This story of the bridesmaids has a simple message: be ready or you will miss me, not only at the end of time, but in your daily living (represented by the oil, which was such an important substance in Jesus’ day, both for giving light and for eating).
1st Reading (Track 1): Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
The book of Joshua has been the story of Israel’s conquering of the promised land. The question now remains, will Israel remain faithful as God has been faithful to them. Shechem was an important early center of Israelite life. There he rehearses the story, and warns the people that they must choose which God they will serve. Joshua knows their fickleness. He senses that they will not be able to serve only God, but the people insist and the covenant is renewed. As the story continues, Israel will continue to wrestle with this decision and its consequences.
24:1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 3a Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.
14 Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18 and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” 19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey." 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.
Psalm 78:1-7 (Track 1)
Psalm 78 is one of the historical psalms that rehearse God’s relationship with God’s people. Psalm 78 has a total of 72 verses. Today we have just the introduction, which sets up the importance of passing the story on to future generations.
1 Hear my teaching, O my people; *
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; *
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
3 That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us, *
we will not hide from their children.
4 We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, *
and the wonderful works he has done.
5 He gave his decrees to Jacob
and established a law for Israel, *
which he commanded them to teach their children;
6 That the generations to come might know,
and the children yet unborn; *
that they in their turn might tell it to their children;
7 So that they might put their trust in God, *
and not forget the deeds of God,
but keep his commandments;
1st Reading (Track 2): Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16
The Book of Wisdom is ascribed to King Solomon, but is actually from a much later date, closer to the time of Jesus. The writer takes many aspects of Greek culture and appropriates them for Jewish use. The figure of Sophia/Wisdom developed as the personification of God’s creative and sustaining power. She is found mostly in the apocryphal books (such as this one), but also in Proverbs (in chapters 3 and 8). Her diligence matches well Jesus’ desire for his followers to always be prepared.
6:12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. 13 She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. 14 One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate. 15 To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, 16 because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.
1st Reading (Track 2): Amos 5:18-24
The prophet Amos was active in the Northern Kingdom (Israel) during the reign of Jeroboam II (788-747 b.c.e.), even though he was a native of Tekoa in the Southern Kingdom (Judah). It was a time of peace and prosperity for Israel, but only for some, and Amos prophesied against a society where the “haves” lived on the backs of the “have-nots). In particular, he despised worship that had no effect on people’s living. Worship in the Temple that does not lead to justice on the Streets is an abomination.
5:18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; 19 as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. 20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? 21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Canticle (Track 2): A Song of the Love of Wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20)
The beginning of wisdom *
is the true desire to receive teaching,
and a longing to be taught *
comes from a love of her;
the one who loves her *
will keep her laws.
Observing the laws of wisdom *
and immortality brings one *
nearer still to God.
So the desire for wisdom *
leads to the authority of one who rules.
Psalm 70 (Track 2)
Psalm 70 is a short prayer for deliverance from enemies. It’s first verse is the source for the opening versicle and response at Evening Prayer and Compline (BCP, pp. 117 & 128).
1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; *
O Lord, make haste to help me.
2 Let those who seek my life be ashamed
and altogether dismayed; *
let those who take pleasure in my misfortune
draw back and be disgraced.
3 Let those who say to me “Aha!” and gloat
over me turn back, *
because they are ashamed.
4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; *
let those who love your salvation say for ever,
“Great is the Lord!”
5 But as for me, I am poor and needy; *
come to me speedily, O God.
6 You are my helper and my deliverer; *
O Lord, do not tarry.
2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
In chapter four of this letter, Paul answers questions he must have received from the Christians in Thessalonica. As the first generation of Christians died, there was concern over their fate, and all the more so because it was becoming evident that Jesus’ return would not be as quick as had been anticipated. What follows is Paul’s pastoral response, with the operative word being “encourage,” literally “give courage to one another.”
4:13 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:1-13
Matthew chapter 25 contains three parables, the first and third unique to Matthew, the middle one shared with Luke. Each of them has a note of judgment, and even harshness. The principle point of all three is the necessity of keeping alert, always being prepared to live the Gospel, to recognize what kingdom-living looks like. This story of the bridesmaids has a simple message: be ready or you will miss me, not only at the end of time, but in your daily living (represented by the oil, which was such an important substance in Jesus’ day, both for giving light and for eating).
25:1 Jesus said, “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.
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalms and the canticle) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Psalm translations are from The Book of Common Prayer. The translation of the canticle is copyright © 2007 by Vhurch Publisging Incorporated. Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.