Importance Of Preparation
PREPARATION OF THE MIND: IMPORTANCE OF PREPARATION
(parable of the Ten Virgins)
Prayer: Dear good and gracious heavenly Father, You daily supply us richly with Your grace and all Your blessings. Help us to live according to Your will in Christ Jesus. Amen.
The text for this morning is a portion of the Gospel from Matthew 25. “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. " This is the word of the Lord.
May God's grace and His mercy be multiplied to each one of you through Christ Jesus in the hearing of His word. Amen.
Let's start off with a question this morning. Have you ever found yourself in an awkward situation because you weren't adequately prepared? Perhaps you want to paint a room in your house, your condo, or apartment. You purchase the paint and the brushes, remove the wall plates and the switch plates, take down the pictures, and patch the little nail holes and the dents. You cover the floor and furniture with an old bedspread or drop cloth. You are ready to paint, and you take a look at the roller; it's all crusty and rough and hard, and it won't do the job.
Or maybe you're going somewhere and you think you know how to get there. You leave your house, you start driving, and you know you're getting closer. It should be easy to find. In fact, somebody told you, you just go down to a certain street, you turn there, and you can't miss it. Do you know how easy it is to miss it? Then you can't remember the street where you're supposed to turn and you think, "Maybe it's this one," or "I'll try this street." So you do try that street, but that's not it. You can't find the place. You don't have a map with you. The telephone number is unlisted. You drive around in frustration and confusion.
For years, the motto of the Boy Scouts has been "Be prepared." It's a good motto to follow in our everyday life and also in our spiritual life.
In today's Gospel Jesus tells us a parable about ten young women. There was a young couple who were getting married. They had already had a religious ceremony to declare their engagement -their commitment to one another to spend their lives together. This custom meant that they were legally bound together as husband and wife even though they still lived separately with their own families. Then weeks or months later, the groom would go to the bride's house to bring her home to his own house for them to live together. The ceremony was usually celebrated in the evening in what we would call a wedding ceremony. As I mentioned, groom started the festivities by going with some of his friends to the home of the bride to escort her to their new home. The bride's attendants, her best friends or bridesmaids, waited eagerly for the groom to come. Remember, this was before street lights so, when they heard the groom was coming, they'd light their lamps and go out to meet the groom. That way, they'd provide light for the groom to follow all the way to the room where the bride was eagerly waiting for her groom to appear. Since the bridesmaids didn't know at what time the groom would appear, they had to be ready for him whenever he came. In this case, he was delayed in getting there. All ten of the bridesmaids were there. They all had their lamps. Five of them are described as foolish and :five of them are described as wise. The foolish ones are the ones who took their lamps, but they didn't have any extra oil. The wise ones are the ones who were prepared. They had planned ahead. They had extra oil in case they needed it. The five foolish ones who didn't have enough oil realized too late that they weren't prepared for the situation, so, frantically, they started looking for oil. Where could they find more of it? The first place was to go to their friends to borrow some. "Can we borrow some oil from you?" And their friends said, "No. If we give you the oil that we have, we won't have any left for ourselves. Why don't you go to the oil store and buy as much as you need?" So they went to buy some, but remember, it was dark and most of the places were already closed. They didn't have 24hour supermarket stores or 7-11 stores. By the time they got back from finding some oil, the groom had already arrived, and, in fact, he and his bride had already taken off. They had gone on to celebrate their wedding celebration. The wedding celebration had already started and so, by the time the foolish bridesmaids got there, they were locked out, and there was no way for them to get in. They had failed to plan ahead, to be prepared.
What about you? What has your lack of preparation cost you and our church? During the next few Sundays, in our sermons and our Bible studies, we'll be looking at the value of preparation in our Christian lives. It's part of our stewardship emphasis of Preparing for Faithful Stewardship. We will see during our stewardship series that, without preparation, it is difficult to become God-pleasing stewards. Stewardship begins by preparing one's heart, mind, and finances so we can properly honor Christ with our lives and our resources. Our own personal preparation in life will help each of us reach the stewardship potential that God expects from us.
In today's Gospel, the young women all started at the same place. They all had the same resources to begin with. The wise ones are the ones who were prepared and ready. So, when the bridegroom, who was Jesus in this parable, came at an unexpected time, they were ready to meet Him. They expected their Lord to return, and they eagerly waited with faith and trust in Him. Now they are celebrating the wedding feast for all of eternity in Heaven with Him. The foolish ones are also the ones who expected their Lord to return. They thought they were prepared, but they weren't, so they missed out on the wedding. They were excluded from Heaven. They had forgotten the importance of preparation and had not allowed God to nurture their faith through His Word and Sacraments. Then, when it was too late, they realized they weren't prepared.
There is a difference between foolish preparation and wise preparation. We learn from this Gospel that preparation is often the difference between success and failure. That's true in our spiritual lives. That's true in every area of our lives. Preparation is the key.
Athletes know the importance of preparation. To compete and do well, they need to be in good shape mentally and physically. It takes hours and hours and hours of practice. Total commitment to preparation is required.
Musicians spend countless hours practicing scales and playing the same piece over and over again until they get it right. The manager goes over the inventory, over the budget, over the finances, over the plans and the procedures until everything's in place. Preparation is the key to success in every area of our lives.
