Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning. Give me oil in my lamp I pray. Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning. Keep me burning ’til the break of day. Sing, Hosanna, Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna to the King of Kings. Sing, Hosanna, Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna to the King.
How many of you know this song? it's a great and joyful peace. It reminds me of today's parble and the big picture it enails. There’s a lot going in in this parable and it’s easy to get caught up in thinking of it as an exclusionary warning instead of a Kingdom parable. I don’t view this as a reminder of who is in and who is out. I don’t believe this as a statement on the worth of two types of maidens or even if we want to have the foolish maidens or the selfish maidens as friends. I don’t see the focus of this parable on the supporting characters as much as it is about the big picture…the big story, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the return of Jesus and the coming of the World as it Should Be.
This is not a judgement on the character of the foolish maidens or people that might seem like them. I struggle at times with the understanding the attraction some have to viewing these parables from an exclusionary or moralizing perspective. Jesus is not about excluding people. It’s not about slackers vs. prepared. It’s not about people who live “righteous” lives vs those with baggage. I feel we shortchange God and the amazing Good News that we are given in Jesus when we look at everything from a moralizing or exclusionary perspective. Our forebears in faith were not hoping to spread the good moralizing or the good exclusion but wanted to share the Good News. It’s not you better get ready and be a good Christian and do what you are supposed to do or else you’ll get Left Behind! It might make for an interesting fantasy book series but it is a pretty poor description of our faith. I believe we need to remember that Jesus’ purpose in this Parable is not to tell us who is in and who is out, nor is about living a moral life, but he’s trying to describe for us a bit about what the Kingdom of God…the World as it Should Be is like. He does that so that we can strive to live into it in the here and now
We need to remember that ours is a religion of love, a religion of transformation, and a religion of radical welcome and inclusion not a religion of rules, moralizing and exclusion. What’s important here is that Jesus is the Bridegroom, and when He returns is when the wedding feast, the Kingdom of God occurs. It’s all about God fulfilling God's promise to change the World as it is into the World as it Should Be. It’s about a big celebration.
The Parable does tell us a few things:
- First and foremost the Kingdom of God is accessible to all. It’s here and waiting for us. It is like a wedding, a banquet a feast where all are welcome. This I believe is one of the key messages found here. God is inviting all of creation to rejoice in a huge celebration. The Kingdom of God is not exclusionary. All are invited and whether one prepares and attends and is really up to the individual. Ten bridesmaids signifies a huge feast. God wants a big celebration for all of God’s children. God’s invitation is there for all. A relationship with the Divine is ready for each and everyone of us.
- Second, the kingdom of God is so awesome, so amazing that it can’t be hidden away. I see the central message here not about foolish bridesmaid or selfish bridesmaids but about a spectacular event that is so amazing, so awesome that it can’t be kept a secret. The bridesmaids with oil aren’t being selfish by not sharing their oil but are making sure that the main event: the return of Jesus and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God is fully illuminated. They can’t take the chance that he will return and the event will be hidden in darkness. It’s a poignant reminder that our witness to the resurrection of Jesus and the Good News of the New Creation are extremely important. Our witness, our lives, the event itself require illumination. “The festive occasion requires both light symbolically and in order to see. In the long run it would be neither intelligent nor charitable to risk the possibility that this one-time event of the reception of the bridegroom take place in darkness. That’s why it’s so awesome that we are conferring the ODNW today. These individuals through their live and actions have shone a light on the Kingdom of God. What are we doing to prepare for the Kingdom of God? How are we pointing everyone’s attention to this new way of living, the Good News?
- Third, I can’t build a relationship with Jesus for you. This is another way to look at the parable and the 10 bridesmaids. We are all called into relationship with Jesus. Like all relationships it require work. We need to spend time with each other, we need to dialogue through prayer and scripture reading. Get to know each other better. It’s not something that we can transfer to someone else. The relationship is personal in that it is nurtured and grown by our own interactions with our Lord. In the process we grow, we are transformed. It’s not something that we can just give to someone else. We are each responsible for our own relationships with Jesus.
The Kingdom of God, God’s re-creation of this world, the world as it should be is for everyone. It’s a world of justice, peace and love. it's a world that is partly here now and that we are called to help fully manifest by living into it today. It’s going to be a big party. We don’t quite know when it will be fully here, in our life time or not. However, its important that we realize our role in it. We a re to let weever one know that they are invited. We are to highlight it. Shine a light on it so that everyone can know that there is a God who loves them, a God who is calling them into a right relationship. A God who is looking to save them from the nightmare of the reality of the World as It Is and invites them into the dream of God’s future, the World As It Should Be. We highlight it, we prepare for it. We anticipate it and finally we celebrate it. Part of what we share is the Good News of a relationship with Jesus. A relationship we have to nurture. A relationship that is central to our faith and that pulls us into a state where we are ready to accept and greet Him when he returns.
It is also important to remember that until the kingdom comes fully that the love of God will continue to appear in our lives in surprising and unexpected ways.
Christ comes when:
Christians live in hope and never give up. When faithful disciples express love and compassion and work for justice of all and respect the dignity of every human being. When we help people who are sick or dying or suffering from Covid isolation realize they are ultimately safe in God’s love. When we help people who are imprisoned or despondent realize that there is no where they can put themselves where they are beyond God’s reach.
Heaven breaks into the world when faithful people live in hope, faith an dlove and give themselves to the work building the Kingdom as co-creators with God.
And the Kingdom of God is so awesome and meant for everyone. How can we, when we get outside and are physical distanced by 5 meters and not facing each other keep from singing?
So…give me oil in my lamp…