A few weeks ago I went to Casper, Wyoming, to observe the Total Solar Eclipse.
Now the thing about a Solar Eclipse is that you know exactly when and where it will happen.
I had no reason not to be prepared. I even practiced with my cameras and telescopes, and because I was prepared, I enjoyed that event immensely.
I even know when the next Solar Eclipse will be. I am planning now to be on vacation on April 8, 2024, so I can be in Texas.
More than that, I know that at 1:28 pm on August 12, in the year 2045, when I am still a young man of 91, a total eclipse of the sun will be seen right here in Orlando. I am inviting you now to meet me here at the church. The sun and moon will be 68.33 degrees above the horizon at that time, so I plan to get a perfect photo of the church and our remaining steeple in the foreground, with the totality of the eclipse in the background! Only 28 years left to wait!
In astronomy, things happen in the universe. You cannot speed them up, you cannot slow them down. They happen at what I like to call, the “fullness of time.” When these events happen, there is no reason not to be prepared.
Some things happen unexpectedly. My wife and I have lived most of our lives either on the coast, or close to it. We have lived through well over 20 hurricanes. We have our preparation plan down to a fine science. We are prepared. I have no clue when the next hurricane will come, but I will be ready.
I met someone the other day who said he was going to live forever, or die trying.
Well, of course he is going to die trying. We are all going to die.
I’m prepared for that.
This past week I revised my will and all of my end of life documents, signed them and had them notarized. I am prepared.
I’m also prepared spiritually.
I have always liked what Woody Allen said about death. “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens to me.”
Well, I’m pretty sure I will have to be there when I die.
As a young Boy Scout I embraced the motto, “be prepared.”
The New Testament lesson today is a parable about preparedness.
It is, on the surface, about preparing for the Second Coming of Christ. But on another level this parable can teach us about any time in our lives when something is going to happen – something we no control over. We cannot rush or delay it. It may the return of Christ, or it may be your own death. It may be the hurricane. It may, in fact, be something that you can control to a degree.
Retirement. You might retire early, or delay it a few years. But it is something that calls you to prepare for.
So within this parable, we learn nothing about when Christ will return. We are just told it will happen and we need to be prepared.
And what this text teaches us about preparing for the second coming can be applied to many other things for which we need to be prepared.
So what do we learn about being prepared?
It is interesting that in the parable the bridesmaids all looked pretty much the same. They all know the bride and groom. They all dress alike – you’ve been to weddings, bridesmaids always dress similar. They are all waiting for the wedding to start. They all have their lamps, something that bridesmaids needed in that culture.
They were all ready – or at least they all looked like they were ready. Some of them had not brought enough oil.
So here is the first lesson to be learned. Be sure that you are truly prepared, because it is possible to look just like everyone else, but you have to do more than look prepared.
Are you ready for the next hurricane? You may have your hurricane prep box in the garage, but over the months you know that is where there are some batteries to be found, so one by one you get a battery here and there and when Hurricane comes and the stores have closed and the power goes off, you realize that you have only one size D battery left.
As a Christian you can talk like everyone else and use all those church words like “saved” or “grace” or “forgiveness.” You can carry a Bible and quote it freely and accurately. You can go to church and call yourself Christian, but it is possible to be unprepared for the return of Christ, or for you own death.
“Be prepared” means being truly prepared, not just looking prepared.
The second lesson of the parable is: No one can do it for you.
In retirement, the government may require you to contribute to Social Security, but in Orlando most people’s Social Security checks will almost pay for a person’s monthly rent. You have to prepare in other ways as well for retirement, the government won’t do it, no one else will do it.
That test coming up in class on Monday morning. No one can study for you. No one can take that test for you. You have to prepare. No one else will do it for you.
The foolish bridesmaids saw that they did not have enough oil, and they asked their wise friends to loan them some of theirs, but that was not possible. The wise ones pointed out that if they shared their oil, none of them would be prepared or able to complete their tasks.
Preparing for your death or for the Second Coming? You can’t say the preacher is doing that for you – you must prepare. You must train your spiritual life yourself.
A third point of the parable is: There is a time called “Too Late.”
Bill Kuykendall and I were friends for many years, until his death a few years ago. I met him in college – he was not a classmate, but he was one of my professors. When I arrived at college I sought advice from some of the upper classmates and one word of advice I heard many times was, “Don’t take a class under Dr. Kuykendall.”
I disregarded that advice, and Kurkendall turned out to be my favorite professor. But it was easy to see why upper classmates would advise against taking classes under him. He was tough.
I had an 8 am class with him, “Biblical Archeology.” Which, by the way, was another bit of advice from upper classmates I had ignored – “Don’t sign up for classes that begin before 11am.”
At this 8 am class, Kurkendall would arrive at 8 am sharp. He would let us into the classroom and then lock it! If you arrived at 8:01, too bad. You were counted as absent. And you only had two cuts for the whole class.
Those who were late - found out about the danger of being “too late.”
This parable teaches that there comes a time when you are “too late.” The time to prepare is before the deadline!
At some point Christ will return with shouts of acclamation. Or you will breathe your last.
Too late to repair broken relationships with others. Too late to serve others. Too late to accept Christ as savior. Too late to prepare.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." Those are great words of advice, but how do you keep from being anxious about tomorrow? In Matthew there are two things to remember - trust God, and make reasonable preparations.
Proverbs, chapter 6, has that great passage about preparation.
It says, "Go to the ant, you lazybones" - I love that translation!
"Go to the ant, you lazybones;
consider its ways and be wise.
Without having any chief or officer or ruler,
it prepares its food in summer and gathers its sustenance in harvest."
Preparation is a gift of God.
It frees us from anxiety and enriches our lives.
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
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Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.