My wife and I have often made jokes about waiting on our wedding day. We were well planned and ready to go. The banns had been read in our respective parishes. The invitations had been sent out. The photographer had had a mishap with keys but was ready to go. Our families had arrived from both coasts of the country. My bride had told the clergy off, insisting that she would be at the Church on time and the wedding would start as planned.
There was one issue we had not planned on though. The Church where we were getting married was in downtown Toronto (Avenue Road and Dupont Avenue) and my wife and her family where coming from Don Mills. The plan was to travel the Don Valley Parkway. We discovered right before the wedding that the DVP (or as we had dubbed it, the DV Parking Lot) was going to be closed that weekend but didn’t map out a route for my wife’s uncle to follow, since he had lived in Toronto for decades.
I share this escapade with you, to draw us into a parable that is our Gospel this week – the Parable of the ten virgins or the ten bridesmaids (Matthew 25.1-13). The Parable should tell us something about God because that is what parables are designed to do for us. So does this mean that if the God is closed, God is going to be late for the wedding? Not exactly, but let’s ferret this out a bit more.
First of all, let’s remember that weddings in the Middle East, especially in ancient times, were a big deal that went on for more than a single night. Weddings went on for a week. Everything was carefully planned and laid out so that there was nothing that would happen to spoil the festivities. Second of all, it was about waiting for the Groom, not the bride. The bride and the wedding party (the families and guests) waited at the place of the wedding for the Bridegroom and his party to arrive so that everything could begin. This is the total opposite of how we do weddings in our culture. The day is about the bride and the dress and the reception and the pictures of it all, the toasts and other traditions, etc... The Groom, at least this used to be the case, got the Wedding night.
The focus is on the ten women who wait for the Groom. This is an odd thing, women waiting for a man and the man is late! Especially since their duty was to wait on and be tending to the bride not the groom. They needed to tend to their torches, adding oil every 15 minutes or so. Then there is a delay of some length. We aren’t told how long except that those who were reasonably ready now found themselves short. Five were reasonably prepared. Five more were extraordinarily prepared. You would think that when a friend or a neighbour is in need that one would share the oil, and help out. But that is not what happens. So, those who were less prepared for the delay of the start of the party, ended up missing out on the wedding entirely, because they had not been wise enough to be extraordinarily prepared. For the unprepared, it became a “weeding” party; that means that if one is not prepared, even for the unexpected, you can and will be “weeded” out. And Luke’s Gospel tells us that there was weeping and gnashing of teeth – and those who didn’t have teeth, were given some.
If there is anything that I have learned in the 20 years plus that I have been married and in the nearly 25 years I have been in ministry, is that there is a need to planned and there is a need to be prepared. However, in the case of the kingdom, there is one thing more that is necessary: to know the nature of the King and to be ready to wait as long as it takes for him to arrive. We need to be ready for the unexpected. We need to be ready to wait for as long as it takes. Please understand that waiting in the Bible is not idleness. It is continuing to do the things you do and doing them as for the Lord, so that we are helping, working to draw others into the kingdom. There are going to be moments of sudden ministry that are going to demand our best and draw heavily on our resources. There is no real excuse for not drawing on God to provide for moments such as those – we should not have waited so long nor been caught flatfooted.
Who has the faith to last until the end and where can we get more? Ask God, he will supply you amply. So be prepared to wait and to do what must be done in the meantime. It is everything according to plan. Except not. It is God working out for us and with us our salvation. Trust and live in that this week... in his name!