Warm-up Question: What surprised you the most about Tuesday’s election?

The final days leading up to the 2008 General Election were filled with a frenzy of phone calls, knocking on doors, and posting signs all over the country. Both the John McCain and Barack Obama campaigns pumped millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers into battleground states in the hopes of picking up a few extra Electoral College votes on November 4. It is estimated that, when the campaigns have concluded, over $1 billion will have been spent on this election — or $8 per voter. (It’s a lot of money, but consider that Americans spent $3 billion on buying potato chips last year.)

Democrats called their final wave of contacts a “Persuasion Army,” while Republicans participated in a “72-Hour Program.” The goal was simple: send as many volunteers as possible into the states that are up for grabs, and do everything within your legal rights to convince those people to vote for your candidate. Key states in the day leading up to the election included Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio. President Bush won the electoral votes of each of these states in 2004, but all were declared “too close to call” in this election.

The struggle for many campaign volunteers was not the long hours they invest, but the inevitable wait on Tuesday night. Some political experts have predicted that the official tally may not be approved until Wednesday morning, or later. The location of voting sites and ballots, in addition to a record number of absentee voters, caused some people to anticipate the possibility of contested results in some states.

“I just hope I know who the winner is come Wednesday morning,” said one McCain volunteer. “I don’t think I’ll be able to handle waiting several days to know the outcome.”

Discussion Questions

  • How did you decide which candidate to support? What were your criteria?
  • What do you think of the Electoral College system? Is there a better way to elect leaders? What changes would you make if you had the power to restructure the presidential voting system?
  • The 2000 Presidential Election wasn’t officially determined until December 12. How would you respond if it took five weeks to announce the winner of the 2008 election?
  • Imagine of you were a presidential candidate and you had to wait to find out if you won. How would you spend your time waiting? Who would you want waiting with you?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 9, 2008.
(Text links are to oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells a difficult story of what the “kingdom of heaven” will be like. A group of bridesmaids were hanging out and waiting for the bridegroom to show up. He was running late, so they all fell asleep. When the bridegroom finally showed up, only half of the bridesmaids were prepared, with oil in their lamps. The other members of the group asked if they could borrow some oil so their lamps would remain lit. The wise bridesmaids, those who were prepared, did not share their oil. The foolish and unprepared bridesmaids went out to buy some oil for themselves, but when they returned to the party, the door was shut and they were not allowed to enter for the wedding.

The first time I read this story, it sounded to me like Jesus was saying “only the smart people get into heaven.” The next time I read it, I thought Jesus was telling the disciples, “You shouldn’t share what you have with others.” However, from what I’ve read in other parts of the Bible, I have come to know that both of those ideas are not in line with how God and Jesus have acted in other situations.

So what can we learn from the story of the ten bridesmaids? Perhaps it’s that Jesus is calling us to be ready. He’s reminding us to be prepared and to be patient for him to come again. Jesus has blessed each of us with parents, pastors, friends, and mentors who can help us come to know him in a special way. This story encourages us to listen to those people and to be ready for his return. Even if we think Jesus is running late, he has promised that he will eventually show up. So be patient, watchful, and ready — because the party is going to be pretty amazing!

Discussion Questions

  • What does this story say to you about salvation?
  • Which group of bridesmaids would you be associated with? Why?
  • What is something that you had to prepare for this week? How did you prepare?
  • Tom Petty once sang, “Waiting is the hardest part.” What situations really test your patience? In what kind of situations do you tend to just “hang loose” until the last moment?
  • More than once Jesus tells the people around him “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour [of my return].” What does staying awake involve? What do Jesus’ actions and words suggest about living life?

Activity Suggestions

Thanksgiving is coming up in a few weeks. Advent and Christmas are right around the corner. In most churches, the final weeks of the calendar year are filled with important worship services and special events. Find a way that your group can help your church prepare for one of these things. Perhaps you could decorate the sanctuary for the Thanksgiving Eve worship service. Or maybe you could make Advent calendars for the children in the church.

Try to be creative in the ways you can be helpful. Doing special things at church takes a lot of patience and preparation!

Closing Prayer

God, it’s easy for us to be impatient in a world where we have everything we need right at our fingertips. We wonder if you’re ever going to come back and invite us to the big party, the wedding, the feast. Help us to relax and focus on the ways you touch our lives every day. Give us the understanding to know how to best prepare for your coming. Let us be bold in telling others about your amazing love for us. Amen

Contributed by Erik Ullestad
West Des Moines, IA