32nd Sunday: How to Win at Musical Chairs
Today’s gospel is the parable of the ten bridesmaids. This parable demands a little explaining because it presumes a custom that we no longer follow. On the day of a wedding, the groom would go to the bride’s house and confer with her father. He would sign the marriage covenant and then escort his bride back to his house, or his father’s house. All of the bride’s family would follow. When they finally got to the house, the wedding reception, to use our words, would begin. Then they would seat the priest next to nasty old Aunt Harriet. Oh, sorry, that was another receptions I was invited to. Anyway, the ten virgins were part of the ceremony, lighting the way for the newly weds, particularly the groom. One semblance of the wedding that still remains in our custom is the father walking the bride down the aisle. The meaning is that the bride is gong from her father’s home to her husband’s home.
The point of the parable is not about weddings, though. It is about being ready. Perhaps a better way to understand the Lord’s point is if we consider playing musical chairs. You remember how to play musical chairs, right? You walk around the chairs, carefully situating your sit down over each chair, (Hey this is PG rated), just waiting for the music to stop, hoping that you can get to a chair before a slower person.
Consider Jesus telling the parable of the kids playing musical chairs, and then turning to you and to me and asking, “Where are you going to be when the music stops?”
During the month of November, we come to the end of the Church year. We consider the end of our lives. We consider death. And we ask ourselves, “Where are we going to be when the music stops?”
Did you ever read the comic the Wizard of Id? That’s the one with the little short king, His Runtness. In one strip, King Twerp calls the royal monk in to ask him a theological question. He asks the monk, “How do you feel about capital punishment?”
“There’s not much we can do about it,” the monk says to the King.
The King is quite perplexed by this answer, “What do you mean that there is not much we can do about the death penalty?”
“Well, the fact is,” says the monk, “that we are all born with it.”
That is the reality that we deal with throughout our lives. Our loved ones die, we will die. How do we deal with it?
The Christian view of death is that it is a transition from this life to a life that hopefully leads to full union with God. Many times we grieve the loss of a loved one. Some times we fear for our own lives. But through it all, we know that if we are ready when the music stops, we will receive the reward of the Resurrection of the Lord, the defeat of eternal death.
I love the image of the man who goes fishing. He announces to his family that he’s going to take the motor boar to the far side of the lake go after some really big fish. He doesn’t know how long he is going to be gone. When will they see him again? He doesn’t know. He loves fishing and meticulously prepares his rod and reel, and his other equipment. He fills the boat with whatever he needs. His family comes out to the dock to see him off. He kisses them all and then leaves. To the family the boat is getting smaller and smaller as it gets further away. Dad is gone, and they begin to miss him. But he has everything he needs and he is happy. That’s an analogy of the Christian belief in death. Our loved ones whom we remember this month are gone. We miss them, terribly. But they are happy.
How tragic our lives would be if all that mattered to us was the here and now.
But that is not the Christian faith. Our faith is in Jesus, the Eternal One, who gives us his life and who assures us that we can say to our loved ones who die, and to our loved ones who remain when we die, “Until we meet again.”
Jesus Christ, is the Victor over Death. His victory is our victory. United with Him, we also will live forever.
So we play the game of musical chairs to win, ready for the Lord when the music stops.