It's often difficult to understand exactly what Jesus is teaching in some of the parables he shared. When we read Jesus' parables through our 21st century, western eyes, we often come to conclusions about what he's saying that are not at all what he meant.
Take the story of the ten virgins in Matthew 25, for example. Jesus proclaims that "the kingdom of God" is like ten virgins (read wedding attendants), who are waiting for the bridegroom to collect them for a wedding.
In the story, it's late and the wedding attendants need to have their lamps ready to light their way. But only five of them have their lamps filled with oil, and ready to go.
They all fall asleep, and the bridegroom shows up suddenly in the middle of the night to get them. Half of them are ready, and half of them aren't. While the five "foolish" attendants are out getting oil, the wedding begins and they get shut out.
When I was growing up, I was taught that this story was about making sure you were "saved," so you didn't get "left behind" when Jesus returned for his "Second Coming."
But I've come to see this story (and the many others like it that Jesus used to convey the truth about God's kingdom) a bit differently. While stories like the ten virgins often seem on the surface to be apocalyptic and "end times" focused, they really aren't.
Jesus was constantly teaching his disciples about the urgency to be fully present in the present. He taught that the kingdom of God was "coming," but he also qualified that statement by saying that the kingdom of God "is now."
In other words, Jesus wanted his followers to live eternally focused lives, but to also know that eternity begins now in the present, where we are to be fully engaged in the work of embodying God's kingdom here on earth.
Jesus also wanted his disciples to know that the change/transformation that comes when the kingdom of God breaks into our reality, can catch you by surprise if you aren't ready for it.
These past many months have served as a catalyst for change in the Church. Scores and scores of Christians are beginning to wake up, and their eyes are being opened to new ways of seeing the world, and also what it means to be a Jesus-follower.
They're realizing the ways of practicing the Christian faith that have been handed down to them aren't working all that well, and might actually be downright dangerous.
They're realizing that there are better reasons to follow Jesus than the simplistic notion of "going to heaven when you die."
And in the context of this parable, being a Jesus-follower means that you need to live expectantly---ready for the Spirit to move, groove, and show you new things. You can't put your head in the sand, you can't ignore it.
When the Spirit of change sweeps through, and the kingdom of God becomes more fully visible, we can either find our way into the party because we were ready for it, or we could find ourselves sitting in the lobby.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather be dancing at the party than sitting in a corner of the lobby, angry and bitter over the fact that the lobby doesn't have a full bar, a great buffet, and live music.
How ready are you to move where the Spirit is inviting you to move? What if it means changing your mind? The way you see things? Maybe even re-evaluating passages of Scripture you thought you had figured out?
May today be the first day of many where your eyes are opened, and you are ready to party when the invitation arrives. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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