Amos concludes his message with a rhetorical flurry, invoking cosmic images. Out of the hopelessness and despair of the eighth century, he imagines a vision where “justice” (mishphat) would roll down like waters. There were other, more common Hebrew words for “waters” that Amos could have used, but he did not. For instance, he could have used the word “river” (nahar), which would have drawn upon the historical significance of Joshua leading the tribes across the Jordan River. He could also have used the word “sea” (yam), which would have conjured the image of Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea. But the words “river” and “sea” were too routine and lacked the poetic power necessary to describe the flood of justice that Amos wanted to wash over his world.

Thus, to describe the character of this justice, Amos reached all the way back to the Genesis story of creation, using the word “waters” (mayim) in Genesis 1. To represent an overwhelming and unimaginable justice, Amos chooses an equally unimaginable image. He calls for justice, which surges like the primordial waters of creation in Genesis 1–the waters that supported the very foundations of the earth; the waters that were present even before God began to create; the waters that were so powerful that God would use the firmament of the sky to hold them back. 

Psalm –   Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20

The Book of Wisdom, often referred to simply as Wisdom or the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, is one of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible. It is one of the seven Sapiential or wisdom books of the Septuagint Old Testament, which includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs,Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), and Sirach

The Wisdom of Solomon was written in the so-called "inter-Testamental" period (200 B.C. to 150 A.D.) – between last book of the Old Testament and the New . Composed by a Greek-speaking Jew (most likely in Alexandria, Egypt), the book was used to instruct young Jewish males in the ways of leadership.

Wisdom was a divine gift, generally bestowed on leaders, scribes and other members of the educated class. Not just a human attainment that could be won through superior intelligence, serious study or long life. According to tradition bestowed in greatest amount on Solomon


Every national leader exercises authority with an eye to history. Many kings and presidents have pondered the question: how will future generations judge me?

What is the key to a favorable legacy, as well as a peaceful and profitable rule? The author of the Wisdom of Solomon had his favorite answer: wisdom! In fact he was so enamored with the virtue that he personified it in his writing.

The image of wisdom the author painted was that of a young lover, a woman who waited eagerly by the gate to a man’s house (so the virtue was easily available), yet aloof enough to only be available to those who sought her. "Lady Wisdom" was no commoner; she was "resplendent and unfading.." Like a classy lover, the virtue was intimate and reliable, a confidant in need. This was a virtue of those groomed for position and power.

Though the reader is commanded to “seek” (V. 12), “desire” (V. 13), “Fix one thoughts on” and “vigilant” (V.15) for wisdom, she is readily accessible, eager to reward the diligent student. Wisdom is the keeping of laws which is timeless (V.16) and brings one closer to God and the kingdom

Epistle –   1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

The sections of text appointed for the lectionary up to this point have not included readings from chapter three or the first part of chapter four. When last we heard from 1 Thessalonians, Paul reminded the congregation of his own work to support the ongoing mission of proclaiming the "gospel of God." He also urged the congregation to "lead a life worthy of God," and offered additional thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ reception of God’s word (2:9-13).

In chapters four and five of the letter, Paul appeals to the Thessalonians to live according to the faith they have already exemplified. This faith is the grounds for encouragement to and steadfastness in living a life pleasing to God (4:1-12), a life that they are already doing but that they "should do so more and more" (4:1).

In Chapter 4 he gives a number of exhortations on Christian living, particularly sexual purity, brotherly love and industriousness. He then, in v13-18, deals with the parousia, ie., Christ’s second coming.  When he wrote it, the contemporary Christians, including Paul, expected Jesus to come again in glory quite soon, certainly within their own lifetimes. These paragraphs address a troublesome point: will the few Christians who die in this short period somehow miss out on the benefits of Jesus’ return.

Paul has just urged his readers to live a godly, ethical life “because the Lord is an avenger” (v. 6). When? According to Wisdom, the wicked will be punished at the Last Day. This brings up an important question (“we do not want you to be uninformed”, v. 13, is Paul’s way of saying this is important!): we know that the destiny of the faithful who are alive at the end of time is to be with God, but what about those who have already died?

