“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten young bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Now five of them were wise, and the other five were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t bring oil for them. But the wise ones took their lamps and also brought containers of oil. When the groom was late in coming, they all became drowsy and went to sleep. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the groom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. But the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps have gone out.’ But the wise bridesmaids replied, ‘No, because if we share with you, there won’t be enough for our lamps and yours. We have a better idea. You go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were gone to buy oil, the groom came. Those who were ready went with him into the wedding. Then the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us.’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore, keep alert, because you don’t know the day or the hour.” – Matthew 25:1-13 (NIV)
This story is part of the larger judgement discourse of eschatological warnings. The Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God, a major focus of Jesus’ teaching, had future and present implications. God’s reign! God’s will! “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
When COVID-19 began, we did not know that it would likely be a two-year minimum challenge with a global pandemic impacting the lives of people we love and members of the human family across the globe. It would spark a humanitarian crisis of economic disruption and magnify food insecurity.
When the COVID crisis laid bare the racial health disparities and the heavy burden that black and brown people were experiencing, the Pandemic of Racism was being televised with 8 minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis and Ahmad Arbury while running, and Breonna Taylor while sleeping. And black, white, brown people protesting in the streets.
“Keep awake; therefore, you know neither the day nor the hour.”
We are days away from a monumental presidential election in the United States of America. Our agenda will not change days after the election. We are still called to be harbingers of hope, traffickers of love, ambassadors for justice, and instruments of peace. Followers of Jesus willing and able as hungry people who have found the Bread of Life to share with others.
The cry is often faint but never absent in times like these. “Is there a word from the Lord?”
STAY AWAKE: “KEEP ALERT.” Stay woke and willing. American poet Mary Oliver said, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
Stay awake as in doing our part. As former Congressman John Lewis’ admonition said, “Don’t be a bystander.”
Responsible Christian discipleship is staying awake:
Stay awake for living wages for workers.
Stay awake for equal justice for all.
Stay awake for children in need of a loving home.
Stay awake for dismantling racism.
Stay awake for declaring that white supremacy is antithetical to the Gospel.
Stay awake, friends. Keep alert.
God is faithful, and we know through the life and witness of Jesus, the witness, sacrifice, the teaching in the parables, and the resilience of the Church that, as one gospel writer says, “His record is good!”
As one of my colleagues reminds me “We know the end of the story. God wins! Love wins!”
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church