Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Be careful is not advice I like!

Matt 25
The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

25‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids* took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.* 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7Then all those bridesmaids* got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids* came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.*

I have to begin my reflections on this Sunday’s text by telling you a recent story about how unwise I was this last weekend and how much I do not like a text telling me I have to be always on guard and wise!

It was Saturday, mid morning, and I had pulled up the old carpeting and had begun to lay down the new, easily installed carpet squares in its place. With minimal cuts I knew I would finish this project early and spend the rest of the day laying in my hammock listening to the last of the birds sing on that unusually warm November Saturday. However, in one quick and foolish move I managed to allow my brain to forget all the rules I have been taught since birth about using carpet knives. A simple rectangular cut around the air duct is all I had to do. On any other given day I would have applied my lipstick around the edge of the duct, laid my carpet tile down, pressed hard and removed it with a perfect impression of where to cut the tile in a safe but accurate manner. However, instead I took the short cut, I did not prepare wisely and I just began cutting in a way that placed the cutting edge both in an upward stroke and headed straight for my left hand if something were to go wrong. YES I KNOW NOT TO DO THAT! But I did anyway! 16 stitches, a near loss of conciseness on the way to the doctors office, a $600 doctor bill, and 2 hours of my day later I was not in a mood to read the lectionary and particularly not in the mood to read a text that seemed judgmental, exclusive and full of advice about how we should prepare and make wise decisions.

Yet, to be fair to the text and the community that it was being spoken to this text may well have seemed like a pep talk rather than judgment or unwanted advice. It may well have felt like the talk that is given by parents to their children just before they go off to camp, or to college or some adventurous camping trip. A word to the wise to be careful, to remember what you have learned or to think before you act. Words that every parent hopes that their children will listen to and take stock in and yet know deep down that even the best of children make mistakes. So you tell them again, again and again in more and more dramatic ways with the hope that maybe then they will remember. Stay alert and remember what you have been taught. Be strong and be ready for whatever comes your way because it will.

I still don’t like this text because it seems in part to speak in an exclusive way that seems contrary to other stories of Jesus who is always welcoming of the edges but the context and purpose might be different here. It does occur in Matthew in a series of advice and pep talk kind of stories. The next story is about the “talents” which could be a parent advice story as well. I will leave it up to you all to figure our where to go from here… hope this gets you thinking about this text and please be careful and don’t be foolish and unwise this close after an election!

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