November 9, 2014 Text: Matthew 25:1-13
Dear Friends in Christ,
When it comes to preparation, how well do you do? Do you usually have things in order are you running around at the last minute? Did you know what you were going to wear to church today last night or was it a snap decision this morning because you were in a green mood? I had to prepare to deliver this message: read and study the text, check the commentaries, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom, then sit down and do it. If you have schoolwork or a project at work you prepare. If you don’t, well you know the consequences of that decision. Think of these two-word phrases that can scare most of us: “pop quiz”, “surprise inspection”, “unvited guests”.
Another area of life where most of us prepare is when we take a trip. This tends to change as we age. In college my friends and I took my car to Daytona Beach, Florida and I don’t even remember checking the oil. I would not dream of doing that today. I get the oil changed in our cars regularly. It is good maintenance. It is good preparation. It is just plain smart. Today, in our text, we have ten virgins. Five have oil for their lamps. Five do not. Who is prepared and who is not?
“CHECKING YOUR OIL”
In Jesus’ day, the couple’s parents would have arranged this marriage. Part of the joy and anticipation of the festivities would include the bridegroom coming to meet his bride. The bridegroom could come any time day or night. The bride was to be ready. The bridesmaids would help to keep her awake.
In the parable, we have half being wise and half being foolish. The Greek root of foolish is the English word moron. A moron is someone who lacks good judgment. The virgins are outwardly alike. In spite of this five of them did not have any oil. Oil symbolizes spirit and life. In other words, the foolish ones fell away from the faith. The flame of the lamp and its light is faith and its good works. The oil is grace through the Word. The lamp is our outward Christianity. The foolish virgins have the outward signs but inwardly are strangers to Christ. We need to be going back constantly for that oil. Checking your oil.
How does our faith look to the world? Is my lamp burning? Have I prepared? Have I checked the oil? Am I leaking oil as I get distracted by career, family, hobbies, anger, lust, greed. Not to mention worry and doubt. Do the distractions of this world cause us to run ourselves into the ground? Cause our light to flicker? Does our lamp become a burden?
God in his unconditional love goes to great lengths to protect our faith. Faith can die. Jesus talks about priorities and commitments. His desire, His plan, is to keep our lamps filled with oil so we can rejoice when he, the Bridegroom, arrives. Jesus is our Savior. He suffered and died for us. He gives us lamps. He lights our lamps. He fills our lamps with oil. He keeps our lamps full of oil.
How does He do this? Our lamps are filled with Christ through His Word. We need the oil that Holy Scripture can bring. In worship, oil is poured into our lamps so that we are prepared for whatever may come our way. At the font Christ filled you by washing you clean and warding off the attacks of Satan. At this Holy Table, where Christ enters your body and soul to forgive your sin, strengthen your faith in this difficult, fallen world, and where He promises you a place at the greater feast to come.
And when He comes, no matter when that will be, your lamps, your faith, your lives will be filled with Christ – the “one thing needful.”
Putting oil in our lamp is best accomplished as more than a once-a-week chore like filling the gas tank. It is more than a weekend hobby. It is an existence. We are prepared. Christ has prepared us. Jesus keeps us prepared. God keeps our lamps full of oil and our lights burning so that we can see the way to go. When are eyes are on Christ, his promise to us fills our lamps with oil.