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the sermon for

the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost

12 November 2017

Matthew 25:1-13
Faith is not for some, but not for others.
Faith is for everyone, together!

11122017It was a little over thirty years ago – on October 30, 1989 – that a came on the market. Really, a collection of essays covering a wide range of topics. And it was an overnight success! Number One NY Times bestseller! Seven million copies sold worldwide! A modern classic, it's been called. A phenomenal bestseller! Has struck a deep chord in readers all over! The author is from Waco. Graduated from Baylor. Went on to receive a degree in theology from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, CA and ordained by the UU – Unitarian Universalist – Church. One hundred eighty-six pages. The book got its name from the first chapter. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. It made quite a splash. Still is according to Google! Especially among kindergarten teachers!

Like I said, the book's named for that first essay which lays out twenty-or-so lessons we all learn, that first year of school! Play fair! Don't hit people! Clean up your own mess! Don't take things that aren't yours! Say you're sorry when you hurt people! And of course, my own personal favorite, take a nap every afternoon! But the lesson that immediately came to mind as I was reading through the parable of the ten bridesmaids was the very first! Lesson number one! Share everything! First and foremost... Above everything else... Share everything!

And with just a handful of verses... with a mouthful of words... Matthew rips that lesson right out of the book! And in the name of Jesus, selfishness becomes a virtue! And while it happens, it sounds so gosh darn holy! So gosh darn righteous! Chapter and verse! Red letters! Ten bridesmaids – five wise and five foolish – take their lamps and go to meet the bridegroom. The wise take extra oil, just in case. The foolish don't. Surprise, surprise, the bridegroom is delayed and the lamps keep burning. So when the bridegroom, finally, comes, the lamps are almost out of oil. When the foolish ask for some oil, the wise say, "No. There is not enough for us all." So, the foolish bridesmaids go to Walmart to buy some more. But when they arrive back at the banquet, they are too late. The door is closed. And locked. And they remain on the outside looking in... forever!

Share everything! That's the primary lesson! Share everything, that is, unless and until it really, truly matters! Then you're on your own! All bets are off! Watch out for number one! And we americans say, "Amen! This is most certainly true!" Practical! Realistic! Down-to-earth! It's something we can understand and take to heart! Personal responsibility! Consequences for our actions! Tough love, as we like to call it! Bottom line, people have to take care of themselves! At least, that's how it's supposed to be! But, from the perspective of love... Especially from god's vantage point... It's so wrong on so many levels...

Matthew tells us that there wasn't enough oil for everyone. Oil was scarce, limited! At least, among the bridesmaids. And if it was shared, there wasn't enough for all ten lamps to keep burning! So it was better for five to remain outside than all ten! Some made it, others didn't! The gospel of the Lord! Praise to you, O Christ! And for the longest time, I accepted it. After all, this is only of those Matthew and Matthew only passages. We'd only have to read it ever three years. Preach on it every six. I didn't, exactly, agree with that reason. I'm not sure I, even, understood it completely. But it was an answer... of sorts.

But this time through, I realized it wasn't an answer, at all! Just an excuse, a justification. A way of baptizing what we already believe! Not the gospel of the Lord, at all. But merely the status quo, popular opinion! You see, when you turn the other... and go the extra... and do unto others... When you deny yourself and pick up your cross and follow after... well, this ending of the parable, this moral to the story, just isn't acceptable! Gospel wouldn't be five bridesmaids keeping their oil and committing the others to the darkness. Gospel would be five bridesmaids sacrificing their oil, sacrificing their place, so that the five others could enter the banquet instead of them!

That's one solution. One remedy. Sacrificing your place in line for the sake of another. If... when... there's only enough oil left for five lamps, not all ten! But another option would be, simply, to share the light! To share the light! IF there's only so much oil to go around, you share the light that oil provides with someone else! You invite the other bridesmaids to walk beside you! To walk with you! It's not an either/or! It's a both/and! Imagine if the parable ended that way! The bridegroom is delayed, is late! The lamps of five of the bridesmaid are burn out. But they end up accompanying the other five whose lamps still burn! And together, they all meet the bridegroom and enter the banquet hall! No locked door! No outer darkness! No tears! No teeth gnashing! No punishment or reward! Just generosity! Just gift! That kind of parable would contradict, would go against, everything we read, this morning! It would be simple enough to say, "The gospel of the Lord!" and mean it! "Praise to you, O Christ!"

But, of course, we should know by now that Matthew doesn't see things that way. For him, the world is divided! Divided between good and evil! Divided between righteous and unrighteous, between wheat and weeds, between wise and foolish! And instead of ending with a promise, his parables always end with a warning. "Keep awake, therefore... Be ready... Or else!" The problem wasn't the oil. It wasn't that some were prepared while others weren't. The problem was that they didn't share! They simply didn't share everything! Like the light! Like the light! If there wasn't enough oil for all ten lamps, then you use five lamps! And you share the light! You don't eliminate people! You don't leave some out! You don't push some away! You just share the light! After all, that's what Jesus would have done! That's what Jesus did! And that's what the church continues to do! In spite of what Matthew tells us! We're not here to hoard our oil! We're here to share our light! Just as we share everything! Like we learned in kindergarten! Like we learned in Sunday School!

We share everything! Just like Luther wrote... "From Christ, the good things have flowed and are flowing into us! From us, they flow on to those who have need of them! (The Freedom of a Christian)" We share all we have! Just like Jesus! Just like Jesus!

Just like Jesus did that day in the wilderness when he shared the five loaves and two fish... Just like Jesus shared that night, when he took the bread and cup and said, "Eat and drink..." Jut like he did the very next afternoon when he shared his last breath, when he shared his final heartbeat... Just like Sunday morning when he shared the first light of a brand new day... What would Jesus do? What did Jesus do? What does Jesus still do? He shares everything! He shares everything! And no one – not the wise... not the foolish... No one is left out!

The foolish said to the wise, "Five us some of you oil! Please! For our lamps are going out!" But the wise said, "No. There isn't enough for us all." It would have been so easy, so simply, if they had said, "But you are welcome to share the light! You are welcome to share the light! And, We – all of us – can still meet the bridegroom! Together! So, my friends, the lesson still stands. Share everything! Share everything, just like Jesus!

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