Ordinary Time (Proper 27)
MATTHEW 25:1-13/25:1-12 IV
Prepare for the Lord
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Doctrine and Covenants 165:2b
Arrange various lamps, candles, and other light sources at the front of the worship space. Have at least one oil lamp displayed prominently. Distribute an LED tea light to each person as they enter or just after the Disciples’ Generous Response.
“Come Away from Rush and Hurry” CCS 83
OR “Come and Find the Quiet Center” CCS 151
Sharing of joys and concerns of the community gathered.
Call to Worship
Listen. Listen to the words of my mouth.
I will speak parables and proverbs,
and the stories handed down from generation to generation.
We will not hide them from our children,
but tell all generations of the glorious deeds and might and wonders done by our God.
It is our story to share and our laws command that we teach our children,
that they, too, will know them so that they are able to share them with their children.
Then they, too, can set their hope in God and not forget the works of God and keep God’s commandments.
—Psalm 78:1-7, adapted
Hymn of Preparing for the Lord
“Lord, Prepare Me” CCS 280
Sing two or three times.
OR “Welcome, Jesus, You Are Welcome” CCS 277
Prayer for Peace
Light the Peace Candle.
Creator of All,
As we gather in our congregation, we listen to the music radiating from our gathering, a presenter speaking, maybe even a child chattering or playing. We don’t have to hear machine gun fire, the fearful cries of children, or the wailing of death in war torn towns and cities.
As we look around we see the beauty of the day and the solid structure and protection our congregation offers us from the world. But, do we see the inequality just outside our doors—the darkness experienced by those who are marginalised in society, because they are “different” to what we have come to see as “normal”?
As we choose the smells that surround us—perhaps freshly picked flowers, a quick spray of perfume or even the undertones of a musty building closed up all week—may we pause for a moment and think on those living with the smell of poverty. Of skin and clothing that hasn’t been able to be cleaned, or the rotting of garbage or sewage in the streets, as there is nowhere else to call home.
As we wait for this service to be over, have our minds already moved on to the next thing—the meal we will have—the options and possibilities for a simple meal for us? Yet there are so many others in the world who know only the taste of dirt. For there is not enough water to fully wash the dust from their mouths, and food is so scarce that to know the diversity of flavour is simply a dream. They have lost hope and their dreams.
As we reflect on the soft feel of a little child’s hand in ours or the spontaneous pressure that comes in an unexpected hug of uncontrolled joy, may we also feel for the mother whose heart is breaking to see her child lost in a political system that doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Or the mother who desperately clings to her child for fear of what momentary separation might mean in a refugee camp.
We are sheltered in our experience right here, right now. And while we are grateful for this, Lord, challenge us to see that in the welfare of others resides our own welfare. We need to hear the pleading of our brothers and sisters. We need to be active in providing places where people feel safe and advocating for political change that will honour the lives of all. We can be scared and selfish.
We need your help, Lord. Disrupt our comfort and make us brave that we might fight for others in the same way that Jesus stood for the marginalized and oppressed. This is our prayer, Lord, that we may use everything you gave us to fight for the rights of others, so that together we can exist in harmony and peace.
Hymn of Peace
“Come and Bring Light” CCS 287
OR “Let Your Heart Be Broken” CCS 353
For additional ideas, the Daily Prayer for Peace service offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA, can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Ministry of Music or Congregational Theme Hymn
“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed” CCS 633
This is a high-energy spiritual. Consider adding percussion and hand-claps.
Based on John 20:19-31
Disciples’ Generous Response
This is the fifth week of the Generosity Cycle. Today, the focus is on the Respond phase.
Consider providing commitment cards in the bulletins or hand them out prior to the service. Downloadable, printable cards and other information about the Generosity Cycle can be found at www.cofchrist.org/generosity-cycle.
Listen to the testimonies of those responding generously. Follow your soul’s yearning to come home to God’s grace and generosity. Let gratitude show you the way.
—Doctrine and Covenants 165:2b
For the past four Sundays, we’ve been expressing gratitude for the gifts we have received from a generous God. When we become aware that we’re the recipients of God’s amazing love and grace freely given with no strings attached, we want to share those gifts with others. Gratitude shows us the way to generosity.
When we understand God’s love and grace are given freely to us, it liberates us to share them freely in return. Our ability to be generous emerges from a spirit of thankfulness and not the burden of indebtedness.
God’s blessings transform us as we gain a deeper understanding of what God’s vision of shalom is all about and how we can help create it. We respond out of gratitude and not debt. When we respond out of gratitude, we understand that God’s blessings are freely given. As disciples, we are called to share those freely given gifts with others.
Individually and collectively, we receive God’s blessings, and we, in turn, bless others. When we respond together, we give shape and form to God’s vision of shalom through faithful and generous living.
You were given a Commitment Sheet today. As we consider God’s gifts in our lives, let’s take a moment to complete these commitment sheets. These are your personal intentions and commitments. They will not be shared with anyone. They are between you and God. We fill them out and place them in the offering baskets simply as a way to show our thanksgiving to God for all we have received. It’s up to you how you reflect on and remember these commitments over the next year.
