The scientific community got a terrible shock recently. Turns out that Einstein got it wrong… big time. The speed of light is not the universal constant he thought it was. Scientists have successfully fired sub-atomic particles faster than the speed of light. So in one shot the brilliant theory on which all modern physics has been built is exposed as potentially flawed.
Change is unsettling. Profound change is profoundly unsettling. Think of the waves of change that have swept through the Church in the last hundred years. And yet we have a universal constant that will never prove flawed. I know with absolute certainty that you and I are saved by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know that in baptism the light of God’s grace was ignited in my heart. And it is meant to burn there ’til God gathers us home.
Which brings us to a lesson I take from this morning’s gospel: We have been given the light of grace, but it is up to us to tend the flame and keep the faith burning. As shown is this parable, things will not go well for anyone who takes God’s gift for granted. We are not meant to put God’s grace on cruise control and nod off. We are charged to be active, to be faithful, to be vigilant: For you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
The wise maidens knew this. They lit their lamps in immediate anticipation, but they also laid in a store of oil to stay ever vigilant. The foolish maidens thought that they could take life on their own terms and live it according to their own schedule. They found out, as we surely will all find out, if we haven’t already, that God is not to be taken for granted. He does not march to our beat. He is not a distant relative we are obliged to visit on holidays. God is the center of our ever expanding, ever evolving universe… the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sustaining Spirit. God is infinitely loving and infinitely merciful. But never forget, as this parable tells us: God is also infinitely just.
In this gospel Jesus reminds us that while our salvation is a gift outright, we were never meant to file it away after baptism and break it out again for our funeral. Christianity is not a spectator sport. God expects us to take the field every day and give it our very, very best shot.
From the Mayans to Nostradamus, there has been wild speculation on a precise date for the world’s demise. While that topic is light years above my pay grade, I do know that God does have a time quite certain for my earthly demise and for yours too. God knows the day and the hour. But we don’t. He expects us to be ready. He expects us to be tending the light that he gave us…until he comes again.
“Live every day like it’s your last…” Google that phrase and you’ll get 7.7 million results. It seems human mortality and its inevitability is never very far from mind. It is our essential anxiety. Jesus assures us: Be not afraid. Infinitely more certain than the speed of light, God’s revealed truth is the one absolute you can literally bet your life on. Even Einstein allowed: “God does not play dice with the universe.” Clearly there is purpose and direction in all of creation. In Romans 8: 28, St. Paul captures the essence of that universal order: All things work together for good to them that love God, and to them that are called according to his purpose.
His purpose for us is to be faithful… to wait on the Lord … to keep our lamps burning. Life in Christ is a life-long commitment to vigilance. It is a marathon, not a sprint. He is on his way… at his own pace… in his own time. Wait for him. Work for him. Welcome him every day. It’s the only reason why we’re here.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.
“William blake ten virgins” by William Blake – Public domain via Wikimedia Commons