November 12, 2017 - Prepare
Jesus told his disciples this parable: "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. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!' But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
The central premise of this blog is that our relationship to God is not transactional. It rejects the idea that we must act well, believe well or repent well to earn God’s love. Rather, I take an existential view: We are the beloved of God regardless of what we do or think. This is in keeping with modern science and philosophy which indicate that we do not have free will and therefore couldn’t possible earn anything in the eyes of an all-knowing deity. It is also in keeping with the age-old ideas of grace and the shefa.
Our eye is naturally attracted to the transactional in today’s reading. Most often, it is read as a warning to remain in good standing with God at all times because you never know when your moment of judgment will come. But if God is unconditionally loving, such an interpretation makes no sense whatsoever.
I have compared encounter with God to the I/Thou encounter described by Martin Buber. The I/Thou encounter can come unbidden to the unprepared, as demonstrated by St. Paul on the road to Damascus. But most often it comes as an epiphany after years of preparation, as demonstrated by the apostles at Pentecost and the Buddha under the bodhi tree. Today’s reading is an exhortation to prepare - not to be ready for judgment, but to be ready for the divine encounter so that we recognize it when it comes.
Image: Martin Buber