The subject of the Lord’s return for and appearing to the church is a subject of a great deal of New Testament revelation. The return of the Savior is not only something that we are to expectantly wait for (Tit. 2:13), but something on which we are to set our affection (2 Tim. 4:8). But this is not just to give comfort or reassurance in the face of death; it is to have a transforming affect on the way we live—on values, priorities, pursuits, and on moral behavior in general. We are sojourners who are here on temporary assignments as ambassadors of Christ. Since we are in the world, but not of it, our lives are to take on the character of the Lord Jesus Himself.

What then does this passage tell us of the great day of Christ’s return, his parousia, his coming, his appearing? Revelation

i] The dead in Christ are asleep ("in" = through Christ) rather than just dead. This guarantees their part in the great day, v13.

ii] The security of the dead in Christ rests on the death and resurrection of Christ on our behalf, v14.

iii] The dead in Christ will participate in the day of Christ’s coming, v14 (Their resurrection is assumed in this verse. "Bring" = bring from the grave).

iv] Those who are alive at the coming of Christ do not have precedence over those who are dead, v15. We all share in the parousia.

v] The coming of Jesus will be like the coming of God to Mount Sinai, v16 (He comes down in the clouds and we go up). It will be a noisy coming. There will be the shout of the Lord, the shout of the archangel and the shout of the trumpet.

vi] On this day the dead in Christ will rise first, v17.

vii] The dead in Christ and those who are alive at his coming, will all meet together with Christ in the heavenly glory, and so be with him forever, v17 (Raptured = "caught up").

Parousia is one of three key words used of the Lord’s return, the others being apocalupsis, “unveiling, revelation,” and epiphania, “manifestation, appearance.” These words are used of both the rapture and the second coming of Christ, but this is no reason to assume they refer to one and the same event.

A careful study of the use of these words suggests a distinction between the rapture (the return of Christ for His saints) and the second coming (the return of Christ with His saints) The word “coming” is the Greek noun parousia. It was used of the coming and arrival, or the presence of a dignitary like a king. It could look at either aspect and is sometimes translated “coming” (Matt. 24:3, 27, 37; 1

So he imagines a sequence of events. The dead will be brought to life. Then those, like himself, who are still alive, will be caught up into the air and then both, the resurrected ones and those still alive will be taken off to be with Jesus

Paul describes 4 hopes

1. Hope – There is life beyond the grave

Only the believer in Christ can know this hope and truly experience this comfort in the face of deathPaul does not want his readers caught up in the hopelessness of the pagan world. Some pagan philosophers touched on the idea of immortality, but most taught that there was no life beyond the grave. . It is important to note that Paul is not saying the community should not grieve. On the contrary, grief is the expected emotion when faced with the painful loss of a loved one.

2. Hope – based on the resurrection of Christ..

This parallel between the experience of Christ and that of the faithful was merely a corollary to one of Paul’s central themes: a literal interpretation of the phrase "in Christ." According to Paul, the neophyte had been joined (in a very real way) to Christ in his death and resurrection at baptism. From that point on, the life and future of the Christian was interwoven with that of the Savior. If the Christian who died with the Lord and rose in his new life passed away before his return, their death somehow reenacted the experience of the Jesus before his resurrection.

3. Hope would then give comfort and remove their grief. He will save the faithful from God’s wrath and bring them to heaven. Paul is underlining his belief that ultimately Christ will come to receive and care for his own. They will not be abandoned

4. Hope for those who are dead. The Apostle tells us here that when Christ comes again, He will not come by Himself. He will come with those who have fallen asleep. Paul used the analogy of sleep for death, implying that death was not an end, but a transitional state. The Christian dead lay "asleep" in their tombs, just like Jesus did for three days. As the sleeper does not cease to exist while his body sleeps, so the dead person continues to exist. The grave is like a bed

Jesus will bring along those who have died This is a hope that is not simply a future wish, but one that lays claim on life now, that makes a difference for how life is lived and what is at stake. In fact, it is hope that distinguishes believers from others.

