Sharing church, a place of invitation

Dear colleagues, 

“Sharing is caring.” This is a common phrase you’ll hear around my house these days. Sharing is not something that comes naturally to us—small children see what they want, and they grab it because instinctually they don’t really know any better. Watching my 4 year old being confronted with a younger brother who doesn’t know how to share has brought that reality into stark relief in my life lately.

I thought about this phrase last Friday as my group prayed through the passage of the wise and foolish bridesmaids when we met for Gospel Based Discipleship. When the foolish bridesmaids ask the wise ones for some oil, the wise do not share. Instead, they respond, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves” (Matthew 25:9). The foolish ones then go to buy oil, and while they are away, the groom shows up and the wise go with him. The foolish are left outside, unknown to the groom. I wonder, though, why didn’t the wise bridesmaids share the light from their lamps? After all, even on the darkest of nights, a lamp casts enough light for two people.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that the oil is “a metaphor for righteousness or good deeds” (56), and thus the parable itself isn’t really about sharing light or oil. It is about being alert for the coming of Christ, and living our lives in a Christ-like manner that encourages us to be ready for his coming again. Indeed, later in Matthew 25:31-46 we are told what that kind of life looks like. What I couldn’t help but see this week as we read the Gospel, though, was not just a failure on the part of the individual foolish bridesmaids, but also a failure of community. Instead of the wise/righteous bridesmaids inviting the ones whose lives needed amendment to join in their lives of righteousness, they told the foolish to go fix the problem on their own, and come back later.

We do not typically think of righteousness as a quality that can be shared, but I wonder what it would look like if we invited people to join us on our journeys to live righteous lives, rather than telling them to fix their problems first and then come see us later. The Church is called to be a place of invitation—where we invite others to join us on The Way, and to grow in righteousness as we journey together. Furthermore, we are called to wait for the bridegroom together. As we’ve learned this year, waiting can be incredibly difficult when you don’t know when the end is coming. It can be a time of anger, anxiety, boredom, impatience, loneliness, and weariness, among other things. Thanks be to God we are not called to bear those burdens alone, but to wait and journey together. May we always strive to be a community who invites others along on the journey, even when that journey feels like a perpetual wait.

Faithfully yours,

This message was written by Director of Pastoral Studies Hilary Bogert-Winkler for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.