A Banquet Awaits those Who are Prepared! — Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time 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 took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

Albert loaded the last suitcase into their Chevy Astro minivan and slammed the door shut.  “Well, I think that’s everything, Rita!” You’ve got the passports, right!?” Albert asked his wife for the 3rd time.  “Yes, dear, I’ve got the passports!”  Albert hopped into the driver’s seat beside his wife. He punched in the coordinates for their trip into the GPS … strapped
on his seatbelt … stepped on the gas pedal and they were off. As Albert navigated the van along highway 97 through the orchards and vineyards, Rita began to hum the melody of “In Christ Alone.” Rita’s heart flushed with love as she glanced at her husband.  They have been so blessed.

Seven cars waited in line at the Osoyoos US/Canada border.  “You’ve got those passports, right.” “Yes, dear, I have the passports.”  “Good. Have them ready and I will do the
talking.”

The border guard gazed in the van. “You’ve really got this van loaded down. Where are you headed?” “My wife and I are on our way to Vegas.” “Going to try your luck at the slots?” “No, Rita and I don’t gamble. We’re going to a trade show.”   “You’re not selling merchandise are you?” “No, we’re just going to look and knowing my wife we will no doubt be buying something!” “Oh, Albert!” Rita exclaimed. Albert chuckled. He knew that if anyone was going to buy something at the trade show, it would be him!  “Well,
you have a good trip and drive safe!”
  “Thank you, sir.”  Albert said as he slipped the gear into drive as he directed the van south.

The highway traffic was light.  The scenery was breath-taking as Albert navigated the narrow mountain passes.  “We’re making great time! What do you say we get off the main road and take a side road and do a little exploring?”  “Oh, Albert, you are so predictable. You always have been the more adventurous one!”  “Well, let me see what the GPS suggests. We can get it to recalculate our trip.”

The hum of the tires and the warmth of the sun shining through the windshield eventually lulled Rita into a sleep. She was awakened by a female’s voice.

“In one hundred meters, turn left,” the computer-generated female voice commanded.  “I don’t know if we should use this road, Albert. It looks a little daunting.” “No need to worry, Rita.  It’s a short cut. It will take an hour off our trip. My female friend can’t be wrong, can she?” “Well, okay, if you and your GPS mistress think so.”

Down the gravel road, the Astro van headed.  An hour later, overgrown shrubs hugged the road and tree branches could be heard scrapping the roof of the van.  Rain and wet snow had transformed the dirt road into mud. The GPS female tour guide was eerily silent. “Let’s turn around and head back to the main road, Albert, while we still have some sunlight.” “I don’t know, Rita. I hate to turn around now. Our connecting road might be around the next bend!”  “No, Albert, I think it’s best that we go back the way we came.” “Ok, if you insist. But I’m not sure how I’m going to turn this vehicle around. It’s pretty narrow here.” 

Albert came to a slight clearing in the road.  As he pulled his Chevy to the side of the road, the road gave way and the van’s passenger-side wheels sunk into the mud. Albert jumped out and slammed his door. “Oh … how foolish! Rita, we’re stuck! There’s no way we’re going to get this bucket of bolts out on our own. Get the cell phone and we’ll call AMA or whatever they have here.”  Rita reached into the glove box for the phone. She turned the phone on.  “Honey, there’s no cell phone signal here! Now, what are we going to do?” “Oh, I should have thought about that possibility before I turned down this road! I guess we’ll just have to wait for the next vehicle to come along.”  “But, Albert, we haven’t seen any other vehicle on this road and it’s getting late in the day!”  “Well, sooner or later, someone will drive this way.  Let’s eat. I’m famished! I can always think better on a full stomach.”

For the rest of the day and for the next two days, Albert tried in vain to get the van unstuck.  Rita prayed that someone would pass by, but not a car or truck was seen or heard.  She could see Albert muttering in frustration.  The van battery was dying. Food supplies were dwindling. Snow blanketed the ground. The crisp evening air chilled them to the bone. Rita and Albert cuddled and spooned one another as they shivered under the thin layer of a single blanket.  Coyotes and wolves howled in the distance.   Rita wept as she lay in Albert’s arms. They prayed. They read Scripture. They reminisced about the trips they had taken with their children.

“Rita, we can’t keep on like this. We’re running out of supplies and no one is coming to rescue us. I think it is best that you stay here in the van … with the supplies.” “But I don’t want you to go. I’m scared! It’s not safe for you to go.” “I’ll be fine. I have the flashlight and a supply of granola bars with me. I’m taking the GPS and cell phone with me too. I’ll head back the way we came so that I can get us some help.”  Albert and Rita embraced one another.  He kissed his wife on her lips and said, “Goodbye. I love you.” “And, I love you too!” Rita watched and prayed as Albert disappeared around the bend in the road.

(PAUSE)

Forty nine days later Rita was rescued by some hunters who stumbled upon her accidently. According to news reports, Rita survived on a spoonful of trail mix a day until it ran out, some hard candy, fish oil pills, and water from melted snow.   By her own admission, Rita said she was completely helpless to save herself. She was only two or three days from death before her rescuers arrived. Rita’s pastor said of her rescue, “After seven weeks of prayer and anticipation of Al and Rita being discovered, it’s like receiving someone back who died.”

After months of searching, Albert has never been found. He is presumed to be dead.  One wonders, “What would have been Albert’s outcome if he and Rita had packed enough
supplies for the unexpected … to last them both until the rescue party arrived?

Being unprepared for the unexpected can have tragic results; just as being prepared for the unexpected can have miraculous … even triumphant outcomes – “like even receiving someone back who died!

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

(NOTE: This homily is based on a true story but it is essentially fictional in nature in that I was not in Albert and Rita’s vehicle.  News reports speak of Albert and Rita’s  Christian faith. Although, no one is absolutely sure what happened to Albert, we can summize that the Bridegroom opened the door to the wedding banquet and Albert is enjoying the heavenly eternal banquet! Albert is one of the “wise virgins” for was prepared for the unexpected “return” of the Bridegroom!)

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