How are you at waiting? It can be hard to wait. Don’t you get frustrated when you are put on hold and you hear: “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.” Do you feel like hanging up? “Take a number and have a seat until you are called” is not too bad. At least you know where in line you are. I recently had to have a blood test and it’s one of those ‘take a number’ when you arrive. You can’t make an appointment. So I arrived 30 minutes early so I could be first. Unfortunately someone else had the same idea so I was 2nd. Or when “your results will be in two weeks” and it’s now 15 days and you haven’t heard anything. And no doubt many of you have experienced the shortage of specialist appointments especially since Covid and “The next available appointment is in six months.”
Waiting is hard because we are not in control. The parable Jesus tells is about a wedding feast and waiting. When the feast was set to begin, the groom would come get his bride, and together they would walk to the wedding banquet with the bridesmaids holding lamps to light the way for them to walk to the feast. There are no streetlights, there is no electricity, no headlights so their job was to light the way. The problem in the parable is that only half of the bridesmaids were prepared as the bridegroom had been delayed. The other five weren’t. All of them had fallen asleep. So, when the bridegroom comes, 5 are not ready. The 5 who brought extra oil don’t have enough to share. So the unwise bridesmaids go off in a panic trying to get a refill for their lamps. Eventually, they do, but by the time they arrive, it’s too late, the door has been locked, and for those five bridesmaids, they are locked out. Despite their pleas and now being ready, the bridegroom is not ready for them: Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’.
This is an interesting story but sadly it’s also an example of eternal life and the reality that some miss out because they were not prepared for the day when Jesus returns or when Jesus calls them home. The bridegroom’s arrival is a symbol of the Second Coming of Christ, when he will bring the faithful to the heavenly banquet, a great feast for eternity. This Parable actually explains the challenge that the church faces today. The 5 bridesmaids were not evil according to the parable. They were unwise. They thought they had plenty of time so why bother with extra oil for their lamps. We’re still waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom. 2000 years ago Jesus promised to return and our biggest challenge has been complacency and the temptation to give up. But it’s not just those who have lapsed from their faith or church attendance.
Even we can fall into the situation of the 5 unwise bridesmaids. We believe in Jesus but we might also believe that he’s not going to return today so I’ll worry about it tomorrow. It’s easy to become disheartened about the delay which can cause doubts. Why doesn’t Jesus come and set things right? What’s taking him so long? There’s a lot wrong with the world — so much suffering! The wars – the violence – the natural disasters. The parable urges us to remain vigilant in preparedness and watchfulness; especially in the face of such tragedies. One day Jesus will return like a thief in the night and will we be ready. Whether we’re waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus or waiting to meet our Lord when we die, as Paul describes in our 2nd reading; We are still waiting and it’s been 2000 years since Jesus said he would return. How are you at waiting?
We don’t like waiting, but God promises us blessings even as we wait. Waiting is not doing nothing, and having to wait for the Lord doesn’t mean God is doing nothing. God is always at work, doing “far more than we can ask or imagine,” according to Ephesians 3:20. Waiting doesn’t mean inactivity. Having oil at the ready, being prepared, comes from living in trust.
Trust in our Baptism where we were made children of God – and that is what we are, as we heard from John last week. Trust in Holy Communion where we proclaim our Lord’s death until he comes. There are ways to strengthen that trust. Prayer, reading the Scriptures, fellowship and worship with other Christians, caring for people. We are only on earth for a short time when you compare it to spending an eternity in Heaven. God wants us to appreciate the world he’s given as a gift. But there are some not nice things happening around us and that’s another thing we can do as we wait for Christ to return. We can pray for the world where it needs healing. Whether it’s the wars around the world – the floods, the fires, the droughts, the diseases. We can pray that through these adversities that they will see the need for God in their life now – not tomorrow for tomorrow may be too late. Today is the day of salvation.
Paul warns that one day the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven and as John prophesies in Revelation chapter one the people will cry out: “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” And “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” And then at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, But sadly some will be on the wrong side of the shut door as Jesus says – away from me I never knew you. They will be the saddest words ever spoken and ever heard. But they are words no one needs to hear or fear. There is always hope as everyone who calls on the name of the Lord WILL be saved. And yes, as much as we don’t like to think about it, time does run out. You can’t say forever, “Someday I’ll think about my relationship with Jesus”. No Jesus ask you and everyone today – who do you say that I am. Today is the day of Salvation.
But the good news is that we’re still here. It is not too late. Jesus is preparing a great feast for us – the great banquet feast of heaven and we don’t want to miss it. And it’s not just about being ready to welcome the Lord only at death. The kingdom of heaven begins here and now. Christ comes into our life every day, in many ways. But are our eyes and ears open to perceive his presence? Are we alert to welcome him and to respond to his invitation today of “Follow me”? As we pray in the Lord’s Prayer – your Kingdom come.
We do not have to wait for death to experience the kingdom of heaven. Jesus comes to us to lead us to the full life which has been made possible by his death and resurrection. As he said in John 10:10 – I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Not I WILL come that they WILL have abundant life. Jesus is delayed, but that does not mean that he will not come. In fact St Peter says in his letter that his delay is part of God’s grace: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
We are a fast-moving society. We don’t like delays. Even if it’s less than a minute at a red light. There’s no need to fear the delay as God has given us life to enjoy until his return. There is no need to fear God saying “I never knew you” because in your Baptism God affirmed – this is my son this is my daughter whom I love. He has given you his Son’s body and blood to receive until he returns and says Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!’