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A Musing About Being Ready - 10/26/2022

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten young women took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those young women got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. 11 Later the other young women came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

So, many years ago, I was a high school and middle school coach. I absolutely loved it except that I realized the work paid about 37 cents an hour and took me away from my wife and kids way too much. Eventually, I gave it up for other opportunities and there are times I still miss it. Perhaps when I retire, I will return as a volunteer or something.

I did get the opportunity to get to know a number of amazing student athletes, many of whom I still keep up with to this day. Coaching – like working with other extracurricular activities such as the band or chorus or other clubs—allows teachers and students an opportunity to build relationships in unique ways. I also experienced a lot of amazing lessons.

Some of these lessons I taught. Some I was taught. But most I learned together with my team.

One of those lessons all coaches and players have to learn is what most coaches refer to as the next man up. Though the girls I coached quickly corrected me that it should be next player up. Again, some lessons were taught to me!

The idea behind the term next player up is that a season is long, and injuries and illnesses occur. At any point in time a player may go down with an injury or be unavailable. It might be the star. It might be an obscure but vital backup. It doesn’t matter. When a player is down, it’s “next player up.”

During the scrimmage time in practices, I sometimes would even blow the whistle, stop practice, and sit a player on the bench. I would say we are pretending they are hurt, and you have to finish without them. It is next player up time.

Maybe you’re really a right tackle and it’s the left guard who’s injured. No matter. You have to be ready to take his place. If you’re a linebacker but a defensive lineman goes down, you must be ready to fill in.

Maybe you are the backup volleyball setter and now it’s your turn to lead the team. Perhaps the pitcher needs to go to left field.

Next player up time means you’re not only willing to jump into the fray at a moment’s notice, but you’re also willing to do it without making excuses about how you’ve never practiced playing that position. You are willing to go in and give it your best even if you don’t feel fully prepared.

Offensive players may suddenly be put in to play defense. A lineman may have to step up and kick extra points.

Be ready. No excuses. And also — and this is very important — you ought to have a little bit of an understanding and appreciation of what everybody on your team does, not just what you do. While everyone has their own talents and gifts on a team, we are all still a team.

Similarly, the church is one body working together and sometimes we are called to stretch out and do things we never planned or even wanted to do in order to further the mission of Jesus Christ in the world.

This be on the ready mentality is in fact our calling as Christians.

In the parable of the Bridesmaids, which has lots to tell us, the last line which says, “Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour,” is often considered to be apocalyptic – about the end times and Christ’s return.

While there is certainly a strong note of that in this passage, that is not all that is found here in the text. There is also a sense in which Jesus is talking in the present tense, telling listeners both then and now that we must always be prepared to show folks the kingdom of God by our words and deed. It is a next player up mentality.

Dr. Susan Hylen, the Associate Professor of New Testament at Emory University writes this commentary about the text:

The wise bridesmaids keep the vision of Christ’s return, and all that it stands for, alive through their faithful living in the midst of delay. By preparing for the day, the timing of which no one knows but God, they proclaim that God’s promises are true. They act out their hope for that day when God will establish justice and righteousness and peace.

In other words, they are living out the next player up mentality…always being ready to do the good that is theirs to do – ready or not, trained or not, their position or not – in order to show the kingdom of God for the team we call the church of Jesus Christ.

Also, according to Matthew, Jesus went about “teaching, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, curing every disease and every sickness.” Are you ready, willing, and able to be the next one up in God’s service, “teaching, proclaiming the good news” and following Jesus? It’s not really a question. Actually, it is our call.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia Amen.


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