Ordinary Time (Proper 27)
Amos 5:18–24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Doctrine and Covenants 46:7a–b, f, 76:1
Prelude and Meditation
With music playing quietly, project slides of the following scripture texts. Have the scriptures loop during the prelude. As an alternative, print the scriptures in the worship bulletin.
Matthew 25:1–2, 4
Doctrine and Covenants 46:7a–b, f
Call to Worship
Reader 1: Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, and rejoice ye inhabitants thereof, for the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior; great is his wisdom; marvelous are his ways; and the extent of his doings, none can find out.
Reader 2: Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
—Doctrine and Covenants 76:1; Psalm 70:4
Hymn of Praise
“Praise to the Living God” CCS 8
OR “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” CCS 13
OR “Great and Marvelous Are Thy Works” CCS 118
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
Prayer of Intercession
Alert the congregants that there will be a pause in the prayer to enable them to silently name those who are in need of God’s blessing.
Loving and Wise Creator, we have shared our joys and concerns with one another and with you. You have heard us name those who stand in need of wholeness. We seek your blessing of comfort, presence, and healing for those named and for others whose names will be silently lifted to you now. Pause to give people a moment to add other names.
We trust in your compassion for your children and offer this prayer seeking your special blessing on their behalf. In the name of the One who healed many during his years of ministry, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hymn of Confession
“Spirit, Open My Heart” CCS 564
OR “God! When Human Bonds Are Broken” CCS 236
Disciples’ Generous Response
Wise disciples choose to offer their first fruits to God. It might be through teaching to help disciples learn to serve, or it might be in helping with a local food pantry as a means of abolishing poverty and ending suffering. Wise disciples recognize that first-fruits monetary giving also helps make mission real. How will you generously respond today?
Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
Scripture: Amos 5:18a, 21b, 22a, 24
Holy One, we have too often substituted church busy-ness for doing justice and loving mercy. Grant us the courage to risk something new in becoming peace-makers. Amen.
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Focus Moment: Matthew 25:1–13
Introduce today’s scripture with suggestions from www.sermons4kids.com/be-prepared.html.
OR Read the story from a children’s story Bible (for example, Lectionary Story Bible, Year A by Ralph Milton, Wood Lake Publishing, Inc., 2007, ISBN 9781551455471 or The Children’s Illustrated Bible by Selina Hastings, DK Publishing, Inc., 2005, ISBN 9780756609351).
Music Ministry or Congregational Hymn
“What Is the World Like” CCS 385
OR Campfire song: “Give Me Oil in My Lamp” www.sermons4kids.com/give_me_oil_in_my_lamp_2.pdf
Based on Matthew 25:1–13
Hymn of Commitment
“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed” (solo, stanza 1; congregation, stanzas 2–4) CCS 633
OR “Church of Christ Now Poised Anew” CCS 373
Ordinary Time (Proper 27)
Exploring the Scripture
Who doesn’t love a good wedding? Even during Jesus’ time, weddings were very special events. So special that even important leaders like scribes were allowed the day off to celebrate. The parable Jesus shares in Matthew would have been a story familiar to people during this time, coming out of their own experiences with weddings.
The parable begins with 10 bridesmaids who took lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Their job was to escort him and the bride from her house to his house, where they would start their lives together. (You will note in your Bible that some ancient authorities add and the bride at the end of verse 1. The main text omitted it, perhaps to make a stronger symbolic point of Jesus being the bridegroom.) It was common for such processions to happen in the middle of the night. The bridesmaids did not know exactly when the couple would make the celebrated journey to their new home.
Half of the bridesmaids took lamps with no oil in them, which left them unprepared if the bridegroom should arrive during the night. The wise ones were prepared and brought along oil for their lamps. As everyone started to fall asleep—around midnight—the bridesmaids were alerted that the bridegroom was coming. Those without oil begged those with oil to share, but were told there would not be enough for everyone and those without oil should find a dealer to sell them some. While five went to search for oil, the bridegroom came and those who were prepared and waiting went with him to the wedding banquet. When the rest returned, Jesus did not recognize them, and cautioned them to keep awake “for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).
This is a parable with rather clear, undisputed symbolism. The bridegroom is Jesus; the bridesmaids represent the church. The bridegroom’s arrival is the Second Coming of Christ (also known in Greek as the Parousia). Having oil represents what will be most important at the Parousia, deeds of love and mercy (see Matthew 25:31–46). Jewish traditions used oil as a symbol for good deeds, as well as representing the Torah, so this, too, would have been a familiar symbol to early Jews.
To summarize the symbolic meaning of this parable, we could say the church is called to be prepared for Christ coming again through responsible acts of love and mercy. This is not something that can be borrowed from someone else (like the unprepared bridesmaids trying to borrow oil); rather it is our responsibility to respond, for we know not when we will see Jesus again. We are called to be prepared by loving God and loving our neighbor. This cannot be done at the last minute. Rather it forms who we are and shapes our faith and how we understand God’s kingdom. This is what it means to “be ready.”
When something is important to us, we prepare. Imagine you are going on a much-expected vacation. Do you get your bus or airline tickets the day of the trip? Do you pack your bag the morning you are going to leave? Do you not spend time thinking about what you are going to do, and what you need to take with you? No, you take time to prepare. Do we take time to prepare ourselves for the coming of God’s kingdom? When we respond to the call to serve others—to display acts of love and mercy—we are preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of the kingdom, to be able to see Christ again.
- This parable of Jesus is rich with symbolism and uses an example with which Jews during Jesus’ time would have been familiar.
- We are called to be prepared for the coming of God’s kingdom.
- Preparation for the kingdom involves genuine acts of discipleship, which includes acts of love and mercy.
Questions to Consider
- Have you ever found yourself unprepared for an important event? What were the results?
- What does it mean for you or your congregation to “be ready”?
- Can you think of some acts of mercy and love that have prepared you on your journey? How have these acts shaped your life as a disciple and ability to see the face of Jesus Christ in others?