Wisdom and Foolishness
Lessons for Dads from 10 Bridesmaids
Springfield Heights MC
June 17, 2007
Today is Fathers Day...
The day when we are nice to our dads
as the back of our bulletin suggests we should.
Ill.: A little boy was smarting
after being punished by his father.
Shortly afterward he knelt by his bed to say his prayers
which ended with the usual blessings
for all the family... but one.
Then he turned to his father and said,
"I suppose you noticed you weren't in it."
As a dad I have to confess that some of my decisions
have been pretty foolish ones.
And I also believe… I hope… I pray...
that some of my decisions as a dad
have been wise ones.
Can you as fathers and mothers identify with that feeling?
I believe you can.
At first glance, the Gospel text from Matthew 25
doesn’t seem to lend itself very well
to a fathers day sermon.
It may seem more appropriate to remind our children to
“honor and obey” their parents.
I’d like to invite us…
dads and moms, grandparents, and children alike
to reflect on the lessons we can learn for our lives
from the parable of the ten bridesmaids or virgins.
Listen to the story…
And listen especially for some key words and phrases
that call to mind the themes of wisdom and foolishness…
1"… the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
3The foolish ones took their lamps
but did not take any oil with them.
4The wise, however,
took oil in jars along with their lamps.
5The 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.
8The 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,
'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'
13"Therefore keep watch,
because you do not know the day or the hour.
The Parable of the ten Bridesmaids
is a really fascinating story.
There are many symbolic parts of this parable.
In this story,
Jesus is traditionally seen as the bridegroom.
The followers of Christ can be divided into two camps:
five foolish maidens symbolize five foolish followers...
... Christians who don't pay attention to their commitment.
The five wise maidens represent faithful followers of Christ.
The wedding feast represents the reward of heaven.
The lamps have been interpreted to mean
the witness of the Christian –
as in the favorite Camp song
“This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine…”
And the oil that fuels the lamp
has been seen to be the Holy Spirit,
a steadfast Christian faith,
and also the Christian Hope that keeps us going.
The context of this parable reveals that
this is a warning to be watchful,
to be prepared and equipped,
and not to fall asleep at the wheel
or to be oblivious about important things.
In the previous chapter (24)
Jesus' predicts the devastation of Jerusalem
and the destruction of the temple.
Judgment will fall on Jerusalem and its people
because they rejected Christ and the gospel.
Matthew 24 ends with a warning
to be faithful servants (24:45-51),
and to be watchful
because the day and the hour are unknown.
In this parable Jesus is in our face
warning us to be alert.
We must be intentional and prepared
in all areas of our lives,
and be faithful in our calling to be people of God.
Matthew 25 continues to be a challenge for us today.
The image of the wedding
recalls the parable of the wedding feast...
where many have been invited,
but not everyone accepts the invitation.
The wedding feast is the image of celebration,
an expression of the joy of the kingdom.
This motivation to look forward to the kingdom that is to come,
to take part in God's party
and what God is doing in the world...
... this remains the focal point of this story.
The bridesmaids play an important role
in greeting the bridegroom when he comes...
Bringing in the Kingdom in ordinary life events...
that's what coming to God's party is all about.
The bridesmaids can be symbolic of all kinds of people
who meet challenges and opportunities in their lives.
Just like these bridesmaids,
we too need to stock up on resources – keep our oil jars filled
and be ready for the crucial times in our lives,
so that we can meet our challenges with confidence.
One point that this parable seeks to make
is that we must be ready and prepare ourselves
to face difficulties and opportunities
that come into our lives.
This parable is about
nurturing a life of faith that will sustain us
when the storms of life beat against us.
Having had lamps in hand which burned well once
is no guarantee they will continue to burn in the future.
Having the name of being a Christian,
even being a light bearer – a witness, means nothing
if we do not continuously nurture our spirit
and seek to be faithful to our calling.
The image of the closed door is harsh.
It tells us that there is a window of opportunity…
a moment of decision…
that we dare not miss…
at the cost of dreadful consequences.
And it teaches us that missed opportunities
typically don't come back.
And so, today, on Fathers Day,
we want to apply this parable
to the roles of fathers (and mothers as well)
in preparing their children for life.
Lets look at some
“Lessons for dads from the parable of the ten bridesmaids.”
I want to invite you
to come along for an exercise...
Just for fun,
let’s rewrite this parable
for the occasion of this “Fathers Day”.
