Taking Stock

Here at the tail end of hurricane season (officially Nov 30th), let me ask you…. How many of you were prepared this past season, stocking up on extra flashlights and batteries? Extra water and food? Something to charge your cell phone? Of course, forecasting is pretty good these days, we always have advanced warning, and there is time to run to the store or borrow from our neighbors. Right?  Given the scenes from the days preceding Hurricane Irma, I think that was most people’s strategy. But not all things in life are well forecast.  Some rain comes down upon us without notice. Continue reading

Ever ready: allegory

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” Be it parable or allegory, we are limited in dissecting this passage from the gospel. Many commentaries offer insight from wedding customs, but of another culture or age. One commentary I reviewed was assuming 10th century Jewish wedding customs from Spain reflected an unaltered liturgical custom. Possibly.

We know that weddings provided one of the high points in village life, and the question of who was and was not included affected one’s social standing. Our knowledge of Jewish wedding customs at the time is limited, leaving scholars to suggest analogies from other cultures; but it is probably wiser to admit our ignorance. This story mentions only two parties, the bridegroom and the ten girls. The precise role of the latter in the ceremonies is not clear but most scholars assume that Hellenistic-Roman marriage customs also apply in Jewish circles at the time, and thus the young women are servants from the bridegroom’s house, awaiting the return of the bridegroom with his bride after the wedding feast at her house. Possibly. Continue reading

Ever ready: prepared

The young women are described with the Greek term for “virgins” which is meant to indicate unmarried friends or relatives of either the bride or the bridegroom. The story tells us that their role included escorting the bridegroom in a torchlight procession to his house, but that they were not present at whatever part of the ceremonies immediately preceded this procession. The unexpected delay at that point in the proceedings may have been caused by extended bargaining over the financial settlement, or by any number of other causes, deliberate or accidental. It does not matter; all that matters is the delay, and the effect it had on the readiness of the girls when the time for their part in the ceremonies eventually arrived. Continue reading

Ever ready: context

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, 4 but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. 11 Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ 12 But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Continue reading