Friday, November 04, 2011

This Week's Focus: Oil for our Lamps

Available as an Audio Podcast

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.  But at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep  awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25: 1-13

Dear Friends,
The scientific community got a terrible shock the other day. Turns out that Einstein got it wrong – big time. The speed of light is not the universal constant he thought it was. Scientists have just successfully fired sub-atomic particles faster than the speed of light. And in one shot the brilliant theory on which all physics has been built for over 100 years is exposed as potentially flawed.
Change is unsettling. Profound change is profoundly unsettling. Think of the waves of change that have swept through the Church in the last hundred years. And yet we have a universal constant that will never prove flawed. I know with absolute certainty that you and I are saved by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know that in baptism the light of God’s grace was ignited in my heart. And it is meant to burn there ‘til God gathers us home to him. Which brings us to a lesson I take from this morning’s gospel: We have been given the light of grace, but it is up to us to tend the flame and keep the faith burning. As shown is this parable, things will not go well for anyone who takes God’s gift for granted. We are not meant to put God’s grace on cruise control and nod off. We are charged to be active, to be faithful, to be vigilant: for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
While our salvation is a gift outright, we were never meant to file it away after baptism and break it out again for our funeral. Christianity is not a spectator sport. God expects us to take the field every day and give it our very, very best shot.

From the Mayans to Nostradamus, there has been wild speculation on a precise date for the world’s demise. While that topic is light years above my pay grade, I do know that God does have a time quite certain for my earthly demise and for yours too. God knows the day and the hour. But we don’t. He expects us to be ready. He expects us to be tending the light that he gave us…until he comes again.

“Live every day like it’s your last…” Google that phrase and you’ll get 7.7 million results. It seems human mortality and its inevitability is never very far from mind. It is our essential anxiety. Jesus assures us: Be not afraid. Infinitely more certain than the speed of light, he is coming to take us home. Keep your lamp burning. He is on his way. God’s revealed truth is the one absolute you can literally bet your life on. Even Einstein allowed: “God does not play dice with the universe.”

Faithfully yours in Christ's love,




Schadow, Friedrich Wilhelm von, 1789-1862. Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, detail, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved October 31, 2011].

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