“Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
My Dear Friends in Christ,
“Receive the light of Christ.” These words are spoken at every baptism as the parents of the newly baptized child are presented with a small candle representing the child, a candle lit from the paschal candle that represents Christ. God’s wants each of us to tend and grow the light He’s given us. We are called to let this light shine, to keep this light alive in us, more, we’re called to fan the light of Christ into flame so Christ can light the world around us.
Keeping this fire burning, and helping others to light and fan their fire into flames is what we’re all about, and it’s our focus for our new message series, All In (all) focusing on our relationship with God and the stewardship of our treasure. Stewardship isn’t just a way of life; it’s a good one. In fact, it’s a better way of life because stewardship simply means belonging to God, handing over our hearts and our lives, allowing God to rule in our lives. But, putting God in charge of everything, including and especially our money, sounds threatening – surrendering control even, to God, never comes easy – but if we do surrender, if we really do put God in charge, we’ll be better off, more secure happier, now and in the long run…the very long run!
Jesus makes it clear in our Gospel today calling us to be ready for the coming of the Kingdom: the moment that will come when we face our Maker. Hopefully, our preparation now for this encounter is remote but St. Paul reminds us that we do need to start now: For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
The parable Jesus offers us today is about making sure we’re ready for that fateful moment. Jesus uses the image of those who wait, lamps in hand, oil at the ready to make clear that something other than a good lamp is needed to meet the Bridegroom. The lamps’ sole purpose is to contain the oil and offer it up for burning. As beautiful as a lamp is, without oil, it ain’t much good. Being baptized, calling oneself a Christian, coming to church, praying, crying out “Lord, Lord!” even with the best of intentions, are not enough. WE NEED OIL! – the “oil” of our human efforts, consciously distilled and deliberately offered up. As oil comes only from crushing olives, so too, the oil of our efforts, comes in the crushing of the olives of my own will, my own plan, my own security, my own comfort level.
Jesus wants to know whether or not we’re willing to serve, and if our willingness is
accompanied by something more than good intentions. We can’t love God, nor can we love others, in theory, only by exerting at a distance, offering up vague intentions and desires. Where does the road paved with Good Intentions go? We can only love God and love others by actually serving them, by sharing the blessings I have received, by coming together, by offering up what I have, by putting the other first. It’s not that we’ll be judged on the quantity of “good works” we’ve managed to put on deposit, but that our claim to be Christian must be evidenced by fruit of mind and heart, of word and activity, of thought and feeling, of service and sacrifice. This is the wisdom of the five who were prepared. This is what true stewardship is, and it’s especially true of our financial stewardship.
Jesus wants us as His disciples to be on the lookout for, to tend our lamps in preparation for the coming of Bridegroom. But it’s not about what God wants from us in that regard but for us, and that comes only in relationship. God wants a deep, personal relationship with each of us, wants to share with us, seeks to guide us, guard us, bless us; God loves us and loves us and loves us and never stops. (Have I mentioned that before?) God wants to build your relationship to do great things FOR you: offer you grace, fill you with blessings, help you understand how sharing the Good News makes giving something you want to, even need to do. Giving to God is a way of moving our heart closer to God, of building our relationship with God. Jesus was perfectly clear: “Where your treasure is, there is your heart.”
Take some time this week to think about your readiness to meet the Bridegroom, not to threaten or frighten you but to reflect on where your relationship with God is, how readily that relationship is permeated with the practical wisdom of living and giving, whether these reflect what you want and hope for in that relationship. The foundation of our giving comes from God and the invitation God offers for us to share that generosity. When we recognize that generosity and accept God’s invitation to share, God compounds our blessings creating an abundance for others as well as those of us who give. God’s invitation is also a call to sacrifice, to submit to something, or I should say, SOMEONE greater, persevering and encouraging one another as God seeks to bring forth from us every good work and word.
No one else’s lamp can burn in the place of the one that is mine alone. The lamps are the vessel, the empty container of the blessings God has given us; the oil is the fuel, our efforts using those blessings, offering a return to God. Both are necessary and disciples see in both a way to allow God to be at work, for God to light the world. Christ needs us All In, needs our flame burning brightly, our oil plentiful, if the light of Jesus Christ is to illuminate the world, if Christ is to be All in All.