Being Prepared

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Community Eucharist

Read a version of the sermon here:

Though Father Ousley preached this Sunday, Father Beddingfield’s thoughts are here:

The Gospel today has something to say about waiting fruitfully, about being alert and prepared and getting the things done one needs to do, in the waiting. In this Gospel, Jesus teaches that if we wait for the future and do nothing in the meantime, the future will be upon us, and we may be caught unprepared.

A wedding in ancient Palestine involved traveling around from house to house. And so the bridegroom and his party might visit a number of places before coming to the place where the bride and her bridesmaids are waiting. Then, as now, weddings parties were often delayed. And so, the bridesmaids who were waiting should have known that the bridegroom would be late. No promises were made. It was a part of their job to be prepared. But when the groom’s party appears, half of the bridesmaids are ready, and the other half is caught without enough oil to see.

Jesus tells this story to instruct his followers about the nature of waiting. Matthew tells this story to the Christians in his community in an effort to say to them, “Don’t just gaze off into heaven and wait for Jesus to come again. There’s work to be done. There’s love to be shared. There’s bread to be broken. The kingdom of God is like a wedding feast that welcomes all. It’s like a party, but if your waiting slows you down in the present, you just might miss all the fun.”

In our Gospel, the bridegroom eventually comes. Throughout scripture, the bridegroom is often a symbol for Jesus Christ. The Church, itself is the bride, and so we wait. We wait for the full return of Jesus Christ, at the end of times, whatever that may look like. We wait for all of those smaller joys that we hope will come into our lives. We wait for a new administration to be formed in our country, we wait for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, for a revival of our city… and so many other things.

A part of our waiting and preparing in faith might involve prayer, leaning on others, and acting with faith.

Prayer
The Gospel suggests we fill our lamps. We prepare ourselves by filling ourselves with pray and the study of the things of God—they sustain us like good oil in a old lamp.

Leaning on Others
We prepare ourselves by meeting the risen Christ when we serve the poor and when we serve by their side. We prepare ourselves by sacrificial giving—both with our time, our talents, and our money. We prepare ourselves with the simple stuff of bread and wine, bread and wine turned into Bread of Heaven and Cup of Salvation.

Acting with faith
Leaping as well as investing.
We prepare for the future feast of God by savoring each day as a gift, by taking each new day as an extraordinary morsel of food, letting it rest on the tongue, letting each day be tasted and smelled and touched and loved and shared and enjoyed.

In the 4th century, Saint Basil preached powerfully about living faithfully in the Now: He asked,

What keeps you from giving now? Isn’t the poor person there? Aren’t your own warehouses full? Isn’t the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now-and you want to wait until tomorrow? “I’m not doing any harm,” you say. “I just want to keep what I own, that’s all.” You own! You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone’s use is your own. . . . If everyone took only what they needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing as rich and poor. (Sermon on Luke).

Sometimes we wait.  Sometimes we act.  In both cases and especially in the middle, may we be sustained by the words of the Psalmist: “Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy and blessed are those who put their trust in God.” (Psalm 34:8)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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