Here is a quote from Carl Lewis, one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century: “Every athlete is nervous – any athlete who tells you they are not nervous isn’t telling you the truth. I was as prepared as I could be”. And Paul Schneider adds: “I feel strongly about showing up and being prepared and not taking the opportunity for granted and being conscientious about my fellow co-workers”. How about this: “Losing your job is terrifying, but being prepared makes it so much easier”.
All of these stress being prepared – the theme of the Gospel Reading for Proper 27 – the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost. In times of anxiety and uncertainty, it is still very important to be prepared. Motivational speakers say luck is realizing an opportunity when we are prepared.
In the Epistle Reading from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the people were anxious about many things. In addition to self-identity, the expected return of Christ had not happened. This was a source of added anxiety: What about the loved ones who had died? Paul reassured them that in the imminent second coming, they would be the first to rise up.
Today, we are not talking about luck or athletics. Neither are we, nor should we be preoccupied with the parousia like the Thessalonians were.
Jesus’ parable of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13 emphasizes the importance of being prepared while waiting. All ten bridesmaids were waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom. Five were prepared while waiting and five were not. The bridegroom in the New Testament is a metaphor for Christ.
So, the question is: How are we, as God’s people, prepared in our daily living? During the upcoming season of Advent – in a couple of weeks – Christians practice, in different tangible ways, what it means to prepare the way, or being prepared for Christ. The Gospel Reading warns of waiting – like the five foolish bridesmaids – and not being prepared. It is the same warning for any who would wait until Advent to be prepared.