First Lesson: Joshua 24: 1-3, 14-25
Responsive Reading: Psalm 78: 1-7
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 25: 1-13
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The year was 1999. The month was January. Some high school friends (Ben, Peter, Christian, Derek and I) were undertaking a getaway weekend to the one place in the world that you want to go at the end of January in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We left Fargo/Moorhead on a Saturday afternoon and planned to come back on Sunday in time to watch that evening’s Super Bowl which once again didn’t involve the beloved Minnesota Vikings.
Well here’s the thing about nineteen-year-old boys they tend not to be responsible. So Early Sunday afternoon we approach the Canadian border, our main goal was for a car full of boys to not get in trouble. So as we cross back into North Dakota, pass Pembina we notice the gas gauge is sitting on E. Now it wouldn’t be a good thing to run out of gas in the middle of I-29 between Pembina and Grand Forks especially since the temperature was negative rather than positive. Cars on the afternoon of the Super Bowl in the middle of nowhere are few and far between.
So we decide to keep driving, figuring soon there will be a freeway exit filled with gas. We did see freeway exits on this Sunday afternoon. The exits looked inviting with symbols for not only gas but also food underneath. Here’s the thing about North Dakota exits there were promises of food and gas only they continually happened to be 15 miles in the opposite direction.
So debates that can only take place among college boys began. We kept driving down to I-29, the low fuel eventually comes on. We keep driving for more miles then a person should look at a low fuel light. We kept praying that we could advance to the next exit with gas. About ten miles north of Grand Forks we come across a town in Manvel, North Dakota that finally delivered the long-promised gasoline that we associated with the Interstate.
The story of the tumultuous journey from Winnipeg to Grand Forks brings us to Our Gospel lesson for Today from Matthew 25. It’s a tale that showcases the differences further between responsible and irresponsible preparation.
The lesson is set-up at the end of the previous chapter where Jesus gives the following warning: “Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
To drive home this point, Jesus tells a parable. Ten women were waiting for a groom to show up for a wedding. Five of the women were obsessive in their detail and planning. They had enough oil to keep their lamps lit for a long, long time. So they were prepared to await the groom's arrival patiently. The other five bridesmaids weren’t so well-prepared if the groom didn’t show up at the appointed time. These brides were in trouble. They were going to have to leave their house, track down lamp oil in the middle of the night, and hope they’re home when the groom arrives.
Back to my friends and I driving from Winnipeg to Grand Forks, they were all used to living in the Twin Cities where there is a gas station seemingly every mile. I was used to making the drive for Moorhead to the Twin Cities where there is seemingly a gas station every ten miles. Put something different before us than what we expected then all chaos, quickly ensues. This is what was happening in the parable of the ten brides.
Jesus’ point like in all his parables in Matthew’s Gospel was ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like this.”
Jesus describes five of the brides as “wise” whereas the other-five brides are “foolish.” Here’s the context to understand Our Gospel lesson for Today. The Earliest Christians believed that Christ would return in their lifetime. The years quickly began to pass, and when Christ didn’t return. Believers would get disheartened and let important things fall by the wayside such as the amount of “oil” for their lamps or the amount of “gasoline” in their cars.
Sir John Franklin was an experienced sailor in the British Royal Navy. He had participated in some of the most important Naval Battles in the 19th Century. Franklin’s greatest claim to fame was his pursuit of discovering the Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean within the Canadian Arctic. Finding the Northwest Passage was perhaps the most ambitious project of the greatest navy in the world. John Franklin was the Rear Admiral put in charge of the operation. John Franklin by 1845 had become not only one of the most famous, but also the most respected men in all of Europe.
In 1845, Franklin set out for his fourth expedition to seek to discover the Northwest Passage with 138 men and two ships. Now Franklin knew as well as anyone how difficult a journey this could be. In one of Franklin’s previous expeditions men got so desperate for food they proceeded to eat their “leather boots.” So John Franklin sought to make the journey as comfortable as possible for his crew. He brought a collection of books, fine china for dining. Franklin’s goal was to arrange as pleasant a cruise around the Arctic Circle as John Franklin could imagine.
Franklin’s ships suffer the fate of getting stuck in ice trying to navigate the Arctic Circle. John Franklin’s ships according to legend couldn’t go any further because they had an inadequate amount of coal to power on in such icy, conditions. Just like in the case of five foolish brides, lack of preparation brought John Franklin and 138 other men quickly and unexpectedly to the presence of their Lord and maker.
So we hear these stories this morning. The question inevitability comes are we like my friends and I, the five foolish brides, and John Franklin unprepared as we look towards the Kingdom of Heaven seemingly ahead of us.
