“The Parable of the Wedding Feast!” – Matthew 25:1-13
November 8, 2020 – Presented by Pastor Trudy Franzen
When I was in the 4th grade, I had to do a country report. You remember those, right? I had to do a state report, a country report, a city report. My kids had to do county reports. Influenced by my Messianic Christian parents, I had chosen Israel for my report.
I was supposed to work on it a little every day. But ….I didn’t. Every time I thought about my report, I had no idea what to do and I got a horrible stomach ache thinking about it. I just hoped it would all go away on its own.
But the day came when the report was due. I went to my mother with a stomach ache so bad I couldn’t eat, and told her “My report on Israel is due tomorrow and I have not done anything.”
She was angry as could be, right? And because she was dutiful and loving, she stayed up until 1am with me, cranking out the stupid report.
Most of us can relate to this. We know that we really should do something about X, but we put it off and just hope that it will go away on its own.
This is a pretty good tactic, because probably half the time things DO just go away on their own.
But we’ve been putting off taking care of the environment. Taking care our health and getting exercise and eating right. Dealing with racism. All things that we know we should do for our own good, but we just hope it will all turn out okay in the end if we just hang back and do nothing.
We know better than that. We know these things cannot end well if we neglect them. But we, like our maidens in today’s parable, are foolish. Some people translate that Greek word for foolish, as “thoughtless.” The wise maidens are thoughtful and the foolish ones are thoughtless.
The weird thing about this whole story though is that a wedding is supposed to be really fun! It is not like writing a report on Israel at all! It is more like anticipating a birthday party or dance.
Yet, the thoughtless maidens get tired of waiting and become complacent.
They suppose that they can just rely on those are are dutiful and responsible, the “type A” thoughtful ones. In the end they are too late.
This parable is about Jesus’ second coming, many scholars suppose. It is about how Jesus is the bridegroom and will return for a big bash of a party one of these days. That the church is the bride of Christ and we are all bridesmaids and we’re all going to have a huge celebration. We have to be ready and waiting for Jesus’ return even though he’s been keeping us waiting over 2,000 years! It is a little hard to know what to do with this parable, or even if the parable is about what we suppose!
Some call this parable and those like it a parable of judgement. That, if we do not do what God wants, God will judge and punish us. The interesting thing about these parables though, is that it is never about people earning God’s favor. In every parable, God’s favor has already been granted. God’s love is already offered. God’s grace is already abundant.
What is at question is our response to God’s favor, God’s love, and God’s grace. Do we gladly accept the love and grace, or do we squander it? Do we have contempt for it? Do we reject it? Do we dishonor it? The bridesmaids were in. They were already part of the wedding party before the party started.
They were in their matching dresses and shoes, their hair all done up, ready to take their place at the head table. But instead, they fell asleep and rushed around all confused to the point that they missed the deadline.
God’s love was already a given for the thoughtless maidens as well as the thoughtful ones. One writer, Robert Capon, puts it this way:
“Heaven is populated by nothing but forgiven sinners. And hell is populated by nothing but forgiven sinners: the Lamb of God takes away the sin of all, not just a chosen few. The difference between heaven and hell is simply that those in heaven accept the endless supply of forgiveness, while those in hell reject it.”
That goes with the theology of Martin Luther, who wrote, “I cannot by my own understanding or strength believe in Jesus or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith.”
We cannot create for ourselves invitations to the greatest feast of the universe, but we can sure say “Yes, I will attend,” or “No, I don’t want to attend!”
It is interesting that everyone in this parable seems to be waiting for the real party to start. That everyone is just waiting around for the bridegroom to arrive so that the real partying and living can begin.
But Jesus has already left us His Spirit. The party has already begun. It is one of those “already, but not yet things.” The end of the world is yet to come. The final judgment is yet to come. But we do not have to live like the bridesmaids in this parable, neither the foolish ones or the wise ones. We do not have to wait for Jesus to come back to begin the party of living in his love and his abundance.
The party can begin already! We already have God’s triumph over the fear of death. We already have his infinite love! Alleluia, alleluia, Christ is risen indeed and we live indeed as well! This 8th of November, let us proclaim as Easter once again. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Amen.