In the parable of bridesmaids
bringing light to the wedding celebrations,
it is their state of preparedness
that finally determines
who will gain entry to the banquet.
We can work the maths out
on the fingers of two hands.
Five go in; five are knocked back.
For the girls in the story
it was flasks of spare oil
that made the difference,
keeping their lamps burning, shining bright,
and keeping the invitation current.
It appears that gospel invitations
to come to banquets, to follow Jesus,
to attend wedding feasts,
are all invitations to live truly.
Stay awake, be ready.
discipline your body, train your mind;
carry sufficient oil – whatever that might be
for you. Keep your Swiss army knife handy.
When you find the invitation extended,
determine to accept it.
Grasp hold, enter in, live to the fullest
and love in the extreme.
There is a principle at the centre of creation,
written for all time in the dust
from which the universe was fabricated
and glowing with a lustre born
of hope’s never flagging defiance.
Given the formal name of ‘Grace,’
it is also known as ‘Generosity,’
and sometimes, ‘Kindness.’
The concept of this reckless munificence
frightens many, especially politicians,
eager to capture the votes of the mean-spirited,
and preferring the long-established reliability
of tax-cuts and border security
ahead of the uncertainty of noble compassion.
It would never do if those who are unworthy
were to receive something
to which they are not entitled.
Even those who have been touched
by this grace, given substance
in one who held back nothing,
struggle with generosity;
fearing to let go our truckloads of accrued stuff
in the delusion that it is of lasting importance.
The woman of Zarephath had nothing,
save her precious son, but acceded
to the prophet’s request to share their last meal.
This she did, according to the ancient story,
every day; discovering, in turn,
that the surprising quality of generosity abides,
glowing quietly with defiance.