The moment when goal happens is like this:
Ten women, five foolish, five wise, took flashlights and went off to the wedding. The foolish among them brought their flashlights, but failed to bring spare batteries. The wise brought spare batteries along with their flashlights.
As it happened, the groom was late, and everyone fell asleep waiting. But at midnight someone shouted, “Look! The groom is finally here! Everyone come! And the women all woke up and turned on their flashlights.
The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some batteries, our lights are going out.” But the wise women replied, “If we give our batteries to you, we won’t have light ourselves. Go to that convenience store down the street and get some for yourselves.” But while they were gone buying batteries the groom came, and those who were ready went with him to the wedding behind closed doors.
Later the other women came and said, “Let us in, too.”
But he answered, “I’ve got no idea who you are.”
So, be ready! You never know when it’s going to happen.
First, the word often translated bridesmaids is the same parthenos translated virgins elsewhere. And, while it makes a certain sense, given the wedding context of the story, to call them bridesmaids the early church of Matthew’s community would have also understood this term as referring to that new class of women within the first generation church capable of making their own decisions. One might think of that famous line from the Spiderman movie, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
The other details surrounding the wedding make very little sense as weddings go: the delay of the wedding (though I did officiate at a wedding a year ago to which the groom was over 2 hours late), the midnight hour, the need for everyone to bring their own lamp, it’s taking place behind closed doors, and the groom’s sudden amnesia (which may correspond to his being so late and, come to think of it, is no so rare). But this also relates to the point, which is that the wise will be prepared, even when the world seems out of joint.
And that is exactly the situation, as Matthew tells it. Jesus, having staged his teach-in at the temple and having been repudiated by the religious and political authorities there is now having his apocalyptic moment: the moment where the world is coming unhinged and is on the edge of choosing to be remade into another day or plunge into eternal night. It’s the midnight hour.
The situation of Matthew’s community a generation later is similar. Following the desolation of the Temple and with it the whole system of government and social order it represented, they are also in their apocalyptic moment.
In 2011 as the tides of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, and unprecedented climate change sweep around the globe, it may be yet another apocalyptic moment.
So, what are people newly capable of making their own decisions to do when the world seems to be coming unhinged?
The wise ones will be prepared.