Now when I was in young, I was in the Cub Scouts for several years, then as soon as I got into middle school, I joined the Boy Scouts. Now I didn’t last very long in the Boy Scouts. Being a thirteen-year-old boy, I had more important priorities such as T.V.programs I’d rather watch then learn how to survive in the frozen Minnesota wilderness. Dropping out of the boy scouts is not one of my more responsible life decisions.
In Today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus speaks of the five unprepared brides arriving late to the wedding feast and being denied entry with their groom saying “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Five brides turned away from the Kingdom of Heaven. The Boy Scout types according to this parable seemingly always come out on top.
Now we probably know a lot of boy-scout types in our life. The Boy Scouts who remember their friends and family’s birthday. Boy Scouts who continually have healthy relationships. Boy Scouts pray when they know they’re supposed to pray. Now when you’re not a Boy Scout like myself for quite honestly, pretty silly reasons, it gets real easy to see how you don’t measure up to the wise, prepared Boy Scout type.
So what does this parable say to the unprepared types of five young men driving from Winnipeg to Grand Forks with barely any gas?
Here’s the thing about the foolish brides in our parable. Their problem wasn’t their lack of preparation; it was rather their lack of faith. The problem was when their groom eventually did arrive; they didn’t have enough faith to actually be there. They instead ran around desperately trying to find their own salvation, rather than trusting in the salvation that was before them.
Here’s the thing if there was breaking news Tomorrow that Jesus was coming back. Every single person in this world would be unprepared. On my trip from Winnipeg to Grand Forks, while I certainly wasn’t an Eagle Scout, one of my friends Peter was. Yet the outcome of preparation remained the same. The point of our parable is this every person will look a little bit foolish trying to get their lives back in order.
Here’s the thing about Our Parable for Today. The Wise and Foolish Brides are similar in many ways. They all arrive eagerly, all wait, all tire, and all awaken. The only difference has to do with preparation in believing God’s promises that the Groom shall come. They don’t grow desperate no matter how bleak the situation might look driving in the middle of nowhere between Winnipeg and Grand Forks.
One last story for this morning told by Leon Stier. Doris grew up in a small-town, not unlike this one. Doris left soon after high school and never looked back. Doris moved out to California and made all sorts of money. Doris’ life was exciting in every way. Doris hadn’t set foot in a church after she had gotten confirmed. Doris eventually ends up becoming a widow then moving back home to care for her aging mother, Helen. Helen’s health is failing to the point where she requires full-time care. It was obvious that Helen was soon going to leave this world behind.
Doris decides to bring Helen to church one Sunday out of a sense of obligation. Doris sits through the church service. Doris thought the music was outdated, and the sermon was boring. Doris though couldn’t get one line out of her head during the sermon the Preacher said: “People, spend years obsessing about the retirement which they might or might not get to enjoy, yet these same people seemingly forget about eternity.” Doris realized she had everything she could want in retirement, but yet there was very little outside Jesus to cling to for all eternity.
Shortly after this, Doris had a fatal heart attack; she didn’t even outlive her mother. Doris died a wise woman. Doris died at peace for what laid ahead. Doris believed that no matter when the Lord appeared in her life, his goodness, his mercy, and his grace shall indeed endure forever.
Here’s the thing about the Lord’s promises. They endure when your lamp runs out of oil in the middle of the night, they endure when you’re shipwrecked in the middle of the Arctic Circle with death staring you in the face, they endure when your health begins to fade and they endure when Eagle Scouts and boy scout drop outs alike drive from Winnipeg to Grand Forks in the middle of winter. Amen
 Matthew 24:42.
 Markquart, Ed. “Wise and Foolish Maidens. Sermons from Seattle. Series A. Pentecost 25. Web. Nov.7.2017.
 Higgins, Scott. “The Arctic Expedition.” Stories for Preaching. Web. Nov.7.2017 taken from Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk published by Harper Collins in 1988.
 Higgins, Scott. “The Arctic Expedition.”
 “John Franklin”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.31.Oct.2017. Web. Nov.7.2017.
 Higgins, Scott. “The Arctic Expedition.”
 Matthew 25:12.
 Lannon, Nick. “Be Prepared to Be Unprepared.” MBird. 10. May.2017. Web. Nov.7.2017.
 Carey, Greg. “Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. 9.Nov.2014. Web. Nov.7.2017.
 Stier, Leon. “Have You Seen the Light?” Email Meditations. 24.Jan.2017. Web. Nov.7.2017.
 Stier, Leon. “Have You Seen the Light?”
 Stier, Leon. “Have You Seen the Light?”