Beauty in Waiting
The wedding invitation that arrived in the mail the other day reminded me that we are entering wedding season. Whether they had anything to say about it, Spring and Summer are the official sponsors of weddings (although I’m a little partial to Fall weddings, having an anniversary in October).
A wedding is certainly not a new idea. They have been happening since the beginning, but they are quite different now than they were then. As shocking as it sounds, the Electric Slide and the college roommate’s toast are late-comers to wedding traditions. Back in the (Bible) day, the ceremony part of the wedding happened when the couple got engaged. At that time, vows would be made, dowries would be settled…the formal stuff would be taken care of.
So the actual wedding banquet was a celebration of the bride changing addresses…moving from her parents’ house to the groom’s house. But it wasn’t an affair that involved Two Men and a Truck…there was a procession from one location to the other…a feast…a party. It was one long reception with a parade to boot!
This is helpful knowledge, not only for the next time you play Bible Trivia, but also in consideration of Matthew’s text this week. This is the second week in a row where the parable circles around a wedding, but the events could not be more different. This week we have a group of bridesmaids, and a missing groom. We are not told where he is…shining his shoes? Making last minute honeymoon arrangements? Who knows? We are told that 5 of the bridesmaids are prepared to wait, and 5 are not. In short, things do not go well for those who are not prepared.
There are many places to find God and ourselves in this text…just not a lot that make us comfortable. This is a passage about waiting. What does it mean to wait? How do we wait well?
Sadly, waiting is not something we do well. Our culture has taken extraordinary measures to ensure that waiting is minimized. Did you know you can now make an appointment at the Secretary of State’s office? And yet, our call as disciples is to wait, to anticipate that moment of changing addresses, of living fully in the presence of Christ. The promises have been made, we’ve moved over a few boxes, but we are not fully there. We are not yet living with Christ in His full Kingdom.
And so we are to keep alert, to stay faithful in the midst of waiting. It means we need to be prepared for whatever comes our way, however long it will take. It means beating back what one New Testament scholar calls the “tyranny of the ordinary and the burden of complacency.” It means waiting on the Lord even when we don’t feel like it anymore.
There is beauty in waiting. There is beauty in the ordinary. Our wedding invitations have long been sent out, most of them recycled, one carefully framed over our dresser. But in the beautiful mundane of the last 18 years, I have become more attentive, more in love, and more committed to Kyle.
So it goes with our faith. If we pay attention to it, keep watch, stay in community, there is beauty and excitement in waiting, even in ordinary day to day life. In the words of a beautiful hymn that stems from my Swedish Covenant tradition:
Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best.
Lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Day by Day And With Each Passing Moment -- Words by Karolina Sandell Berg, Music by Oscar Ahnfelt; Translated from Swedish by Andrew L. Skogg
Grace & Peace,
The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids[a]took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.[b] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When 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[c] got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The 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[d] came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.[e]