Transposing the parables of Jesus
to an everyday experience in our own life
is a really exciting way to make the parables come alive.
Lets imagine for a moment
that Jesus is strolling along the streets of Winnipeg
with some of us... his contemporary disciples.
He is an astute observer of cultural and spiritual dynamics
going on around him.
And he's taking note
how some fathers and mothers
spend endless time with their children,
while others are too busy making money
and pursuing their own interests,
and so they neglect
the emotional, mental and spiritual needs
of their children
for closeness and relationship.
Ill.: A child's father kept bringing home office work
just about every night.
Finally his first grader son asked why.
Daddy explained that he had so much work
he couldn't finish it all during the day.
The boy reasoned,
"In that case, why don't they put you in a slower group?"
Back to the story,
Jesus and his followers come to the Forks
where some dads are playing and interacting with their kids,
and where also a bunch of unattended children
are hanging out and doing “who knows what”...
Pointing at the scene he says,
1 … the kingdom of heaven is like ten fathers
who went out to meet the challenge of raising (bridegroom) their children.
2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
3 The foolish ones looked at their children
but did not bother thinking about their purpose,
and how best to prepare themselves for the task at hand.
4 The wise, however,
were very intentional about spending quality time
with their children,
and giving them the resources that they need
to make it in life.
5 The challenge of raising their children was hard work,
it required a great commitment…
thoughtful planning, patience, firm resolve…
and they all became tired and discouraged
and lost track of the task at hand.
6 At the time of crisis someone pushed the panic button:
“Here comes the real test!
This is the moment of truth!
Are your children now ready to make it on their own?”
7 This was a ‘wake-up call’ for all the fathers
And they tried hard to offer some last minute advice
to their children.
8 The foolish ones said to the wise,
“Give us some of your ideas;
our light bulbs are not lighting up.”
9 “No,” they replied,
“we can’t abandon our children now
to help your children.
There may not be enough time to give to ours and yours.
Instead, read some good self-help books
or, better yet, talk to a counselor.”
10 But while they were surfing the net
for some good quality resources
on “how to talk to your kids when they won’t listen”,
their children faced life-defining decisions
their sexuality and life-partners,
about their education & careers,
about their lifestyle, and their morals and ethics.
The fathers who were ready
were able to see their children make life-giving decisions,
and they saw the positive results
of their dedication to their children.
And the door of opportunity
to impact the lives of their children was shut.
11 Later the other fathers also came...
holding up the newest version of
“How to be a dad… for dummies”, they said,
“Listen to me! I’ve got some advice for you”
“Would you please open up to me,
And listen to what Dr Spock says you should do?!”
12 But their children replied,
“Get away from me.
You were not there for me when I needed you.
Now I don't need you anymore.
I’m going to live my own life…
and you’re not a part of it.”
13 Therefore keep watch,
because you do not know the day or the hour...
but, the day will come without fail.
When I read the parable of the ten fathers like this
it has an immediate impact on my life
as I watch my children become independent young adults.
All ten fathers start out with good intentions to meet the challenge
of raising their children.
They all want to make a difference in their children's lives.
I don’t know about you,
but I have moments when I wonder
whether I have been well enough supplied
with oil for my lamp
in the task of raising my children.
Do you... dads... ever wonder
if you have what it takes
to raise your son or daughter?
I have been blessed as a father
beyond my wildest imagination.
I have made some pretty foolish classical parenting mistakes…
But, by God’s grace,
I’ve also made some pretty smart parenting decisions
along the way...
... just ask my kids (I'll pay you later, guys).
I trust in God
that when the moments of Crisis come
in their lives
they will have the resources necessary
to weather the storms and to succeed in life.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 127:
1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Sons (and daughters) are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
The most exciting prospect for me as a father
is the hope and the promise
that my children will reach goals in their lives
that I could only dream of.
It's like the Ranking Family song says,
“we rise again in the voices of our children.”
When they succeed
it makes our spirits rise.
As we celebrate our fathers today,
may we resolve in our hearts to
let God be the one who builds our homes,
and our family relationships on a solid foundation.
May we as fathers set our priorities
on the things that have lasting value.
Let us take time to nurture our relationships
with the greatest treasures
that God has given us – our children.
May we find peace in surrendering
our lives and our families into God’s watchful care.
May we embrace and hold on to our children
as a blessing from God.
May we set our children free
that they may explore and find fulfillment
in all that God has created them to be.
May we invest ourselves fully
to love and bless each other in our families.
Happy Fathers Day!