In her concluding commentary in Homily Service in 2008, Daphne Burt focused on Jesus’ description of the dominion of heaven as a vision of the goodness God created.
God created us to be loving, free individuals giving of ourselves, our time and our resources to be in intimate relationships with others, to care for the earth and those who depend on us, to work with integrity and to begin each day with joy knowing that we are loved and loveable.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for sin is αμαρτíα [amartia], which means something like “missing the mark.” When our lives are overcome by the reality of sin, we are like an arrow that veers away from the target, and wanders far away from where God intended us to go.
– Daphne Burt
We hear the story of the ten bridesmaids who came prepared or ill-prepared for the wedding banquet as a stark warning. The bridegroom does not admit to the feast those who have been thoughtless in their care of lamps.
We probably do not appreciate light as much as we should in these modern times. All the biblical stories about light and lamps would strike us differently if we lived only a hundred years or so ago. A few years ago, the area in which I live lost power for four days. The first night everybody struggled with candles, flashlights, and a few camp lanterns to keep to a kind of normal schedule. By the second and third night, people just gave up and did what their great-grandparents did when it got dark—went to bed.
Ever since, I have tried to be wiser and keep some bigger battery-operated devices on hand. The truth is you just cannot do much by candlelight. And without any kind of light, the world is very dark even in a city suburb.
So those young women certainly needed those lamps to go to the wedding party. The truth is, however, they also needed them for the in-between time of waiting, and that is what Jesus wants us to understand here, I think. Their lamps would have gone out soon, anyway, if the bridegroom had been further delayed.
They could have gone for more oil while they waited, but they were complacent. So, when the opportunity came to be part of the kingdom, which is what this parable is about, they were not ready.
We are called to be alert to the opportunities to be part of the kingdom. Just because life seems very daily just now does not mean that in the next few moments we won't have the chance to be part of the redemptive work of God. Be ready!
– Judith Simonson
How are we to be “ready”? The Gospel reading offers us an image of the difference between being prepared or not. According to some readings of this story, we are left to our own devices to figure out exactly what is required of us. In other readings, we are called to the daily presence of Immanuel.
The parable reminds us of the constant coming again of Immanuel, God-with-us, every moment of our lives. Definitely, Jesus will return in glory just as he ascended to heaven. But what about the days that we take for granted that, in fact, are filled with God-moments of punctuated bridegroom appearances? . . . How do we become “detectives of the divine” now as a preparation for the Day when He comes with the angels in glory, a Day whose day or hour we know not?
–– Neal D. Presa
How do we become “detectives” searching out the arrival of God? Being ready for the coming of the Holy One is addressed by the reading from the Hebrew scriptures and from the New Testament letters. Amos tells us: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” The writer of the first epistle to the Thessalonians admonishes the believers to “encourage one another” with the words of promise from God.
Daphne Burt serves as the pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Hamden, Connecticut.
Judith Simonson is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Neal D. Presa recently served as moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Homily Service 41, no. 4 (21 July 2008): 123-129.