Listen to the teachings! The kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who await the groom. With the delay of the groom, five bridesmaids do not have enough oil to complete their task. At the end of the parable, the five bridesmaids cannot enter the wedding banquet and the groom says, “I do not know you.” Jesus concludes by saying, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
How do you hear those words? Are they somber? Do they produce fear of judgment? Listen to Jesus with a sense of hope. The words conclude a parable about a wedding festival—a joyful event. The ten bridesmaids need to have prepared for a tremendously joyful celebration, an event that marks goodness, love, and blessing. Why would they come unprepared?
First Thessalonians 4:13-18 and today’s passage help us realize that we have fallen prey to the twenty-first-century invasion of fear. Fear—whether of terrorism, infectious diseases, street violence, or immigrants—becomes a lens through which we see the world. That fear transfers itself to the way we read the Bible. Instead of reading the Bible as God’s gift of love, we read it with fear in the background. When fear becomes a perspective, we miss joy and hope; we focus instead on condemnation.
Rather than looking with fear, live like the bridesmaids who look forward to the arrival of the groom. They prepare with joy for something better and for a greater joy. That seems the place of prayer in our daily discipleship: We listen to God as we read scripture. We pray and open ourselves to God’s grace for the day so that we may be open and receptive to the greater joy that will be ours.
God, in your compassion, help us to stay alert to the joy that arrives each day as a foretaste of what will yet be. Amen.
This week’s passages speak of ultimate commitment or of the return of Jesus or they speak in parables that reflect a protagonist who has been delayed in an anticipated appearance. Living so far from the time of the texts makes it difficult to appreciate the urgency with which the issues arose in various communities and the crises they precipitated. Eschatology, however, is not to be thought of merely as a speculative venture in which curious religious people gamble on a time when the world will end. In the Bible, the coming advent of God demands from and warrants for the people of God a distinctive style of life. In Joshua 24, Israel receives an opportunity to de ne itself by identifying its God. First Thessalonians 4 comforts anxious believers who are worried about the fate of their deceased parents. Jesus’ resurrection is not an isolated event, Paul argues, but the beginning of the resurrection of all people. The prospect of Jesus’ return forms the basis for hope.
• Read Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25. When have your ministry activities become so time-consuming that you lost your connection to God? How can you regain that connection?
• Read Psalm 78:1-7. Which of the teachers in your life are you most grateful for? Why?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. How concerned are you with the end of time? What would you say to someone who claimed to know when the “end of the age” would be?
• Read Matthew 25:1-13. What part has fear played in your journey of faith? What does fear have to do with receiving God’s love?
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