Whenever I get invited to someone’s home – for a dinner or a party or just to visit – I always consider two things:
The first is the most obvious - deciding whether or not I will accept the invitation.
This is based on a number of things - such as the date and whether my schedule will allow it – the distance from my house – and how many other commitments I have already had that week, especially in the evening or at night.
And I must admit - covid and the shut down kind of did me in – now nothing makes me happier than to get home and know that I can just stay there - not having to go back out for anything.
So saying yes to an invitation – is not automatic for me – and probably not for you either. It’s a decision we make.
And if I say YES: there is another thing I have to consider. . . you see I never like to go to someone’s house empty-handed. I like to bring something - even though the host might say it’s not necessary. I bring a present, or something to snack on – if it’s a party. Or something to eat or drink, like a bottle of wine - if it’s a dinner.
Part of that, besides just wanting to be a good house guest – is I don’t want the hosts to think I am taking their generosity for granted - and that I want to make the event the best it can be.
Because the invitation may come from the hosts – but everyone plays a part in how the event will turn out.
A party or dinner is not just something someone else puts on – it’s something that everyone who comes – participates in. . .
We just heard a parable about a social gathering – a very important one – a wedding! But it may be one of those parables that might be hard to understand.
It seems to be rooted in the culture of the time - so that we might not know for sure exactly how it would have been received by those who heard Jesus tell it.
In this case, Jesus, knowing his audience, felt that a lot of explanation was not necessary, and so he sums it up in just a few words:
Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
So the parable has something to do with expectations, and preparation, and vigilance.
The foolish virgins in the story really messed up, for reasons we might not fully understand – and in doing so, missed both the bridegroom - and the wedding feast.
By seeing Jesus as the bridegroom and the wedding feast as heaven – or unity with God – or the new life won for us by Christ’s death and resurrection – the story comes more clearly into focus.
What’s not always clear is WHAT it means to be prepared, what it means to be ready, what it means to be awake. . .
How exactly do we make sure we are ready to meet Jesus and accompany him into the wedding feast that never ends?
We want to experience the celebration – and certainly don’t want to show up empty-handed – or do we??
I think this is one time we DO want to do the opposite of what we would normally do. . . because the best way to prepare for this wedding invitation IS to show up empty-handed – to come to the party with NO attachments. To empty ourselves of everything that is getting in the way or holding us back.
The truth is, the things of this world will NOT be required to get in – will NOT help us on this particular journey. In fact, they almost certainly will hinder us. And theses things we are clinging to and refusing to let go of are different for each of us –
It may be possessions for one – power for someone else. Wealth for one - ego or the sense of importance for someone else. Control for one or self-sufficiency for someone else.
And so we need to look deeply and honestly as to what those weights, those burdens, those useless attachments might be – and let loose of them.
But there is something we do need to have filled – something that should not be empty - -something which God expects, wants, and longs for.
This is the OIL the foolish virgins forgot - or neglected to prioritize in their lives. And this thing that need to be full is each of our hearts.
We can’t get into the wedding feast - we can’t experience the celebration that begins in this life and continues into eternity – if we decide to show up— empty-HEARTED.
Jesus, the bridegroom, wants our hearts filled with every good thing. Hearts full of kindness and mercy and understanding. Hearts full of compassion and forgiveness.
Hearts open to grace – longing to be filled with the presence of our loving God who wants nothing more than to dwell within us for all eternity.
And so our hands need to be empty – but our hearts need to be full. Only then will we be properly prepared to accompany Jesus into the wedding feast beyond all wedding feasts – the celebration for which we were created and for which Jesus died to make possible.
We’ve been invited. And this is one party we should never say NO to. So let’s do the faithful thing, say yes, say Amen – and then do whatever we can to make our loving host happy – helping make the celebration the party— God so deeply desires for all of us.
Moments in time...