Oil, oil, and more oil.

“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.

For a few weeks we have been considering Jesus’ teaching on the last things, the end times, and our preparedness for that blessed day. Today’s gospel brings the reality of God’s expectation home to us.

Oil was a primary product in biblical times, somewhat like today, but much more widespread in its application. It was a food product, was necessary to cooking and baking, kept the lights kit, was a cosmetic, and was used to make soap. When important guests arrived, they were honored by being anointed with oil.

Throughout Scripture, the symbol of oil was used to represent God’s anointing in both power and healing for both animals and people, His generous provision for the faithful, and the readiness of His people. We see kings, priests, and prophets anointed with oil. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with aromatic oil at the banquet in Lazarus’ house just prior to His suffering and death.

The question seemingly before us today – when the end comes, will I have enough oil? But that’s not the real question. If we thought of it that way, we’d be saving up oil, hiding it away. The real question before us: Am I using the supply I have been given to prepare for the kingdom and do I trust God to keep my supply full, or am I unwisely sitting on what God has given, wasting it?

As the faithful, we should never worry about our spare supply. Our supply comes from our lived faith. It is constantly refreshed and restored by the grace of God. With faith and dedication to God’s gospel way, our lamps will never run dry. Take the lesson of the lamps that never went dry.

Maccabees, and the Talmud commentary on it, says that after the forces of Antiochus IV had been driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered only enough pure oil to light the menorah for a single day, yet it burned for eight days. Elijah assured the Widow of Zarephath that her jug of oil would not run dry during a multi-year drought. These examples point to God continuing to fill His faithful, to His restoring our supply of oil. We can and must burn and burn our lamps, showing the light of Christ, doing His work, preparing for His arrival, and trusting that we will never run dry. For the faithful, there will be oil, oil, and more oil.

God expects us to trust in His provision for our work for the kingdom. Let us set to work, never worrying about running out, and confident in what we will have to show for our work when Jesus returns. The light we carry and show each day and the lamps we hold when the end comes, when Jesus, the Bridegroom, is at the doorstep, will be our testimony for entry into the kingdom.

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Provisions,
not just supplies.

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

Dictionaries tell us that provision means items of goods or supplies, especially food, obtained for future use. It can also mean money set aside for a future event.

I grew up in Buffalo. Along William Street were the former meat packing plants that supplied food for much of the nation. I remember riding along in the car as we passed the various “provision” companies that remained: Elk Provisions, Camellia (Cichocki) Provisions – I get hungry just thinking about these places. Locally we may have passed Pede Brothers Italian Food or Orlev Provision Company.

Now we are ready to run out and get some great Polish or Italian food. If we visit these provision houses we are well aware of the requirement going in – we have to pay for the things we need.

Today’s gospel message reminds us that God’s provision is quite different.

The Church calls God’s provision grace. In First Communion and Confirmation class we discuss God’s grace in detail. Our children and youth learn that grace is God’s help given to us through the merits of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Grace is free to us – it is both a request and an offering of God’s love held out for us to freely accept and use. We can accept or reject this gift. If we chose to accept it, we fulfill God’s request and He gives us more and more grace to help us toward perfection.

That is all kind of theological. In its essence grace is God’s provision, His providing for us as our true Heavenly Father and Brother. God loves us so much that He wants to be in every part of our lives. He wants to be with us and in us so that He may provide for us in all areas of life. Scripture draws beautiful pictures of this provision. God caring for the lilies of the field and birds of the air – yet how much more important we are than they.

Our Father is there with grace at hand – all for us whether we are in a really good place or in a bad stage of life where we just don’t know where to turn. He is there with provision in hand if we are well off or in over our heads financially or emotionally or spiritually. He is there providing in the midst of noise, quiet, or loneliness.

We are called to acknowledge and recognize God’s provision even though we might not know exactly how that provision may come. His grace, His provision is more than temporary supplies that come and go and can even spoil. His love will never spoil or destroy – only save.