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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
26 Pentecost - Proper 27
November 9, 2008
The Rev. Kristine Hill
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
Small Parish - Big Heart
The little church you've been looking for!
All are welcome!
Our Mission:

To worship
the Lord

To serve the
community

To grow the
church
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
recent  presidential  election.    Voter  turnout  was  significantly  larger  than  usual.   
Quite  a  few  people  voted  for  the  first  time,  not  just  young  voters,  but  people  old  
enough  to-have-vote-for-years  but  who  hadn’t  bothered.   What  was  it  that  spurred  
people  this  year?  Something  motivated  many  U.S.  citizens  to  get  to  the  polls  this  
time  around.    Maybe  it  was  being  part  of  a  historic  election,  what  with  an  African  
American  running  for  president  for  the  first  time;  or  maybe  it  was  due  to  the  low  
approval  ratings  of  our  incumbent  president;  or  maybe  people  turned-out  because  
they  were  worried  about  the  economy.    Whatever  the  reason,  there  seemed  to  be  
an  urgency  among  voters  this  year,  a  sense  that  it  really  mattered  for  each  
person  to  cast  his  or  her  ballot  in  the  elections.

A  large  number  of  people  voted  here  in  the  Philadelphia  area  last  Tuesday.  News  
reports  were  chock-full  of  people  saying  they  got  up  before  dawn  to  get in  line,  
when  the  polling  place  hadn’t  even  opened  yet.   Others  went  as  a  group,  where  a  
son  or  a  daughter  was  eligible  to  vote  for  the  first  time  and  was  accompanied  his  
or  her  parents.   Around  noon  it  started  to  rain  but  that  did  not  hold  anyone  back  
from  standing  in  the  long  lines  that  formed;  people  waited  patiently  to  mark  their  
ballots  and  send  in  their  votes.  Of  course,  in  this  great  nation,  this  strong  and  
established  democracy,  there  was  no  violence,  no  force  was  used;  the  election  
process  went  smoothly  as  people  around  the  country  stepped  into  voting  booths  
and  made  their  selections.   That’s  the  essence  of  America  --  that  we  have  the  
right  to  choose  our  government.  That’s  one  of  the  things  that  makes  us  great.       
But  again,  …this  year,  there  seemed  to  be  something  in  the  air,  something  that  
stirred  many,  a  sense  that  a  moment  had  arrived,  and   people  across  the  nation  
made  a  special  effort  to  get  out  of  bed,  to  stand  in  long  lines  if  need  be,  to  
ignore  the  rain  or  the  heat  or  the  cold,  and  vote.

Moments  like  that  will,  on  occasion,  arrive  in  life.  They  may  arrive  for  an  entire  
people,  like  September  11th,  2001  --  when  we  were  all  affected,  all  changed  by  
the  terrorist  attacks,  --  or  they  may  arrive  just  for  you,  say  if  the  day  comes  for  
you  to  take  the  bar  exam,  and  either  pass  it  and  become  a  lawyer  or  fail  it  and  
do  not.   But  in  life,  those  great  moments  arrive, moments  when  the  accounting,  
the  reckoning  takes  place  -- moments  when  everything  comes  down  to  right  now  
and  we  see  who  we  are  and  who  we  will  be.     We  prepare  for  those  moments  all  
our  lives,  though  we  may  not  think  of  it  that  way,  and  though  we  are  unaware  
which  moments  are  on  the  horizon.  But  still,  we  prepare  for  them  in  how  we  live  
our  daily  lives,  in  how  we  prepare  for  life.   

We  prepare  for  “that  moment”  in  how  we  prepare  ourselves  for  work  each  day,  
how  we  prepare  for  school  throughout  the  semester  and  over  the  years,  how  we  
prepare  for  marriage  even  before  we  are  engaged,  how  we  start  getting  ready  (or  
not)  for  a  test  that  is  still  a  month  away.   All  of  it  prepares  us  for  the  big,  as  yet  
unknown,  moment.   We  make  ourselves  ready  for  ‘that  day’  by  whether  we  stop  
when  someone  needs  our  help  at  the  side  of  the  road, by whether  we  offer  our  
condolences  when  someone’s  loved  one  has  died - bother  to  bring  food…  by  
whether  we  help  our  neighbor  when  a  tree  falls  on  his  house  at  suppertime…  by  
whether  we  take  a  moment  to  read  to  our  kids  or  have  a  conversation  with  that  
elderly  lady  down  the  street  who  repeats  herself  constantly    because  she  is  so  
lonely.    It’s  all  preparation.

