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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, November 8, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Matthew 25:1–13

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

There’s a reason you probably don’t hear this parable preached very often. With puzzling wedding rituals, antiquated lamp technology, and a seemingly unwelcoming metaphor for God, today’s selected scripture reading is, frankly, a difficult one to connect with.

This passage is part of a series of parables Jesus shares that are eschatological, or related to the end of the world (as we know it). There’s also a recurring theme in scripture in which Christ is portrayed as a bridegroom and God’s people are the bride who meets him. These images were created to impart a theological idea of great importance: that in “the end times,” whatever those look like, Jesus and the church will be united while the rest of the world does . . . something apocalyptic. What exactly will happen at that point is a topic of hot theological debate in church history, and one I’m not interested in treading into right now.

The last line in today’s reading is the most valuable to us today. We don’t know what the future holds. But we who follow Jesus claim that Christ will return to meet us in full and that something incredible is going to happen at that time.

We are called to live lives that are ever ready to encounter Jesus and leave everything else behind at a moment’s notice. That’s not a rallying call to get our behavior in order. It’s an invitation into a way of living that expects renewal and embraces mystery. By faith we wait in anticipation for that apocalyptic surprise party.

Faithful God, remind me of your presence with me today, and give me anticipation for your full glory to come. Spark in me a bit of hope today, and show me opportunities to participate in your renewal around me. Amen.

Written by Michael Mirza, Director of Worship

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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