For the ten young women, it meant the difference between enjoying the wedding party or being locked out. Ultimately, in the parable, it meant the difference between spending their eternal lives in Heaven or in hell.
Christians should be no less lax than the athlete, the musician, or the businessman as we go about preparing for faithful stewardship. We learn how to utilize the resources that He gives us. We can enjoy satisfaction and achievement, or we can squander all the resources that He gives to us. If we don't plan and prepare to use what He gives to us, then we'll experience heartache and frustration and disappointment. We may find we're too late. We've missed out on the wedding celebration. Our need for spiritual preparation is crucial. It's critical. God expects us to prepare by daily study and by prayer. When we come to the Lord's table, He expects us to prepare by confession and repentance. He expects to prepare to go and make disciples of all nations by growing and learning and reaching out. He expects us to look after one another by the way we love and care for and encourage one another. Our spiritual preparation is more important than our preparation to be good athletes or good businessmen or good teachers or good doctors or salesmen or whatever. Whatever we do as Christians, as fathers or mothers, as husbands or wives, as men or women, as sons or daughters, as truck drivers, doctors, secretaries, plumbers, or whatever, we should do our best to do it all to the glory of God. We are accountable for the way we have been blessed and the way we use those blessings. God' s primary plan for us is to honor Him with our lives and all of our resources. "He daily and richly supplies us with all that we need to support our bodies in life. Therefore it is our duty to thank and praise, to serve and obey Him. "
We live in a time of economic uncertainty; therefore, it is most important that we be prepared for what is ahead in this world. It appears that, for the first time in our lives, things are not getting better in this country. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows an average American worker in private industry made $187 a week in 1970. After adjustment for inflation, it dropped to the equivalent of$167 in 1990, a drop of $20 a week over those 20 years. We have this sense that things should always be getting better and progressively improving. In a recent survey, 56 percent of young Americans believed things will be worse for their children. Seventy percent of them said life was better for their parents than it would be for them. In other words, they were worse off than their parents. We tend to think that each generation will have it a little better than the last one. In 1973 there was a 15 percent gap in pay between male graduates from high school and male graduates from college. By 1995 that gap had grown to 50 percent, not because college graduates' salaries went up, but because high school graduates' salaries decreased. Are you prepared to live in a world that is more uncertain, that is less secure than what perhaps we've known?
If the foolish bridesmaids in Jesus' parable had known when the groom was coming, they would have bought more oil. But they were caught off guard. They were not prepared. Because the Lord will come at a time when we do not expect Him, we must always be prepared, always growing in faith and trusting in Him as our Lord and Savior so that we'll have eternal life and salvation with Him forever. We must not be caught off guard. Because this world is unpredictable and always changing, it is essential that we also make preparations for our lives in this world. Failure to prepare may have tragic consequences. Are you prepared? Are you trying to better prepare yourself with knowledge and skills so that you can be a more effective Christian person on your job? Are you gaining more skills to make yourself more valuable to your company and as a tool of God in your career and your profession? Are you getting your household in order financially? Are you growing in understanding ways of money management and financial principles? Are you careful to spend less than you make and give God the first fruits off the top? Do you have a savings plan for your future? Are you striving to be free from debt? Since you can't take it with you, have you prepared your last will and testament to provide for your family, to provide for the Lord's work to continue, to be an expression of your faith after you're gone home to be with your Lord? That's part of stewardship.
As chosen people of God in the state of grace, we receive from the Holy Spirit new attitudes such as love for God and our fellowmen, thankfulness, generosity, joy in doing God's will, gratitude for God's grace, goodness, willingness to serve, and control over our old selves. All of these are important attitudes in stewardship. As God's chosen, redeemed, and sanctified people, we are prepared by God for a life of stewardship. In other words, a life of stewardship is rooted and grounded not only in the fact that Christ suffered and died for our sins, but also in the fact that He rose from the dead, and now, through Baptism, has raised us to new lives of service.
God has richly supplied each one of us with skills and with talents and with resources and abilities. In preparation to meet the challenges of this world, we want to develop them to the very fullest. When we do so, we can give greater glory and honor to Him by our service and by our lives. We are fulfilling our calling when we use His gifts in God-pleasing ways. In this life of uncertainty we need to be prepared. Winston Churchill said, "Let our advanced worrying become advanced thinking and advanced planning. " In truth, there is only one source of security. That is Christ Jesus, the bridegroom. When everything else around us is falling apart, Jesus is the rock that we cling to. When the stock market fluctuates, Christ is the One who is certain, stable. And when we plan and prepare and even then it doesn't work out, it is still on Christ, the solid rock, we stand. All other ground is sinking sand. We turn to Him to richly supply all our needs. Only through Christ are we adequately prepared; only in Him are we really wise. Only through Him are we adequately prepared as our faith is nurtured in the Word and in the sacraments. In this unpredictable world, we need a power, a resource that is greater than ourselves. We need Christ for all the problems that come. We trust in the endless supply of His power and His resources that prepares us for what we must face in life. His unconditional love, His unwarranted forgiveness, His might and His strength, His endless goodness and mercy, His constant care and blessing prepare us to meet the challenges of life and to meet our Lord when He comes again to take us to His home.
As the Apostle Peter said in his epistle, "Prepare your minds for action,' be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. " May we be prepared so our lamps may be filled. Only then can we be faithful stewards by sharing our light and our lives with Christ and others. In Jesus name. Amen.