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Proper 27 (32), Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
12 November 2023

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Psalm 78:1-7
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16
Psalm 70
Amos 5:18-24
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13


Growing up Lutheran does not usually expose one to a lot of decision theology, however, in my case it did. And having had a pastor who served our parish from his internship to his retirement created the broken record experience that kind of theology provides anyway, at least for me.
Part of the problem was that that kind of preaching seems to always speak to those who have not yet become followers of Jesus while it does very little for those who are followers of Jesus. And thinking about it now, I wonder how all this aligned with a baptismal theology that sees the gift of our baptism as the beginning of our life in Christ.

Most of our readings carry great urgency. The reading from Joshua constitutes the climax of the book, culminating in the covenant Joshua makes with the people. Verse 15 is the best known verse of the book, “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” That this needs to be spelled out is, of course, its own witness.
Psalm 78 echoes this covenant with the pledge that we will not hide God’s glorious deeds from our children.

The text from the Wisdom of Solomon presents wisdom as pursuing those who desire her, and while there seems an urgency to this pursuit, what stands out is the grace of the pursuit.
Amos tells us that the Day of the Lord is not what we expect and calls us to repent and to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Psalm 70 calls for God’s deliverance from “those who seek my life”, but I may also take this to be a call for deliverance from my own capacity to sin.

In our epistle reading Paul addresses concerns regarding the resurrection. While the addressees of his letter may have expected the return of Christ to be immanent, understanding our own mortality we too are concerned about the resurrection. Important in this passage is that Paul speaks of the coming of the Lord as source of comfort and encouragement.

The parable of the Ten Bridesmaids is not one of my favourites. I get stuck on the exclusion of the foolish for what seems a trivial reason, and I don’t like that the wise don’t share of their resources. But my hang-ups are more a reflection of me than they are of the parable. That many interpreters consider the parable to deal with the delay of the parousia does not help me either, for I have always been more interested in a present than a future eschatology. But assuming a present eschatology is what may well rescue this parable for me. And I do well to remember that the One telling the parable is the presence of the Kingdom.
The problem of the foolish then is not the fact that their lamps are running out of oil but that they never recognized the importance of the coming of the bridegroom. They are unprepared because they have other priorities. And as the bridegroom comes they fail to see that meeting the bridegroom is more important than having oil in their lamps. After all, the bridegroom is the Light of the world. Instead of seeking the bridegroom, oil in their lamps or not, they go in the opposite direction, they go to the store.

The store is a distraction. As people who have money we know that whatever we don’t do, we can buy at the store. We are also distracted by too much information. We know that whatever we don’t know we can look up. And so we no longer know. Finally, we don’t think we need to change the way we live in order to address the ecological crisis because we believe that someone else will develop the technology that will save us from having to change. All this is the apathy of the foolish.

The problem the parable addresses is that of living our lives in such a way as if our life were inconsequential. The foolishness of the five is about misplaced priorities and the failure to recognize that which matters.
As I have thought about my grandparents in the Germany of the 1930s, I have always thought that the reason they were and remained bystanders was that they did not understand what mattered beyond their personal horizon. And they did not understand because had no alternate narrative.
And so it turns out that how we live matters, for ourselves as well as for others.

In his interpretation of the parable, Andrew Marr, OSB references the preceding parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants and suggests that those with enough oil were the kind of people who cultivated such practices as would give them the strength to stand up to the violence of (e.g.) the wicket servant and witness to a nonviolent way of living. The foolish, however, may not be violent themselves, but will be swept away by violence when it comes.

The wisdom of the wise is no coincidence but is cultivated in community. Paul talks much about mutual exhortations. It is in the life of the community that we receive the gift of discernment, in prayer and worship, in repentance and forgiveness, in the breaking of the bread and the giving of alms. These practices open our lives to the bridegroom and without these practices we lack the alternate narrative

and the discernment required to resist where resistance is necessary. On the other hand, a life that is lived as if our lives were inconsequential also shapes us but not in ways that are helpful to us or to others.

Putting on my “Lutheran hat” and looking for grace in this story, I find it in the presence of the Bridegroom and the gift of the community of the church.


This is cross-posted at the lectionary reflections of the Ekklesia Project. The sermon I preached on this day is in the video below.

Christoph Reiners

Pastor Christoph was ordained in Vancouver in 1994 and has served congregations in Winnipeg and Abbotsford before coming to Our Saviour in the fall of 2016.