There  were  ten  bridesmaids  altogether,  lovely  young  women,  no  doubt.    It  was  
the  tradition  in  the  ancient  near  east,  that  when  the  time  came  for  a  wedding,  the  
bridegroom  would  travel  to  the  home  of  his  bride  and  “carry  her  off”  to  their  
new  home.  (isn’t  that  romantic!)   Well,  of  course,  the  bride  wasn’t  simply  going  to  
wait  inside  for  him  to  show  up!   According  to  custom, she  and  her  attendants  went  
out  part  way  to  meet  him.   The  date  was  set,  so  they  knew  approximately  when  
he  would  come.  But  travel  was  usually  by  foot,  which  meant  the  bridegroom  might  
be  delayed - by  inclement  weather,  by  a  last  minute  preparation,  by  family  
obligations  --  who  knows?    One  couldn’t   say  exactly  when  he  and  his  attendants  
would  arrive.  So  the  bride  and  her  bridesmaids  would  get  to  the  meeting  place  to  
await  the  bridegroom,  and  the  wait  might  be  30  minutes,  or  it  might  be  several  
hours,  or  it  might  be  a  day  and  a  half.     You  never  knew.

Jesus  tells  a  story  about  a  wedding  party  which  makes  us  think  about  being  
prepared.   Keep  in  mind  that  this  is  a  parable,  a  story  with  a  point  that  teaches  
us  something.  It  is  not  an  allegory  where  every  character  in  the  story  stands  for  
something  or  someone  in  the  kingdom  of  heaven.   The  bridesmaids  knew  what  
weddings  were  like  in  their  own  culture.  The  time  came  and  they  went  out  to  
meet  the  bridegroom.  They  took  lamps – oil  lamps,  fueled  by  oil  and  a  lighted  
wick.  Five  of  them  thought  to  bring  extra  oil,  five  did  not.   They  got  to  the  
proscribed  meeting  place  and  the  bridegroom  did  not  show  up  within  a  couple  of  
hours.   Those  with  extra  oil  were  fine;  those  without  extra  oil  were  not.  They  had  
to  go  off  in  the  night  and  try  to  find  someone  who  would  sell  them  more  oil.   
Merchants  closed  for  the  night  in  those days.  The  foolish  young  maids  were  out-of-
luck  until  daylight.   They  had  not  planned  well.

While  they  were  gone,  the  bridegroom  arrived.   Of  course  the  wedding  party  wasn’
t  going  to  wait  for  those  silly  bridesmaids  to  return.  The  bride,  bridegroom  and  
the  other  attendants  went  to  their  destination  and  got  started  with  the  festivities.  
They  were  all  inside  celebrating  when  a  knock  came  at  the  door.  It  was  those  
five  foolish  bridesmaids  who,  if  I  may  say,  had  not  carried  out  their  duty -  their  
lamps  were  not  lit  at  the  crucial  moment,  they  were  not  present  when  the  
bridegroom  arrived,  they  were  not  with  the  bride  as  she  was  given  to  the  
bridegroom  in  marriage.  They  missed  the  whole  thing.   But  now  they  want  to  be  
let into  the  party.  They  say  “Lord, lord,  let  us  in.”   The  bridegroom  comes  over  to  
have  a  look,  but  he  has  not  met  these  young  women  before.   They  were  not  
present  when  he  arrived  so  he  says  “I  do  not  know  you.”   That  is  the  plain  
truth.    He  does  not  know  them.   He’s  never  seen  them  before.

The  lesson  from  this  story  is  not  that  Jesus  will  suddenly  fail  to  recognize  those  
of  us  who  love  him,  worship  him,  and  serve  alongside  him  in  ministry,   at  the  last  
day;  no  –  the  story  tells  about  a  bridegroom  who  does  not  recognize  5  
bridesmaids  he  had  never  met.   The  ‘teaching’  of  the  parable  is  that  you  can’t  
expect  someone  to  recognize  you  if  you’ve  never  been  in  his  house,  if  you’ve  
never  been  introduced,  if  you’ve  never  spent  time  together,  if  you’ve  never  had  
a  conversation,  if  you’ve  never  played  on  the  same  team,  if  you’ve  never  hung  
out  in  the  same  company.   If  you’re  a  stranger  to  God  during  your  life,  you  cannot  
show  up  at  the  pearly  gates  and  say  “lord,  lord;”  he  will  not  know  you.  Our  lives   
are  our  preparation.  We  get  ready  for  the  critical  day,  that  moment  when  the  
rubber  hits  the  road,  by  living  as  the  baptized  people  of  God  every  day.     

