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Be Prepared

Don’t miss the party!

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools


To encourage us to consider our plans and preparation in the short, medium and long term.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.
  • The parable in its original form can be found in the Bible in Matthew 25.1-13.


Leader: Who has been to a wedding recently?

Encourage students to respond - you may wish to take some details.

There can be a certain amount of rigmarole attached to a wedding. First, there’s the engagement, the hen night and the stag night before the event. Then, there’s the dressing up on the day, the special venue, the vows, the rings, the reception, the speeches, the dancing, the honeymoon . . . it goes on and on. In the time of Jesus, there were also various traditions connected to weddings. He uses them as the basis for one of his parables, the stories he told to help people understand his teaching. Let’s listen to a version of that parable.

Reader 1: The bride’s girlfriends, ten in number, were gathered, waiting for the groom to arrive. They were all excited because they were going to accompany him to the bride’s house. From there, they would process to the groom’s house for the wedding ceremony and feast. It was an evening wedding, so they’d come prepared with oil lamps to light the darkness of the unlit streets. Five of the girls had come prepared for a long wait, with spare oil for their lamps. The others thought they’d make do with what they had. But the evening dragged on. Something had delayed the groom.

Reader 2: One by one, the lamps of those who hadn’t come prepared flickered and died. The five girls hurried away to find an oil seller and returned a little later to the meeting point. To their horror, the groom had come in their absence, gone to the bride’s house and taken her to the ceremony, along with the five girls whose lamps had remained lit. In a panic, these unprepared girls ran to the groom’s house and banged on the door, desperate to be allowed in. However, the door was shut and no one else was allowed in. The ceremony had begun. Filled with regret, frustration and sadness, they turned and wandered home.

Time for reflection

Leader: Lord Robert Baden-Powell was the founder of the Scouting movement. He wrote a book called Scouting for Boys in which he laid down the principles for the organization. First of these was the motto, ‘Be prepared’. Although Scouting has changed massively in recent years, with any gender welcome to join, the motto of ‘Be prepared’ has remained unchanged. It could easily be the title Jesus gave to his parable.

We live in an unpredictable world. It’s impossible for us to be certain about the future. Good news and bad news suddenly arrive to alter our plans. Health issues surprise us. Governments make decisions that have worldwide effects. We can’t even predict what frame of mind we’ll be in when we wake up each morning. The bride’s ten girlfriends had no idea that the groom was going to be delayed. They all assumed that he would arrive at the time that he had specified. They hadn’t taken account of the unpredictable.

How does this make you feel, this sense of uncertainty? Some try to forecast what might happen day by day and week by week. They plan their lives by what their horoscope says or even what the tarot cards tell them. Others live on the verge of panic all the time, never quite feeling that they’re in control of what’s going on around them. Baden-Powell suggested a practical solution. ‘Be prepared’ meant that a Scout should always be in a state of readiness in both mind and body to do his duty. Baden-Powell probably meant that Scouts should always get a good night’s sleep, have a penknife in their pocket and check that their woggle was straight! The motto is good, but for each of us, it will mean something rather different.

How can we prepare for an uncertain future? Here are a few suggestions.

First, we need to take the time to think ahead, looking at possible circumstances and being prepared, like the five girls with the spare oil. We can allow for delays when meeting friends, have extra money or a card for surprise expenditure and ensure that we’re never going to find ourselves alone on the walk home.

Second, we can take other precautions. We can save. I don’t just mean saving money for a rainy day or a surprise spend. Athletes don’t use all of their energy in the heats of a championship. They keep some in reserve and save the very best for the final. In the same way, we can keep back time, energy, money and space in case it’s required.

Third, we could also keep on schedule, making sure that we hit our deadlines rather than running out of time to complete assignments because we got a bit slack in the previous weeks.

Finally, we can keep friendships active. An occasional text, phone call or meet-up will mean that, when we need someone (or they need us), we won’t have lost touch irretrievably.

Christians believe that the parable that Jesus told spoke of the importance of being prepared to meet God and join in the celebration of heaven. What we believe is important. It is worth taking the time to consider our beliefs when we are young and not leave all the thought until later life. The conclusions that we come to are our own choice entirely, but part of being prepared is about spending time considering the options.

So, our motto for today is ‘Be prepared’!

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the future that we have spread before us.
Please remind us of the options ahead and help us to plan carefully for the unexpected.

Publication date: November 2018   (Vol.20 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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