Tuesday, April 15, 2014

After 3: Day 2: The Night Circus, Virgins, and Right Now!

After3 is a blog series intended to help you prepare this Holy Week...to anticipate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. (You can read Day 1 HERE)

On the Tuesday of Holy Week (Holy Tuesday) tradition invites us to reflect on The Parable of the Ten Virgins. You can read the parable at length here: Matthew 25:1-13.

Once in Jerusalem, Jesus reflects on the coming destruction of the Holy City and the End of the Age. The reflections lead his followers to question: "When will all this happen and what will be the sign of the End of the Age?" Good question fellas! Wouldn't we all like to know?

But in typical Jesus fashion, instead of relaying a date and time he tells a story:

Ten virgins receive an invitation to a wedding banquet. They simply need to show up outside the banquet hall and wait for the bridegroom to arrive. If present at his arrival, he would grant them entrance. You can imagine their excitement, "We get to go to the wedding banquet!" Their minds are so obsessed with the big event...getting their hair done, finding the right dress, a mani-pedi (Yep, I actually know primping slang. Don't ask me how.)...that they have a hard time focusing on anything else. Dressed to the nines, they grab their lamps and head out to meet the bridegroom. Five of virgins remember to bring extra oil for their lamps just in case the bridegroom keeps them waiting. The other five, perhaps with their minds lost in the coming celebration, leave without the back-up oil. They arrive at the banquet hall and they wait...




Wait so long they fall asleep! About midnight (clearly the bridegroom had gotten lost in Vegas during his bachelor party) some expectant celebrant rouses the sleeping virgins from their slumber shouting, "He is coming! The Bridegroom is coming!"

"Ahhh!" Total panic. The ten virgins hastily re-primp themselves which means getting their lamps back in shape because by this time the oil was running low. The five who thought enough to bring backup oil quickly refueled their light source. They other 5 run back to town to find a store open late enough from which they could buy oil (Unfortunately, there were no 7-11's). While the 5 oil-less virgins were gone, the bridegroom arrives to enter the wedding banquet. The 5 virgins with the extra oil went in with him. The other five would return to find the wedding banquet doors shut and locked. They missed out!

Many differing perspectives exist on this fascinating story, but I believe Jesus uses the story to remind his disciples to be mindful of the mundane - for in the mundane you find the presence of God. At the end of the parable Jesus says, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or hour." I don't think Jesus is talking about the end of the world, the second coming, or even the fall of Jerusalem. I think Jesus is saying, "Always, especially in the routine rhythms of life, be on the watch for the presence of God to break out. If you aren't watching, you like the virgins, might just miss it!"

By neglecting the mundane task of tending to their lamps, five virgins missed the banquet. Jesus' followers were so focused on the End Times they were missing the presence of God in the present.

Sound familiar?

"I can't wait to get out of elementary school so I can have the freedom of high school!"
"I can't wait to get out of high school so I can leave home for college!"
"I can't wait to get out of college so I can start my career!"
"I can't wait to retire so I can enjoy life!"

We tend to live in the future and in so doing often miss God in the present, in the mundane. We eat lunch in our cars because our mind is already at the next appointment. We are so busy staring at our phones that we forget to look into the face of the person across from us. We start our Monday thinking about Friday!

I'm not a big fan of the pre-bedtime hour, also known as "The Night Circus!" I wish I had a walk-through kid wash where my boys just stood on a conveyer belt and headed through a tunnel. It would scrub them appropriately, brush their teeth and even give them the 30-second-before-bedtime-"I'm thirsty" drink. Most of time I end up frustrated during this hour because my mind is already on the couch. But by living in the future I miss God in the mundane: savoring the hugs and kisses, cherishing the last-minute bedtime chats, and participating in the silliness.

This Holy Week, I'm going to remember the image of the virgins. I'm going to be mindful of the mundane rhythm of the bedtime routine. I'm going to look for God there. What about you? What lamp needs your attention this Holy Week!

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