Sermon: Here Comes the Groom

“Here Comes the Groom”
Matthew 25:1-12
RUMC 12 November 2017
Pastor Paul R. O’Neil

A traditional wedding in our culture begins when the bride makes her grand entrance down the aisle while the groom waits at the front, but it wasn’t always this way. Actually in Biblical times it was reversed.

My scripture text is a parable about a wedding where half of the bridesmaids were not ready. The message that our Lord would convey to us is one of preparedness: to make our peace with our maker and live in faithfulness to our God.

My text is Matthew 25:1-12.
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then 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.’ 9 But 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.’ 10 And 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. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
This is the Word of God.

From start to finish, the marriage ceremonies back in biblical times always involved the groom’s family and the bride’s family. First there were the discussions among the parents. Then it went a step further when the groom’s parents actually went with their son to a sit down meeting with the bride’s family to formally ask permission to marry the daughter. Once permission was given, the two families would then negotiate a financial settlement of what the groom would have pay for the dowry. Once that amount was agreed upon, the young man and woman were recognized as husband and wife.

However there was a catch. Although they were legally man and wife, they were required to live apart for at least a year. This was done so the groom could get their new home ready and raise the necessary funds to pay the in-laws. The bride stayed with her parents until all was completed.

When the wedding day finally arrived, the festivities began at sunset. The groom and his groomsmen would walk to the bride’s home. There they would pick up the bride, her family, and bridesmaids and they would walk in procession to the groom’s house. As they walked in the procession, many in the wedding party carried lamps to light the way. A typical lamp would burn olive oil for about 15 minutes; it was expected that those who carried the small lamps would also carry a small container of olive oil.

Now Jesus adds a dilemma to this wedding story. The groom had been delayed, and when he finally shows up, only half the bridesmaids had enough oil to make it through the procession. The others did not.

From a spiritual point of view, the oil is symbolic of our faith. The wise bridesmaids were like wise believers because they were ready. The other five overlooked or ignored what was important.

Spiritual readiness or growth does not just happen automatically; it comes as a result of habits built into one’s life. It starts when a person makes a profession of faith. This is followed by the time we spend alone with God and when we get together as a church to worship.

Now I believe most people in this church have heard of Rosa Parks. She was 92 years old when she died in 2005. The watershed event in her life took place in 1955 when she was 42 years old; that was when she refused to sit at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Because of that action, Parks was arrested. It appeared to be one of those spur of the moment decisions, but it was not. For the previous 12 years, Rosa helped lead her local NAACP chapter, and she received specialized training in civil rights and bus boycotts. So here was a woman who was well prepared for her important mission of civil rights. If we approach our spiritual life with the same preparation that Rosa Parks did with civil rights, we would enjoy great success as Christians.

Another aspect of spiritual preparedness is that it helps us to be ready when we meet our Lord face to face.

Evangelist Billy Graham was friends with President Dwight D. Eisenhower for a number of years. Just before the former president died in 1969, Graham went to visit him at Walter Reed Army Hospital. When Graham entered the hospital room, the former President knew he didn’t have long to live. After thirty minutes of reminiscing, the President said, “Billy, I want you to tell me again how can I be sure my sins are forgiven and that I am going to heaven, because nothing else matters now.” Graham took his New Testament and read some Biblical passages on eternal life. He even pointed out that we do not go to heaven because of the good things we do in the community or the money we have given to the church. We get to heaven on the basis of what Christ did on the cross and our response to ask Christ into our hearts. After prayer, the former President said, “Thank you, I’m ready.” Even in that final hour, Eisenhower made sure he was prepared for the other side of eternal life.

This parable reminds me of sky diving. Everyone has to wear their own parachute. No one can wear one for another person. Each person needs their own.

In this parable, five of the bridesmaids saw they did not have enough oil and asked others to loan them some. But the spiritual message is that another person’s faith will not cover us. If Christ were to come in our life time or if it is our time to die and meet Him, we can’t borrow from someone’s experience of sins forgiven and grace given. We cannot borrow faith from our family, our friends or the minister. It must be our own. Each of us must have our own oil for our own lamp.

Let me close. This parable is an attention getter because the Christian life is to be lived out to the fullest extent possible. So I would encourage all of us to make peace with our maker. Make that profession of faith and live in active faithfulness to our God. Develop your spiritual niche.