Narrative Lectionary Reflection
March 31, 2019
My partner in crime at the blog, Bob Cornwall has a blog post from 2014 where he reflects on this very text. In it, he talks about the Chicago Cubs and how most Cubs fans always say at the end of the season, “there’s always next year.” For well over century, the Cub fans believed that someday and someday soon, the Cubs would make it back to the World Series and win, which they last did in 1908, when Theodore Roosevelt was President. They had not even been to the World Series since 1945. Bob said in his commentary, “After all, most Cub fans have never seen a World Series played at Wrigley Field. Perhaps they never will.”
What Bob didn’t know writing in 2014 is that two years later, the Cubs would do the impossible: winning the World Series in 7 games. What fans had been waiting for finally happened, but as Bob’s post shows, we didn’t know when.
Think about it this: there were generations of people who never saw the Cubs win the world series. You have to believe that each person until their dying day believed that the next year would be the year for the Cubs. “There’s always next year.”
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is one of those stories that leaves both scared and mad. Jesus is in the middle of telling several tales about the coming judgment when God returns. Next week we will hear about the Sheep and the Goats, but this week we hear the story of ten virgins. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven (which usually means God) is like ten virgins waiting at a wedding, waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. When he arrived at the house, the bridesmaids would greet him and escort the gentleman to the house of the bride where there would be feasting. We hear this story about the ten virgins and learn that five brought extra oil for their lamps and five didn’t do that. Why didn’t the wise virgins share their oil with the foolish ones? Why did the groom not welcome let the foolish virgins in after they purchased extra oil?
The temptation here is to get lost in the weeds and make this a story about the selfish virgins that didn’t share. But that’s not the point of the parable. The point of the parable is readiness, a kind of alert waiting for something, even when we don’t know when it will happen.
I remember as a kid that we had to go through fire drills. The thing is, you never knew when the drill would take place. It could happen when we are studying math or taking a quiz. Whenever it happened, we had to stop what we were doing and quietly leave the room and head out of the building.
But in the meantime, you had to learn arithmetic. You need to read Shakespeare. You have to do all the things you had to do at school.
As Christians, we await when Christ returns. We believe as the Apostles Creed says that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. Until that day comes, we wait and you know what it means to wait? It means to live our lives. It means we gather with other Christ followers at church and where we take part in the Lord’s Supper. It means caring for the least of these around us. We wait, by living, aware that God is present and that God will return.
It took a long time for the Cubs to win a world series. But people just kept going to ballgames at Wrigley Field telling themselves at the end of every season, “there’s always next year.” Hopefully, the Cubs will win before 2124, but even if that is the case, there will be people waiting until next year. May it be with us as followers of Jesus. We live and we wait, because who knows what will happen “next year.”
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century.