Learning to wait

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

To assist you in this worship, you may wish to light a candle, and gather some symbols that might help you to worship, reflect and pray. A green cloth for the current church season, a cross, an oil lamp or a bottle of oil may be useful to help you reflect on today’s theme.

Opening Prayer

(adapted from Spill the Beans Iss.36)

“Pay attention to details!” “Make your own bed!”
“Get down to the nitty gritty!” Always be ready!
We hear the call of Jesus in these things.
Do not be distracted, do not slack off,
don’t get caught napping, always be ready.
Trim your wick, keep your oil filled,
keep your lamp burning, always be ready.
Those little things, those simple actions,
small goals do matter, always be ready.
How often are we unprepared
for what comes next in life
no matter how much we think of the future?
Sometimes a premature ending
take us by surprise
or waiting for something important
takes far longer than expected.
Lord God,
invite us into the service of your vision of a world made new,
of communities striving to do better and be better.
Use who we are as a living witness to you,
to bear witness to your gracious love. Amen.

Matthew 25:1-13 (NRSV) The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Reflecting on the Word

“Learning to wait.”

Have you ever sat at home during the day, waiting for a tradesman to stop by as promised to repair a faulty service or appliance? And after you have waited for 2-3 hours past the time allotted for the repair, you finally decide to leave — and you just miss the tradesman by a few minutes?

Most of us have probably found ourselves in such a situation a number of times. In our busy society of tight schedules, even a short delay or unexpected wait can throw out our timetable and cause us to become impatient so that we feel there is no point in waiting any longer.

In our passage today, Jesus shows that this unwillingness to wait was also a common occurrence in first century Palestine. In the parables he tells, however, giving up waiting because of the lateness of an expected caller takes on a sinister dimension.

Jesus has already spoken to the disciples about his death, resurrection and triumphant return. In relation to this return, he now stresses that there will not be any special signs to warn anyone when his coming will be. To complicate matters further, it will be at a time when everybody is going about their normal business just as they would do on a normal day. Those who are impatient and decide he is not coming, may well be caught unawares and miss the opportunity to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The underlying meaning of most of the parables in chapter 25 is clear. Our daily existence should not be about self-interested activities, but about accepting our responsibilities, however humble, and carrying them out faithfully. By doing this, we remain obedient to God.

The next parable that follows is a little different though, but helps complete the story. Building on the previous story of being prepared, the story of the talents goes further and suggests that not only should we do our tasks as faithful followers of Jesus, but we should also try to use our gifts to contribute even more to the kingdom of God. In this story, to have gifts for the kingdom and fail to use them is almost as bad as being unrighteous.

These parable were, and still are, aimed at the leaders and faithful of the church. Those who have gifts, should use them to benefit the whole community, as such service in God’s name is what will advance the kingdom of God here on earth.

Reflecting on the passage

This past year has been a strange one. Words like lockdown and social distancing, and habits like mask-wearing and using sanitiser have entered our lives, perhaps permanently. Restrictions have been placed upon us, and we have all been encouraged to play our part in fighting the virus.

• Looking back, had you had more notice, what preparations would you have made, if any?

• What has been the hardest part to cope with?

• How have you played your part?

• What might you have done differently?

Jesus often spoke of Heaven to come where things would be different. But he also challenged those who are waiting for heaven to work for the future kingdom here on earth.

Yes, Jesus said, wait for Heaven to come, even want it to come, but at the same time work for the good to happen in the here and now on earth, as this where God’s kingdom begins. Be on the look out for opportunities to join with me, says Jesus, in the work of God.

• Where is it hard to see God at work, and join God there?

• Where is it easy to see God at work, and join God there?

The bible reading closes with a story of some people waiting wisely, and other people waiting not so carefully.

• What does it take to wait wisely, what are the resources that are needed to wait well?

Prayer for ourselves and others

(adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.36)

God of peace and God of justice,
We pray for those in positions of leadership
That they make just choices
and act as role models to whom we look for guidance.
We pray for those who work in healthcare and social care
for those who are carers,
for those who work in education and prepare us in our lives,
for those who protect us including police, fire services,
paramedics and security guards,
we give thanks for them all.
We pray too for many others for their work and commitment;
the peacemakers, the medical teams in war zones,
those who support poor villages, the rescue workers.
May they remain vigilant and dedicated,
keen to serve others, and make this world a more just,
a more peaceful, and a healthier place to live.
God of all being and God of coming,
we recognise you at work in the here and now,
and also your work to bring about the future.
We know you look to us
to strive and yearn towards the coming days,
that we can be part of a world that seeks to heal and not stoke division,
that seeks to build bridges of care and support,
that seeks to lift up the poor and disadvantaged,
that seeks to bring about your kingdom one action, one word at a time.
God of love and God of expectation,
we pray for all people
who feel lost and abandoned, who feel they have no value,
who feel the pressures of financial loss, job loss, and a loss of purpose.
May they know your love and experience your support
through communities that care and reach out to help.
Be with us all, Lord God,
that we might be your eyes and ears,
your hands and feet, your heart and soul,
wherever we find need. In your name we pray. Amen.

Blessing

(adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.36)

This year we have learned

This year we have learned
to not take things for granted.
We have all been part
of something quite extraordinary.
Through it all God has been with us,
Jesus has wept with us,
and the Spirit has inspired us.
Be blessed this week
by the love of God
the peace of Jesus
and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018. 

Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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