I am almost spent this evening but I didn’t want to let the opportunity for some powerful testimony to slip by. Earlier in the week I was asked to preach at an area church. That is one of the joys and responsibilities I agreed to accept when I became a Certified Lay Speaker through the United Methodist Church.
I was quite excited as I had not delivered a sermon in some time and my Sunday School “team teacher” was very pleased for me and said he didn’t mind taking on my week to teach on Sunday. I didn’t really mind his taking the lesson as it was one that had never really resonated with me. I had never understood it and really never had or took the opportunity to study it in more detail. Well . . . guess which scripture was in the Lectionary (the suggested scripture readings for each Sunday of the year) for this Sunday? OK, that’s a rhetorical question.
I clearly got the message that God intended me to glean some of His wisdom from this parable: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish bridesmaids. If you’re not that familiar with it, perhaps it is for the same reasons I was not.
I set about diligently and with great intention reading as much as I could find on this parable, including commentary by some noted Jewish experts. I was pretty fired up and developed an outline by midweek, as well as what the central theme would be.
Then on Thursday night I got sick. I mean, laying on the floor of the shower stall on and off for 12-15 hours sick. Then I fell into some type of semi-conscious state throughout all of Friday. I hallucinated, fought off bouts of nausea and diarrhea and could not even keep water in. Thursday night as I lay on the floor of the shower I prayed – like I have never prayed before that God would heal me. He alone sustained me throughout Friday, but in the end He was, of course, victorious!
It was not about my personal well-being that I was praying but rather about the words He had revealed to me. He clearly wanted me to learn what he taught me and he just as clearly wanted me to say whatever it was He planned for me to say on Sunday. Because of the short notice of the need for someone to fill the pulpit, I understood that it would probably be impossible to find a substitute for me. And I knew with all my being that someone in that church on Sunday needed to hear what He gave me to say.
Saturday morning. . . I am weak and tired and very, very sore but healed. I was able to eat toast and drink hot tea. And I’ve been working on the sermon all day. I have been planning to meet a friend this evening for a couple of hours so we could talk about her website and make some plans about a project we will collaborate on. That, of course, was cast by the wayside – more because I didn’t want to take a chance of her passing along whatever I had to her young children – or herself! Also, though ,I knew I would be spent.
We talked on the phone for a few minutes and we agreed that I had been engaged in some type of spiritual warfare. I have been struggling with some issues in the spiritual realm for a while but have felt lately that I was overcoming them with God’s help. I imagine when Satan was unable to conquer me on a spiritual level, he resorted to the physical realm. I am absolutely certain that Satan did not want me exposed to that scripture, and especially did not want words of encouragement, hope and warning to fall on the ears of those who needed to hear it. My friend asked if she could pray over me and what a beautiful, powerful prayer it was!
After her prayer I was able to pull the sermon together and still have time to relax for a few hours before bed.
What was the message? This parable tells us that we need not be afraid in a world so full of fear and uncertainty. Rather we are to rejoice! We are to celebrate! We are to feast! Christ is coming! Nothing else in this world or of this world matters! We wait with bated breath, with deep longing and with unspeakable awe the coming of the bridegroom! And we are to be ready when the bridegroom comes -- don't wait until the last minute! Be ready!
Revelation 22:7 [ Jesus Is Coming ] "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.
Revelation 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.