Allow two minutes to complete the form.
Let’s offer our gratitude to God as we place our sheets along with our offerings in the baskets or plates this morning. For those who give through e-Tithing, thank you for your ongoing, sustained support of mission.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
Lighting Our Lamps in Preparation for the Lord
Distribute the LED tea light candles to each person in the congregation and form a circle around the perimeter of the room.
OR Ask people to stand and face the center of the room with their tea lights.
Statement: In our daily living, we commit to being prepared for the Lord. We light these candles as a symbol to remind us that without this preparation our lights can go out. Turn on tea light candles. We commit to sharing our light with others.
Song: “This Little Light of Mine”
Stanza 2: Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine…
Stanza 3: All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna let it shine…
Stanza 4: Let it shine ‘til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine…
Repeat Stanza 1
Prayer of Blessing
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?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Ordinary Time Proper 27
Matthew 25:1–13 NRSV
The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.
The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.
Ordinary Time is the period in the Christian calendar from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and as a faith community.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
O God of peace, we gather today to rest for a few moments in your peaceful presence. We are grateful for the opportunity to do so, and we pray that your Holy Spirit will attend to us as we focus our attention on these things that make for peace.
We know, O God, that you have made us for yourself, and for each other. We ask that we might have the courage and the wisdom to be present to the needs of others—that we might be willing to listen, and to share our concern with those who are in need. We ask that we might be compassionate people—that we might understand the needs of others deeply within ourselves.
For we know you have been compassionate with us through the sharing of your son, Jesus Christ, who came and lived among us as one who lived as we live and who felt as we feel. We know that he entered into human life fully, and he experienced our own lack of peace even as he brought to us the possibility of peace.
Throughout the world today, O God, there are many who need your peace. Through war, persecution, and famine, there are many who are in great need. We pray for them your blessing. There are others who are in need because of spite or broken relationships. We pray for them your healing. There are still others who are in despair because they sense their own incompleteness. We pray for them your wholeness.
As we gather together today in the peace and quietness of this moment, we are aware of the great needs throughout our world and within our own hearts. May our unease become an occasion for renewed commitment, and may your Holy Spirit call us to be agents of your peace. Teach us peace; bring us peace; make us agents of peace. In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Holding in the Light
Read the following:
Our Enduring Principle focus this week is on Blessings of Community. We are taught to create communities of peace in our families, neighborhoods, congregations, nations, tribes, and around the world. One spiritual practice that helps us feel connected to our communities is called holding in the light. It is a form of intercessory prayer/meditation adapted from the Quaker movement.
Share the following instructions:
We will stand in a circle. I will light the candle that I hold. The rest of you will hold your hands in front of you as if you are helping me hold the light.
Allow time for the group to get situated.
Look at the candlelight and become aware of your own breathing. Begin to center yourself with breath prayer. Breathe in the word love. Breathe out the word light. Repeat this three more times.
Call to mind names of those loved ones, communities, or countries you wish to pray for as we hold the light. You may name them aloud or hold them silently in your heart.
Pause to allow time for people to share names aloud as they desire.
Now imagine those you named being surrounded by light as bright as the candle. Continue breathing and meditating on the names of those you hold in the light in our circle.
After three minutes of silent meditation and holding in the light, share the following:
Offer a moment of gratitude for your loved ones, your communities, and this experience of holding in the light. Next time you see the light of a sunset or sunrise, may it remind you to pause and prayerfully hold someone you love in the light. Amen.
Sharing Around the Table
Matthew 25:1–13 NRSV
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 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.’ 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. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Who doesn’t love a good wedding? These days, there is usually plenty of time to prepare for the big event. From the “Save the Date” announcement to the carefully planned event, there are few surprises.
The community addressed in the Gospel of Matthew, was waiting for Christ’s promised return. The parable of the 10 bridesmaids reminded them that Jesus’ return might come unexpectedly. It was a call for Jesus’ followers to ready themselves, always living in expectation of Jesus “showing up.”
One way to understand the parable is that the bridegroom is Jesus, the bridesmaids are the church, and the oil symbolizes acts of love and mercy in our everyday lives. This is not something that can be borrowed from someone else (like the unprepared bridesmaids trying to borrow oil); rather our expectation is present through our own faithful response of loving and serving others. By preparing ourselves as humble servants, we can always be ready to offer the ministry and message of Jesus.
- When have you unexpectedly encountered Christ through an interaction with someone else?
- How has the mercy and compassion you received helped shape your life as a disciple?
- In what ways do you ready yourself to see the face of Jesus Christ in others?
Note: If you are using Thoughts for Children, now is a good time for the kids to share with the group their representations of God.
Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.
—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9
The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
God of our discipleship,
As we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In these ways may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world.
Invitation to Next Meeting
Community of Christ Sings 633, “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed”