The reading for this week was the Parable of the Bridesmaids (the virgins)
(Matt 25 1-13)
A story about the hereafter.
A story about death.
Mmm, perhaps not…
I spent most of this past week reflecting on death – I even read NT Wrights book ‘Surprised by Hope’ and died a little myself from abject boredom (please God forgive me, maybe when I am old and bona fide I will get it, for now though it brought me death by pages).
I thought about what happens to us when we die.
We remembered All Souls Day.
We avoided or threw ourselves into Halloween (delete as appropriate).
I went and saw ‘Tree of Life’ thinking it would help me understand the ‘pointing at the mist’ aspect of life after death theology.
I even had coffee with a friend at a place called ‘Bean and Gone’.
Life AFTER death
I thought how do you preach a message about something you know NOTHING about and hardly understand and turn it into some GOOD NEWS?
Heavens to Betsy there’s nothing Blissphil in this little parable – it belongs fair and square in Halloween week with other ghouls and ghosties!
What is death all about?
And in one tiny little wick well-trimmed, oil-filled moment I thought – that’s it! That’s the problem with us’m Christians – we always get it upside down!!!! (And now she looks down humbly and says – maybe it’s THIS little’m Christian who always gets it upside down.)
Christ says ‘give up your lives so that you can live BIGGER lives’ and we clench our fists, holding onto our little lives saying the way is narrow and so we must be safe and walk the path of righteousness!
Christ says ‘the law is nothing, love is everything’ and we demonise one another and throw up walls and barriers to keep them ‘stinking, unreligious, unlike us types out’.
Christ says ‘die first and then you can live’ and we spend our lives in virtual spiritual death so that we can live AFTER we’re really dead.
Life is about getting ready to die?
So I had another look at this parable.
First off, it’s an invitation to a party!!!!
A party!! A wedding banquet, possibly the most exciting event in the Jewish calendar.
I would love to get married (did I write that out loud?) And you’re telling me that death is like a wedding banquet. NO Jesus – I can’t accept that! Please don’t tell me that my marriage is going to be like a small death! (Although I guess to some it may
feel like that!)
So maybe, just maybe, then this parable is not about death.
Maybe, just maybe, this parable is about life?
Is that possible?
Could Jesus who came so that we might live actually be teaching us again HOW to live?
‘Remember’ Christ says, ‘death has no power – I overcame death, my life in your hands, is your LIFE in your hands, your faith is about the cross, it is about resurrection – being raised to a new life.’
This is not about who ‘gets in and who doesn’t’. I’m sorry but that’s just not the Jesus I know (especially when the wise ones then send the foolish ones off into the cold night to be banished for all eternity).
I think this is about who gets to enjoy all that Jesus puts on offer.
Think about it – Jesus says forgive one another!
Why? So that people are let off the hook?
So that those bad people get away with their nonsense?
Jesus says forgive so that we can enjoy our lives. Forgiving changes nothing except us – forgiveness frees us, enables us to turn our faces upwards and to let our hearts dance freely to the rhythm and beauty of life – the person doesn’t change necessarily, the past doesn’t change and the future is still unknown, but in the present, we are free to enjoy the banquet.
We can pick up our lamps and go in and join the party, because we have filled our lives with love and ridden our lives of death…
In Luke a question is asked, how can I get to heaven? How can I live eternally? How can I be alive starting now, and the answer is given, love God, love others, love yourself. The invitation to live is the invitation to love – one and the same. An invitation to a wedding banquet – the ultimate invitation to witness love, an invitation to come in and enjoy the party.
God is about life – I am always looking for the invitation to life.
So this parable today translates into a preparedness for life and of course it relates to a dream I had … funny that – but I’ll tell that dream tomorrow.
For now the question I believe that God asks us today, is this:
ARE YOU PREPARED … TO LIVE?