March 22, 2016
Daily Scripture Readings for Lent 2016
Our daughter, Mary Ella, was asked to be a bridesmaid for the first time, and she was thrilled. How special to stand with her beloved cousin on her most important day. The dresses were beautiful, the showers fun.
But when the four-page, single-spaced Wedding Day Schedule arrived from the wedding planner, our bridesmaid gulped.
This says I have to arrive at 11:41, eleven forty-ONE. The wedding isn’t until 5:00. What am I going to do all that time?
Whatever the bride says, we answered.
Nowadays, weddings truly are all about the bride, as even the groom soon discovers! But not in Jesus’ day: then, it was all about the groom. Wedding festivities could last a week, and involved a two-stage process. First, there was the betrothal and later, the “hometaking,” in which the bridegroom would come to the bride’s family’s house and gather her up to take her to his house. The fun part was that the bridegroom could arrive at anytime. (Wedding planners, imagine that!)
Still, then as now, bridesmaids have but a single purpose: BE READY when the big moment comes.
In Jesus’ parable, five bridesmaids are ready: they keep their lamps handy and, at the first sound of the groom in the road, light them up. But five others let their lamps’ oil dwindle. By the time they get back from their late-night run to the store, the groom has come–and gone. He and the bride and the five bridesmaids, friends, family, neighbors, and guests process with lamps ablaze into the bridegroom’s house where the wedding banquet begins; no stragglers admitted.
The kingdom of heaven will be like this, Jesus says; keep awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Although all the bridesmaids fall asleep waiting, the preparedness of the five seems to be Jesus’ emphasis. They are ready for their role.
We don’t have all the time in the world. We get lulled into thinking there’s plenty of time, plenty of oil, plenty of hours–I’ll pray later. I’ll start reading the Bible tomorrow. I’ll get back into the church habit when I’m less busy at work. I’ll tithe when I get a raise or a promotion. I’ll remember my canned food donation. I’ll write to an inmate in prison. I’ll…
A young man from Winter Park, a strong and healthy lacrosse player, now struggles to swallow and speak, the result of a sudden stroke at 18. A mother of middle schoolers in St. Petersburg battles advanced esophageal cancer; she had plans for raising her children to adulthood, but years are shrinking into months.
What I’ve experienced as a chaplain in the hospital has made me start running. I can’t wait until I’m retired to start exercising. I can’t expect to have limber limbs at eighty if I’m not flexing them at 50.
Most importantly, Jesus says, follow me now, listen for me today, notice my Spirit moving, stirring, nudging any moment. Watch for the kingdom of heaven, use your talents, tend the struggling, and be ready for your role.
Prayer: God of Holy Week, forgive our malaise. Awaken us to the preciousness of each moment of life. Show us the hour so we may be ready for the kingdom of heaven. In the name of Jesus’ the Bridegroom. Amen
Linda Wright Simmons