He particularly didn’t what his readers to lose hope for the "dead in Christ. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

Finally, and primarily, as sleep is temporary, so also is the death of the body. This figure of speech for death anticipates resurrection. The believer’s soul and spirit are not only awake and enjoying the presence of God (Phil. 1:23), but are at rest

Gospel –  Matthew 25:1-13

The parable of the bridesmaids (Parable of the Virginis) stands second in a series of four distinctly Matthean parables, all bearing upon the relationship between the return of Jesus and a final sorting (24:43-25:46). 

I. Passage

1 This story throws light on what will happen in the kingdom of heaven. Ten bridesmaids went out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom. 

2 Five of them were careless unprepared for the groom’s coming while the others were sensible. 

3 The careless bridesmaids took their lamps as they were and did not bring extra oil.
4 But those who were sensible, brought with their lamps flasks of oil.
5 As the bridegroom delayed, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.

6 But at midnight, a cry rang out: ‘The bridegroom is here, come out and meet him!’ 7 All the maidens woke up at once and trimmed their lamps. 8 Then the careless ones said to the sensible ones: ‘Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 The sensible ones answered: ‘There may not be enough for both you and us. You had better go to those who sell and buy for yourselves.’

10 They were out buying oil when the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him to the wedding feast, and the doors were shut.

11 Later the rest of the bridesmaids arrived and called out: ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered: ‘Truly, I do not know you.’

13 So, stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

II. Matthew

Matthew’s final discourse from Jesus deals with final judgment two major questions: "When will Christ return?" (Answer: no one knows, but there will be signs — signs, which I believe have always been with us.) And, "What shall we do while we wait?" Matthew’s expanded conclusion deals primarily with this second question.

The Matthean community is, of course, dealing with several issues – rupture from the synagogue, a delayed parousia, flagging vigilance. What is striking in this parable, which appears to focus on the severity of judgment, is the confinement of judgment to one character – the bridegroom. Judgment is reserved to the only one who can judge (see Romans 14 but also Matthew 7). Even the wise young women do not judge the foolish one; they merely refuse to share their oil and send the foolish women to the shopkeepers

This is a story of salvation but also rewards or loss of rewards. Matthew always mixes rewards for some with eternal damnation for others,

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to be go ahead and live our lives (sleep like the virgins did) but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute (like the faithful servant did), because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone (parable of talents).

This parable focuses on the need to be ready, especially if there is a delay. 5 of the bridesmaids who were wise and took extra oil with them in contrast to the other 5 who did not (foolist bridesmaids).

III. Symbolism

1. “Wedding Feast” – God’s Kingdom. Among many Jewish circles, a never-ending feast symbolized the Kingdom. The story was told to his followers

2. Town crier – The town crier was the evangelist who proclaimed the coming King in the marketplace.

3. Night – represented the dark times of persecution prophesied before the final judgement. All the signs pointed toward the lived experience of Matthew’s audience: a Jewish-Christian community awaiting Jesus’ return.

4 “long time in coming” vs. “delayed” – Issue of second coming

The bridegroom is "a long time in coming" rather than "delayed," because "delayed" presumes an expectation of a pre-arranged, set time when the bridegroom and bride would arrive, and at the time of Jesus there was no such custom. There was of course a general expectation of when things would be held, but the customquot;in was that things began when the key people showed up.

5 Bridegroom – Jesus The Kingdom is present in Christ, but not fully realized. The "present, but not yet" nature of the Kingdom gives us hope as we look forward to the future

Like the wedding party, Christ and his bride (the church) are supposed to be going to every house to make sure no one is left uninvited.

6. Bride

Bride is absent! The bride is not mentioned: perhaps they will discover at the end that there was no other than themselves

7. Lamps

The lamps represented the disciple’s example which gave light to the world (see Matthew 5:14-16). ). In this context, the time of slumber became the delay of the Lord’s coming

8. Olive Oil

What does the lamp oil represent, if anything? While some have attempted specific answers (good deeds, the Holy Spirit), in the absence of any particular indication, it seems that a generic reference to faithful and obedient discipleship as defined by the whole gospel is more convincing

9. “I don’t’ know you” – How well does the Lord know you? How close is God’s relationship with you? That seems to be a key element in this parable.

