KEEP YOUR LAMPS TRIMMED AND BURNING - A SERMON ON MATTHEW 25:1-13 AND WISDOM 6:12-20 - FR. JOSEPH ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Wisdom 6:12-20 & Matthew 25:1-13
“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”
I’m all for being prepared. But we all know what it’s like to feel unprepared.
Eleven days ago when we were pommeled by the unexpected ice-storm. That event left over 350,000 without power. In fact, some 40,000 Oklahomans are still without electricity. What it has taught me is to be prepared. After six days of being without lights and heat, and almost becoming a human fudge-cicle I learned that I need to purchase a portable generator and to make sure I have an ample supply of fuel on hand to run the generator.
We all live with the worry that we won’t be ready. That something will catch us off guard, will wake us from sleep, and we’ll find that we don’t have enough oil in our lamps.
The ten wedding attendants are waiting for the bridegroom. Who knows why he is so late! So, the ten catch some z’s. And when the announcement comes that the bridegroom is on his way, five of the bridesmaids find they have no oil in their lamp. And the other five won’t share! So, the five unprepared ones set out to buy some more. But when they return, they are shut out of the reception. Only the five so-called wise attendants get to go to the great party!
But does this parable make you feel uncomfortable?
We’re a society that doesn’t get enough sleep. Was it really that bad that the bridesmaids dozed off? And the five wise ones didn’t share what they had- - isn’t that a bit selfish? Jesus seems to be all about sharing to the point it sounds like socialism. Give the shirt off of your back to someone in need. And these “wise girls” won’t even share any of their oil.
But the clincher is that, the door is slammed in the face of the foolish five.
Imagine being one of the attendants not let into the wedding reception.
Have we missed opportunities?
Have we not done the things we’ve wanted to do?
Have we not used our time and resources wisely?
Have we been sleeping through life?
When we we’re running low on energy or hope, do we go to the dealers, trying to buy something to fill the void?
We live in uncertain times. We hear of Covid-19 cases rising at an astronomical rate. We hear of the recent social unrest. We hear plenty about the shortage of oil. We hear plenty about the financial meltdown. We hear plenty about rising unemployment, fear of recession, wondering whether we will have enough for retirement. All of the current problems in our country have a lot of people worried. Plenty of reasons to worry whether we will be ready and prepared for the challenges of life.
But truth is: we will run out of oil. We procrastinate and say: someday I’ll work on my relationship. Someday I’ll spend more time with my kids. Someday I’ll get back to painting or whatever I really love. We all put off. We all doze. But eventually comes the cry: he’s coming. It’s time. One of those days is TODAY. It’s the only day we have.
Yes, we live in uncertain times. As the bare and now broken trees remind us, someday our time will run out. And we will have to rely on whatever oil is in our own flask, our own body, our own heart. It’s not something we can borrow from someone else. It won’t come from our investments, our good intentions, our long-range plans. The oil will be our baptismal identity as a child of God. The oil will be the presence of God within us.
The oil will be the unbelievably good news that we have another day to live and that really, we have everything we need, everything that we could ever hope for. Through it all faith has endured.
That’s why, when night surrounds us, and we wait for the morning to come, it is important to have oil in our lamps. We need to tend our oil reserves.
There are certain things you can’t borrow from someone else. You have to have it for yourself. And learn how to live awake to the gifts in each day.
Those wedding attendants have one purpose: to light the way of the bridegroom. And then to bask in the joy of the marriage celebration.
Look, the bridegroom comes. Look, Christ comes among today. And the days grow darker we keep our lamps trimmed and burning. Not out of fear, but because this wake-up call could not come at a better time.
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.