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Matth 25,1-13 Wisdom and Foolishness - Fathers Day

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Wisdom and Foolishness

Lessons for Dads from 10 Bridesmaids

Matthew 25:1-13



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…

Matthew 25:1-13…The Parable of the Ten Virgins

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

about friendships,

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…

       for sure.

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!

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