To the unprepared, Jesus is a stranger.

When the foolish virgins find the shut door, they cry out, "Lord, Lord, open to us." The response is, "Truly I am telling you, I don’t know you." A similar scene is presented by Jesus in Mt 7:21-23:

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?" Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.

10. Wise and Foolish – Christian community

The followers of Christ can be divided into two camps: five foolish = five foolish followers. Five wise = five faithful followers of Christ

Those who built their house on the rock in Matthew 7/Luke 6 were those who heard the word of God AND did it. Those who built their house of the sand were those who heard the word of God but did NOT do it.

The word implies someone who is given to cautious planning and thinking ahead

IV. Key Messages

Matthew opposes the frantic quest for eschatological information, and he pictures faithful disciples as those who do their duty at appropriate times and are thus prepared for the Parousia whenever it comes. Such disciples can lay down to sleep in confidence, rather than being kept awake by panicky last-minute anxiety. Thus the emphasis is "be prepared," not "keep awake,watch." 

A. Participating in the total concept of Christ

We do this by participating in and celebrating the many comings of the Son of Man: Jesus’ presence in the Word; Jesus’ presence in the Sacrament; Jesus’ presence in the gathering together; Jesus’ presence in our going out to make disciples; Jesus’ presence as we minister to the "least of these". Such repeated connections with Jesus keeps our "lights" empowered for witness and service and lets Jesus know who we are. 

B. Doing What Christ Did – Activist

Our reading from Amos might give us a clue:

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

We prepare for the fulfillment of Christ’s purposes on earth by doing what he did. We prepare for God’s kingdom by seeking it, and God’s justice first, as Matthew 6:33 suggests ("justice" is a fine translation of what’s often translated as "righteousness," namely dikaiosune — sorry if I get the transliteration wrong; I really need to learn how to do that properly in ASCII one of these days).

All of those fine-sounding words like "justice" can seem awfully abstract, but it isn’t. I’m saying that we prepare for God’s kingdom by seeking it in the here and now, gaining strength from a life of prayer to engage in a lifetime of pursuing what God pursues


Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger
Achieving universal primary education
Promoting gender equality and empower women
Reducing child mortality
Improving maternal health
Combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
Caring for God’s Creation
Bringing people together around the world to do justice

Preparation meant more than declaring one’s self a follower. It meant a constant and growing relationship with Christ through prayer and example. In Matthew, preparation meant action.

We have no choice but to wait for the Lord. But, we have options to stay prepared. We can feed our faith through prayer and study. We can feed others through our heartfelt works of charity and example. Or, we can put our faith on the shelf and just wait for the right day to dust it off. If we choose the later, however, beware! We may find there is no faith left.

C. Love and Compassion – God emphasis

The only way to be prepared for an eschatological Messiah is to be prepared for & at the service of the One who’s already lived among us & lives among us by his Spirit. Whatever we do, let’s not run out of love, compassion, humility, all the God-characteristics. Don’t let ourselves get low on God. Don’t run out of God!

Some will say that Matthew has placed this parable here for the benefit of the first Christians, for after having awaited the return of Christ, they saw that nothing happened. However, Jesus speaks to the believers of all times. For them one day or another fidelity becomes burdensome: "I did not know to what I was committing myself." There lies the grandeur of fidelity. It cannot be known in advance; giving one’s hand to God is a jump into the unknown. Only through this perseverance can we be saved (Mt 24:13), in other words, find ourselves.

D. Church Emphasis

The Lord demands faithfulness and perseverance from those he has chosen: this is how we save a world that seeks truth everywhere and does not know to which Lord to surrender

Stay awake can be heard to be spoken to those who kept their oil, as well as for those who squandered theirs, for they missed an opportunity to support, to show steadfast love toward a neighbor.

