I don’t know if any of you are aware or not, but I’ve decided to play professional NRL. I’ve got all the gear. Here’s my jersey, let me put it on. Here are my socks and boots, let me put them on. Now, most importantly, the Dencor rub…got to have the locker room smell. Now I am ready to play a professional game of NRL.
Would I be a fool to go out onto a field of pro football players and tackle (name)? How long do you think I would last after the starting siren? You would call me a fool for trying. Any one who plays football or follows it, knows that being a pro football player is not about the gear and the smells, its about having talent. To make the A grade you need to develop talent, you need to train, be in a team, be professionally coached, have weights training and be fit; you need to take the game seriously. No one in their right mind would go out onto a football field and grapple tackle…just because they are wearing the right gear; that is stupidity.
For the five virgins to go out into the night to eagerly wait for a bride groom without any oil in their lamps is just as foolish. Who in their right mind would not first check their lamps to see if they have oil in them before they go into the dark, yet these five did. For me to go out onto a football field without having the talent shows that I am foolish and I don’t take football seriously. For the five virgins to go out into the night without oil shows they were foolish and didn’t take their duties seriously.
Perhaps in their excitement to meet the groom they just forgot to fill their lamps. Or perhaps they didn’t think it would be so dark. No, how dump! There is no excuse for not having oil, they are just fools, and that is what Jesus wants us to hear as the point to this parable; only a foolish person would dress to impress; only a foolish person waits for God without oil.
Before the groom arrives, by all outward accounts, all 10 virgins act and look the same. All have lamps, all are waiting, all are virgins and all 10 don’t know the time of hour of the groom’s arrival. Only when the call comes ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him‘, are the true welcomers of the groom revealed. Only then are the foolish virgins separated from the wise.
The wise, with oil and lamps ablaze, go and meet the groom and enter the celebrations. The fools, those dressed only to impress, those who never had the oil, never met the groom and never entered the wedding feast. In fact, the groom says ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
Jesus is warning us that he will return as a bridegroom returns for his wife; Jesus will return for his bride the church, as St Paul says in his great passage on marriage ‘”For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery– but I am talking about Christ and the church.’ At the end of time Christ will come to take his wife the church to be with him forever in heaven, where the two will become one. You and I are part of the church, we are disciples of Jesus, his children and we are waiting for the day Jesus comes to bring us into heaven.
Since this is the case and since St Paul says ‘It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.’ Can we afford to be fools and be dressed to impress Christ, yet be without oil?
Can we afford to be like me, all dressed up but not actually the real thing? Can we afford to look like Christians, act like Christians, go to church like Christians and yet all along be like lamps without oil? Can we be a church that looks like a church, is friendly to everyone and welcoming to all, yet fails to have the good oil and give this oil to members?
A lamp burns bright and lights a path through the darkness because it has oil to burn. A wick that is not soaked in oil only flickers and then goes out, it cannot burn on its own. Oil is the essential ingredient to a blazing lamp. The essential oil for you and I to be ablaze for Christ and be ready for his return is his word of grace. The good news of Jesus himself who said ‘whoever is baptised and believes will be saved’, and again ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God’s word of good news is the word of life and gives us life like oil does to a lamp. The word sustains and nurtures us and enables us to believe and gives us the Holy Spirit. Like the five wise virgins, who never worried about the time or the hour of the groom’s return because they had oil in their lamps, in the same way, we don’t have to worry about whether Jesus is coming today or tomorrow or in our life time.
For as long as we have the oil of God’s word in our hearts, we know that we will always be ready; we know we will always be welcomed into the final wedding feast with the Lamb of God and his church.
Oil is the hidden force that ignites and sustains a lighted lamp; it is the hidden power that made five virgins wise and its absence that made five virgins foolish. God’s word of grace, his forgiveness and word of mercy is our hidden force that ignites faith in us and makes us ablaze for Christ.
It is the hidden power in us that makes us wise unto salvation, as St Paul says ‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned …known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’.
This is our oil…the good oil…the oil of God’s word. This is why we as a church are working towards starting the faith five every night in every home, as from next year. Faith five is a practical way of bringing God oil, his word, into your life; to keep you soaked in his word. 1. By sharing your highs and lows, 2. Reading from a devotion book. 3. Talking about the text and relating it to your day 4. Praying for one another and 5. Blessing each other.
By proactively being soaked in God’s word in this way, everyday in every home, we will continue to be wise; God’s word will dwell within us and will be the hidden power to make us ablaze for Christ and the words of the psalmist will ring true for us ‘your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path’.