This story was first told at Prestbury Methodist Church on Sunday 18 July 2010
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:1-13
“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (2) Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise. (3) The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them, (4) while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps. (5) The bridegroom was late in coming, so they began to nod and fall asleep. (6) “It was already midnight when the cry rang out, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!’ (7) The ten young women woke up and trimmed their lamps. (8) Then the foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Let us have some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ (9) ‘No, indeed,’ the wise ones answered, ‘there is not enough for you and for us. Go to the store and buy some for yourselves.’ (10) So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed. (11) “Later the others arrived. ‘Sir, sir! Let us in!’ they cried out. (12) ‘Certainly not! I don’t know you,’ the bridegroom answered.” (13) And Jesus concluded, “Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour.
WHAT’S THIS ABOUT?
What were ten bridesmaids doing waiting around in the middle of the night for the bridegroom? Why was the bridegroom so harsh? Ok, they weren’t ready; they didn’t have enough oil; they messed up. But you and me, we’d know these foolish bridesmaids. We’d probably say, “You bunch of skelms. What you doing out in the dark? Get inside!” And later, no doubt, we’d tell our bride about her dilly friends.
The other stories and illustrations Jesus used were all taken from everyday life and were very easy to understand. So we assume this one would also have made sense to his hearers at the time. But what is clear to us is that these bridesmaids had a responsibility. We might not know what that was, but it was important enough to impact on a number of people, including themselves, and to have serious consequences. It is also clear that relationship with God is not about who we are, but about what we do.
Given those truths, how would Jesus have told the story if he was speaking to us, in South Africa today, after a most successful soccer world cup?
And what if, instead of talking about the people involved, Jesus told it from the point of view of one of the characters?
I was always mad about soccer, ever since my folks gave me a soccer ball when I was two years old. I’d make my Dad play with me. Where I grew up soccer was everything, and being able to play like Lucas Radebe was every kid’s dream.
By the time I hit high school there were ten of us in the neighbourhood. We used to kick a ball around together in someone’s yard, or on the street, or down in the park. We were at different schools but we had all grown up together. Well, except Midget—he was the shortest of the group, obviously—he came later, but in spite of his height, he fitted in pretty quickly.
PHILLIP AND ME
Phillip and I would compete for best placekicker. We could hit anything at 20 paces. We also did trick shots like scissor kicks. I know we were just showing off but, hey, if you’ve got a talent there’s no point hiding it under a bowl. Phillip would practice like mad but I was lucky, more of a natural. I could usually beat him and tackle the ball away from him. It made him really mad. I think that’s why he worked so hard; he was determined to get the better of me but I could still hold my own. Whenever I went to his place I’d find him kicking the ball or bouncing it on his feet like the soccer stars do. And when I left him after we’d been playing in the park, or wherever, I knew he’d go straight back to practicing—sometimes spending an hour or more at it. I’m so glad I didn’t need to do that. It would have taken all the fun out of it.
We were going to play professional soccer one day. We dreamed of the day a talent scout would come to our neck of the woods and spot us. We’d be the talk of the town. What a life we’d have!
Phillip also worked pretty hard at his books. Me? I just did enough school work to get by and keep my folks off my back. “Could do better,” was a regular comment on my reports but I didn’t care. Once I became a soccer star no one would care about my grades.