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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pentecost 23: Oil in my Lamp

Now before you comment "Oil in my Lamp" was last week's lectionary Gospel focus, this week is the "Parable of the Talents"...you are quite right. However, I preached on The Parable of the Talents earlier this year in commemoration of the death of Nelson Mandela and last week I was still on sabbatical, so you can read "Parable of the Talents" here, and below is my sermon for this Sunday, but based on last week's Gospel reading.

As we continue our journey through Matthew’s Gospel, we are now very near the end of Jesus’ life.  The parable before us today was told two days before Jesus is murdered.

He knows His death is at hand, and rather than talk about His death, His focus now turns in three parables to His return, not the Resurrection return, but His triumphant return on the Day of Judgement at the end of time.

At this time of the year, as T.V. and press adverts are preparing us for Christmas, we should turn our attention to Christ’s birth, but at least in equal measure we should turn our attention to His return.  I would encourage you as individuals and families to find ways of not only celebrating the past – Jesus’ birth – but also find ways of looking forward to and celebrating His return.

This parable is especially helpful in teaching us how to prepare for Christ’s return.  It warns that Christ’s return will be sudden, and it will take even those expecting it by surprise – even the wise in the story, are sleeping when Christ returns.

Let’s work through it: Matthew 25:1-13
At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom
Once again we have a Wedding Feast celebration.  The Kingdom of God is a good place to be, and exciting place to be.  The groom would often arrive at night, and as he travelled to his beloved’s home, people would join the procession, which would wind through the streets.  So these young unmarried girls wait for this exciting event.
 Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise.
This is a theme which Jesus began His ministry with in the Sermon on the Mount.  Wise person / foolish person and the disturbing truth that what is wise in the Kingdom of God is considered foolish in the Kingdom of this world.
The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them
They take their torch, but no spare batteries; their cell phone, but no charger.  In other words (there’s a tension built into the story at this point) – they are going to be found wanting.
while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps.
that is wisdom.
The bridegroom was late in coming, so they began to nod and fall asleep.
They all fall asleep …… BUT SUDDENLY
It was already midnight when the cry rang out, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!’ The ten young women woke up and trimmed their lamps.
But in verse 8 the foolish find they’ve run out and they ask the wise for oil and the wise wisely say NO – if we share, we halve the amount of time our lamps will burn, the groom might still be delayed and we might possibly all find ourselves in darkness.

Run quickly and see if you can buy some.  The Greek here actually says, “Get off your lazy bottoms, stop relying on other people’s wise planning and money, and damn well do something for yourself.”

So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed.
The bridegroom arrives and those who were ready go into the Marriage Feast, and the others eventually arrive, but even though they beg, they are told to scram.

What does this parable say to us?  Can we say that the lamp represents our faith and a lamp with oil is faith working by love?  People of faith are commanded to love God (with all we have) and to love their neighbour.  
Do you?  Is your faith working itself out as love in the world?  The wise have got oil in their flasks, love in their hearts and daily they seek a fresh supply of spiritual strength, so that their faith burns within them and from them.  
Do you burn with your faith on fire within you daily or …… is your lamp going out?

The foolish discover that their lamps have gone out, their faith is dead, and what a terrible time to discover this, the very time they need it.  (Like discovering your spare tyre  is flat and as you may know, you can’t borrow the spare tyre from one car and fit it to the next.)

There are things that cannot be borrowed.  You cannot borrow a relationship with God, you must have it yourself.  You cannot borrow character – two weeks ago we saw that you must be “clothed” with it when, at another banquet Jesus kicked someone out and told them to scram.  You cannot live on the spiritual capital of others.  There is a holiness without which no-one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord). – none of us has more holiness than we need – none of us has holiness to give to others.  My holiness is mine and cannot be yours.  Your holiness is yours and cannot be the person’s next to you.
Is there oil in your lamp?
Is there enough oil in your lamp?
Is there oil in the lamps of those you love?

At this time of year I always try and give you a few tips for gifts to others this Christmas.
Here’s a great gift: Everyone of us know someone who does not have oil in their lamps.
After you have looked to your own lamps, your faith working by love, pray for and then guide that person to the source of faith and love and don’t give up.

Look to your own lamp and then look at the lamps of others.


Amen.

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