“Another Wedding Invitation”
Sharing Christ’s Love Worship Series
Rev. Tully M. Fletcher IV
Decatur Presbyterian Church
November 12, 2023
Matthew 25: 1-13
I grew up around wood working and carpentry. My dad had these giant hands, and his callouses were an inch think. And he would build furniture. I loved going to the hardware store with him to buy lumber when I was kid. But I was also afraid of getting splinters. So I didn’t want to carry the wood.
Since then, I’ve grown up, and have done my fair share of working with wood, and buying lumber. Most often while I’m on a mission trip. I learned you have to wear work gloves if you want avoid getting splinters.
I own these gloves because I go on mission trips, I’m putting them on right now, because I’m about to handle something rough and splinter inducing.
Matthew 25:1-13 NRS Matthew 25:
1 “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. 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 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 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.
Around the same time in my life when I was going to the hardware store with my dad, I was also attending a private Christian School. This school was a southern Baptist school.
Now, we were members at the Presbyterian Church, but at that point, most of my religious education was coming from a fundamentalist point of view.
I was asked on more than one occasion,
“If you died tonight, where would you end up?”
Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart?
Or my least favorite version of that question, “Are you saved?”
This fear inducing question sends people into a panic,
‘Am I saved?’ I don’t know, what’s coming to get me?
The anxiety starts to rise…
This brand of theology views God has cruel and judgmental.
This theology uses fear to motivate and control people.
It manipulates people into faith.
I imagine those of you who grew up in the south have had similar interactions.
Maybe some of you, also were raised in that kind of church?
Well congratulations, you have now graduated to the Presbyterian Theology.
- Where we believe in Grace.
- We believe that God is love.
- We believe in second chances, forgiveness, and that our call as people of faith is to love one another.
I know all that… I have master’s degree in all of that Grace stuff…
But every time I read this wedding passage, I get sucked back to that 5th grade theology, the anxiety starts to rise.
I’m filled with self doubt…
Am I good enough?
Am I doing enough?
Will God still love me?
Will I get shut out of the Kingdom of heaven like the bridesmaids?
Don’t get stuck in fear
Don’t get stuck in fear!
2 Timothy 1:7
for God did not give us a spirit of [fear],
but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
I needed Vernon, and his blog, to pull me out of the theology of fear. And remind me of the theology of Love.
I needed Vernon to remove the splinter.
Title: Another Wedding Story
Let’s focus on the text for a minute.
The Gospel of Matthew includes 3 wedding stories.
People love a good wedding story. Especially 2000 years ago, in Jesus time, and culture. Weddings were a big deal. The whole town would get involved. The wedding processional would twist and wind it’s way around town, pick up guests along the way, the wedding party growing ever larger, as they walked and celebrated from house to house. Finally culminating in the grand celebration at the Bride’s house.
Our passage this morning, points to that.
Our passage this morning is part of Jesus’ 5th and final sermon in the Book of Matthew.
After 5 sermons the readers are getting sleepy like the bridesmaids.
I like to imagine Jesus is preaching and he is losing them, they are fading, their attention is waning in the hot sun on the mount of olives. Some way in the back are starting to leave. Jesus is getting frustrated.
He is not sure how to hold on to their attention.
One of the disciples leans over, whisper in his ear, tell another wedding story. Everyone loves wedding stories.
Then Jesus tells THIS parable…
This splinter inducing story.
And the disciples thinking to himself, well that was a mistake.
This harsh story, it seems so unfair.
What happened to the Jesus who loves everybody?
Why would the bridesmaids be locked out for such a small offense?
Not enough oil?
Seems like such a trivial thing.
We struggle to get past the consequences they face.
We are left asking, where’s the Grace?
Where’s the Mercy?
Where’s the forgiveness?
If we think of this passage this way, all we are left with is splinters.
Warning vs. consequence
Let us not forget that this story is the warning, not the punishment.
This passage is a lesson to teach us to stay awake, to stay vigilant.
To stay focused.
We must not conflate the warning and the consequence. The warning feels harsh, but it is a reminder, not a punishment.
The warning is to show us the way, not beat us up.
Because here is the truth of this passage, there will be another wedding for these bridesmaid.
Yeah it’s a bummer they missed this wedding.
But now they’ve learned the lesson, and next time they will be wise.
Next time they will not get splinters.
To close this morning, I want to turn our attention to life today.
- In what ways are you waiting for the wedding party to show up?
- In what ways are you waiting for Jesus to show up?
The scripture says:
13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
We are waiting for an encounter with the Almighty loving God.
Every single interaction with another human is an opportunity to meet Christ
And when we miss it, we can’t get it back
That opportunity is gone.
But don’t get stuck there.
Because there will be another wedding,
there will be another opportunity to meet Jesus
At work, at School, at the dining room, there are opportunities to meet Jesus every day.
We have some opportunities coming up next month where we as a church will get to show
Hot chocolate at the Tree lighting on December 7th
The Cities 200th birthday celebration with a parade, On December 9th
The live Nativity on December 17th, with the play afterwards
Let’s show this community who DPC is, and share God’s love with them!
Let’s show them that God is loving and forgiving.
Not a spirit of fear.
And Just in case, don’t forget your gloves…