November 12, 2017

Keep your lamps filled

Photo source: She Ministries

"This is a parable with rather clear, undisputed symbolism. The bridegroom is Jesus; the bridesmaids represent us and the church. The bridegroom’s arrival is the Second Coming of Christ (also known in Greek as the Parousia). Having oil represents what will be most important at the Parousia, deeds of love and mercy.
To summarize the symbolic meaning of this parable, we could say the church is called to be prepared for Christ coming again through responsible acts of love and mercy. This is not something that can be borrowed from someone else (like the unprepared bridesmaids trying to borrow oil); rather it is our responsibility to respond, for we know not when we will see Jesus again.We are called to be prepared by loving God and loving our neighbor. This cannot be done at the last minute. Rather it forms who we are and shapes our faith and how we understand God’s kingdom. This is what it means to “be ready.”" Community of Christ, Sermon Helps

So, am I prepared? Am I ready?  Is there enough oil in my lamp to keep it burning?

I spent last weekend with 20 youth from around the Community of Christ Gateway Mission Center. I was so nervous about the retreat. I had never worked with Sr. High youth before. I didn’t know what it would be like working with such a diverse age range. There is a big difference between a 12 year old and an 18 year old! Could I relate to them? Would they accept me? Would they get anything out of what we had prepared?

Our theme for the retreat was Illuminate. We talked about the things we need to be doing to let our lights shine, like described in Matthew, chapter 5. We discussed embracing continuing revelation, making responsible choices, pursuing peace and honoring the sacredness of creation. We encouraged the youth to tell their own sacred stories and become the church they want to be. I saw scripture from the bible becoming relevant. I saw youth and staff stepping out of their individual peaceful circles to find peace in a bigger circle. I witnessed a sacred moment as I watch these kids be silly, play games, and laugh.  To be honest, I am still not sure what the youth thought of the retreat. But, I do know I added oil to my lamp last weekend. In fact, all the staff did.

For, it is what we Do that fuels our lamps. In the next chapter of Matthew, Jesus describes what will happen when he comes again. He will separate the people, marking them a sheep or a goat.  The sheep have spent their lives adding oil to their lamps. They were feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned and were blessed, for whatever they did for the least of these, they did for Christ.

At the Community of Christ Gateway Mission Center women’s retreat, church apostle Linda Booth talked about that scripture and shared with us numerous stories about Community of Christ congregations and members changing lives in their communities. The more stories she told, the more I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. In fact, when she asked for us to share personal testimonies, I leaned over to my friend Melissa and said “I don’t have anything to share.” I was caught off guard when Melissa stood up and divulged to the group that I was feeling inadequate. She reminded me of the 80 children that came to church camp over the summer. She reminded me of all the non-church members we had at camp. She reminded me that we have now have friends of church members inviting other friends to camp.  I am blessed, because I do those things in the name of Christ and Melissa reminded me of that.

How can you add some oil to your lamp starting today? Acknowledge someone’s light. There are so many in need of God’ love and mercy, that finding a place to start is overwhelming. But, a few weeks ago, when I was in danger of running out of oil, Melissa reminded me of how far my light has reached. That simple acknowledgement added oil to her lamp and mine. Let others know you not only see what they are doing, but appreciate it as well.

You can also fuel your lamp by inviting someone to help you in your good deeds. If there is one thing that I do not like about the parable of the 10 bridesmaids, it is that the wise bridesmaids did not encourage the foolish bridesmaids to get more oil at the very beginning.  So invite others to serve with you. One of our church’s mission initiatives is Invite People to Christ.  But, you can’t think of this initiative alone. It must be thought of in connection with all five of the initiatives. Think of inviting people to Christ’s MISSION. Instead of inviting someone to church, invite them to work at a soup kitchen with you, volunteer at the school with you, serve as staff at church camp (hint! Hint!). Then we are inviting people to Christ, developing disciples to serve, abolishing poverty, pursuing peace, and experience working together in mission. We are helping others add oil to their lamps!

Apostle Linda Booth also shared many words of wisdom passed on to her from her grandmother Tim. This little tidbit stuck with me. Her grandmother would point out a stranger and ask, “Linda, can you see Jesus in his face?” Linda would reply, “Yes, if I look real hard, I can see Jesus in his face.” For me, this is the solution for being ready, being prepared, for having enough oil. It is difficult for me to image the second coming of Jesus, let alone try to predict when that might be. So much of me feels like Jesus is already here. He is the faces of my family and my friends. He is in the faces of the youth and children I work with at camp. He is also in the faces of the hungry, poor and marginalized. I believe we are one in Christ. Recognizing this oneness can open us up to so many opportunities to respond! Your response can add oil to your lamp. 

Acknowledge each other’s good works. 
Invite others to join in mission. 
Recognize our oneness in Christ. 
Gather oil for your lamp.

No comments:

Post a Comment