As wedding stories go,
this particular wedding story
is not what you would call,
and even a little, well...
At first glance,
(even at second glance)
there doesn’t appear to be much
or bridal joy
surrounding this event.
There is a wedding feast in progress,
but no groom,
(and for that matter, no bride, either.)
The groom is late,
and ten women,
whose sole responsibility
is lighting the way
and escorting the groom,
fall asleep on the job.
Five women anticipated a glitch
and brought extra oil
but refuse to share even a drop
with their less organized sisters.
Clearly girl code
was not operational here.
And, there doesn't appear to be
a creative thinker in the crowd
capable of distributing 5 lights
among 10 women.
And the guy at the center of the action?
The groom who shows up
to his own wedding
rather than praises the enterprising women
who managed to beg, borrow, or steal
new oil at midnight.
(no small feat!)
He not only rejects them,
he bars the door for good measure,
and flatly claims,
“I do not know you.”
Clearly, in Biblical times,
just as in modern day Cincinnati,
being a bridesmaid
isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Jesus ends this story by
cautioning his listeners to
because “you know neither the day
nor the hour.”
The Greek verb used here
may also be translated,
If being vigilant,
and attentive is the key
then not just five,
but all ten virgins
and fail miserably.
They all fell asleep.
five women made contingency plans
and packed extra oil,
but I wonder if maybe
this isn’t about the oil at all.
at the end of the day,
there was plenty of oil to go around,
yet the door remained shut.
Running out of oil is not the problem.
The oil is only the means to an end.
Nor does it seem that falling asleep
was an issue.
They all fell asleep.
And if we are human,
we will all eventually fall asleep too,
no matter how much
we might try to stay alert and vigilant.
We could argue that
this story is like an
emergency broadcast warning,
reminding us to be prepared—
kind of like the iconic
“duck and cover” filmstrips
that defined an Atomic Age childhood.
the Kingdom needs laborers who are
The Kingdom needs people
who can make a good contingency plan,
who know how to duck and cover,
who are enterprising enough
to scrounge oil at midnight.
But maybe this isn’t a cautionary tale
about poor planning,
or a warning against
falling asleep on the job.
Maybe it's not about oil at all.
In other words,
maybe the women's oil
really didn’t matter,
but the women's presence
in their zeal to be
in their drive to be
they lost focus
and made their job about the oil
rather than the Groom.
Perhaps they were foolish,
not because they didn’t bring enough oil,
not because they fell asleep,
but because each of them,
and the "foolish"
thought that the practical task
of bringing or acquiring enough oil
was more important
than the life-giving encounter
with the Bridegroom.
We know that Jesus,
will come again at the end of earthly time.
we get caught up in trying to calculate
just when that end will come.
There is a thriving
lucrative cottage industry
devoted to decoding cryptic passages,
sifting scripture for symbolic imagery,
inserting world events into a prophetic time-table,
and calculating the date of the End of Days.
Jesus says clearly
this is a waste of time.
“About that day and hour no one knows,
Neither the angels of heaven, nor the son,
but only the Father. (MT 24:26)
At the other end of the spectrum,
we often conveniently “forget”
that Jesus will actually return again--
forget that this world is not our final home,
forget that God's time is not our time,
forget that we live beyond today.
But how we wait for the Bridegroom
matters as much as
when and why we wait.
In the Gospel of Matthew,
we read that feeding the hungry
giving water to the thirsty,
welcoming the stranger,
clothing the naked,
visiting the imprisoned,
is not only doing the will of the Father,
it is directly serving Christ himself.
“Whatever you did
for one of these least of mine,
you did for me.’ (MT 25:40)
And at the end of the Gospel,
we are sent out in mission—
and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the holy Spirit.” (MT 28:19-20)
So, while we are waiting for the Bridegroom,
we have plenty of work to do—
lamps to fill,
light to shine in dark places,
hungry people to feed,
broken people to visit
We have praise to offer,
Bread to bless and share.
Wake up and open your eyes!
Maybe it’s not really about the oil.
Maybe it is about Encountering the Bridegroom
along the path to the Feast.