We know that Jesus is doing his part but are we doing ours? Are we part of a fellowship focused on seeking out the darkest alleyways and inviting those normally forgotten to the banquet of God’s abundance? This is one of the two primary reasons for the very existence of the Church:

• To worship God
• To “go and make disciples of all the nations”

In other words, if that is not what my church or fellowship is focused on doing then why do we call ourselves “Christ Ones?” Furthermore, if I am not involved in both worshipping God and serving his people, then what makes me any different than the Pharisees in the previous study of Matthew 23:1-14? They were proud of their ritualism but condemned for their lack of responsiveness to the children of God.

It requires a huge team effort to be “church” and it exemplifies our dual roles as members of Christ’s body. Either we are:

• In the darkness searching for the lost
• Sending out rope and holding up a lantern so that those in the dark can find their way home

We are either deep in the cave listening for the cries of the lost or we are in the supply line offering support to those out front. As long as there are lost, the church must be seeking.

The questions I need to constantly ask of myself and my fellowship are;

• “Who has not heard God’s whisper of love today?”
• “Where do I (we) need to go to bring God’s hope to the most despairing?”
• “Is my lamp ready—do the lost or returning know the comfort of my support?”

The moment that it was revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Messiah was the very moment that the New Testament Church really began. At that moment, Jesus’ earthly mission ended. Realizing the timing, our Lord immediately turned towards Jerusalem in order to complete the sacrifice and allow for the time of the Holy Spirit. At that moment Jesus turned the church over to us! We have now become the hands and feet of the Gospel

E. Individual preparation

The message is "keep awake", be vigilant. The gospel demands faith, ongoing day-by-day, crisis by crisis, faith as we await the coming day. And I think preparation is faith.

Their refusal to give oil to the foolish bridesmaids may be intended to show that each one of us is expected to make our own preparation – by living a godly, ethical life. Two surprising events, the door being shut (v. 10) and the failing to recognize the foolish bridesmaids (v. 12), are probably another way of saying that the unprepared will be refused entry to the Kingdom – just as the wicked servant will be punished

We are promised the Bridegroom’s arrival but we cannot know when he will arrive. Literally, Jesus says that we should not ask when—we shouldn’t be wasting our time trying to figure out that question [v 13]. He will come when he is ready and Peter explains that Christ will be ready when the invitation has been extended to everyone.

There are clear warnings in this story that cannot be overlooked. The primary messages can be divided into two parts:

• Sometimes we need to be gathering the guests and sometimes we need to be receiving them as they are brought in with others. Either way we need to be involved and alert.

• No one can be involved for us. Faith boils down to two critical relationships which Christ named for us in our studies of Matthew 23. We need to succumb to God’s love and abandon ourselves to service. We can’t rely on a substitute or proxy to do this work for us.

Here is a list of what we cannot borrow as we prepare for the bridal party:

• You cannot borrow faith. You must have a personal relationship with God—no one can have it for you.

• You must personally be involved in caring for the least of these. Jesus turns away those who call him, “Lord,” yet do not love the poor.

• Faith cannot be inherited—that is a significant part of this story. You can be a bridesmaid (a key player in the bridal party) and still not get in to the wedding if you are not personally prepared.

In other words, God doesn’t care about heredity or position. He is solely concerned with passionate relationship. Am I in love with God? Does my heart still break for the least likely to be loved? Am I running out with the news of the wedding feast? Do I find your knuckles raw from pounding on the doors that everyone else has walked by? Do I knock anyway, when others say; “Don’t knock on his door, he’s been in jail.” “Don’t knock on her door, she’s divorced and has unruly kids.” “Don’t knock on his door; he’s just a crotchety old man.”

When he does arrive it will be at the very last possible moment. Everything will seem absolutely dark except for the tiny flame he has given us to bear. Will he find us ready? We are not to be concerned over the brightness of our flame.

Our one concern must be, “Is my candle lit?” Is my candle lit and held up for all to see? A small candle is incredibly bright when the surrounding world is completely dark.