We  learn,  in  our  world,  to  be  prepared  for  certain  things  – a  big  presentation  at
work,  a  difficult  conversation  with  a  co-worker,  taking  a  test  or  writing  a  research  
paper  for  school,  interviewing  for  a  job,  fulfilling  your  roll  as  a  bridesmaid,  having  
that  necessary  talk  with  your  spouse  or  your  child  or  your  parent.  We  learn  to  
make  ourselves  ready  for  these  big  moments  so  we  can  give  our  best,  so  we  
can  use  the  abilities  we  have,  so  others  can  count  on  us,  so  we  can  do  our  part  
in  the  family,  in  the  community.   We  hear  what  the  story  is  saying  -- don’t  wait  to  
be  prepared.  Back  then,  you  never  knew  when  the  bridegroom  would  arrive.  For  
goodness  sake  bring  extra  oil  – it’s  the  only  sensible  thing  to  do.

If  we  can  be  prepared  for  the  things  in  our  daily  lives – work, school,  parenting,  
being  good  neighbors,  voting  for  the  president  we  think  will  do  the  best job…  if  
we  can  do  those  things,  how  much  more  should  we  prepare  ourselves  for  the  
kingdom  of  heaven.  People  get  so  excited – myself  included – when  the  candidate  
of  their  choice  is  elected.  “Wow!”  we  say, “Now  things  will  really  get  done!”   And  
that  excitement  is  fine;  it  means  we  care  about  our  nation’s  well  being;  we  care  
enough  to  be  involved.   But  how  much  more  significant  it  is  that  the  kingdom  of  
heaven  is  coming  --  when  Jesus  will  reign  completely.    We  prepare  ourselves  and  
work  hard  for  secular  leaders –  with  all  their  promise  --  yet  how  much  more  might  
we  do  to  prepare  for  the  kingdom  of  heaven?   Because  when  Jesus  rules  over
all,   everything  will  be  peace  and  righteousness  and  joy  and  harmony  and  
goodness  and  prosperity  for  everyone.  

The  kingdom  of  heaven  is  coming – something  far  better  than  the  most  astonishing  
political  election,  better  than  the  Phillies  winning  the  World  Series  (it’s  true),  
better  than  the  wonderful  pies  the  St.  Elizabeth’s  Guild  served  last  week  after  
service  (if  you  can  imagine  that!).   The  kingdom  of  heaven  is  coming - God  as  
eternal  ruler of  earth  and  heaven.  All  other  rulers  will  gladly  serve  the  Lord.  
There  will  be  no  more  “little  people”  to  be  overlooked  any  more  because  
everyone  will  count  equally.  There  will  be  no  more  poor  and  rich  because  
everyone  will  be  fully  satisfied  and  blessed.   The  kingdom  of  heaven  is  coming…  it’
s  better  than  Christmas;  we  want  to  be  ready.  That’s  what  today’s  parable  is  
telling  us.    We  don’t  want  to  be  caught  napping,  we  don’t  want  to  be  those  who  
have  forgotten  to  bring  their  oil  because  they  were  too  busy  watching  American  
Idol  or  buying  new  shoes.    This  is  so  much  more  significant – the  kingdom  of  
heaven  is  drawing  near.    When  the  moment  arrives,  let  us  not  be  unprepared.   

We  won’t  be  because  we’ve  been  getting  ready  all  our  lives… bringing  food  to  
neighbors  and  church  members  who  are  sick  or  grieving  the  death  of  a  loved  
one  - that’s  good  preparation;  hearing  and  repeating  the  stories  of  our  faith  so  
they  live  in  our  hearts  and  we  know  them  by  heart  and  we  can  share  them  with  
the  world  by  how  we  live  and  by  how  we  talk.  We’ve  been  preparing  by  praising  
God  in  good  times  and  bad,  by  serving  God  with  collections  of  blankets  and  
coats  for  families  who  need  them  against  the  winter  cold,  by  praying  day  after  day  
and  together  on  Sundays  for  the  Church  and  the  world  and  people  we  don’t  even  
know.   All  of  it  is  simply  living,  and  yet  preparing  for  the  moment  when  Christ  will  
return  to  claim  us,  to  rule  over  all  creation.   We  have  no  idea  when  that  will  
happen,  when  our  bridegroom  will  arrive,  but  until  he  does,  we’re  gonna’  keep  on  
preparing…  praising  God,  listening  to Jesus,  showing  one  another  mercy  and  
kindness,  helping  our  neighbor…  and  on  and  on…                          amen.