Seems like dreams can go two ways. Ever had one of those nightmares where you are being chased down long corridors through tangled forests towards the ever receding safety of a half-open door? That door can go two ways: slam shut behind you with a flood or relief or slam shut in your face with whatever ravening monster ready to wake you up frantic and panting. Dreams can go two ways.
This parable isn’t quite a nightmare—though Matthew tries to make it one. You might be mortified if the door to the wedding feast slams shut but its not life or death—it’s only a party—though ‘I do not know you’ is ominous enough. And all because of a little oil. 50% of us consigned to oblivion over a little oil.
The door’s the problem here—not the oil, not the lamps, and not the bridesmaids. The sound of that door slamming is decisive; when that door closes you’re either in or out. Tough!
Is this the God we know? Tough on crime. No excuses. You had your chance? It’s certainly the God some people swear by. There’s a whole religious industry built around misreading our second reading, waiting for the door to slam shut so the righteous can be carried aloft to watch their unfortunate families and friends left behind and locked out of heaven. If that’s your God you don’t need to worry about global warming or waging war for oil—it’ll all be over soon anyway and before the dream becomes a nightmare you’ll be on the right side of the door.
But there’s many a poor soul living under the eye of that God, sadly certain the door has already closed them out. The millions who see themselves as beyond forgiveness, beyond healing, beyond the pale. Sinners in the hands of an angry God. Or maybe they just feel all the oil’s run out of their lives and left them lost and empty, nameless and aimless.
The door’s the problem. It shuts us out or it shuts us in—but either way we are captive.
The door’s the problem not oil or wisdom.
Wisdom is the solution. Not wisdom as pre-emptive strike; not stockpiling wisdom by the barrel load against the coming judgment. Wisdom we hear today plays an entirely different game. Wisdom doesn’t believe in doors. Wisdom doesn’t see herself in short supply. Wisdom is on the look out for ways to give herself away. She isn’t hiding. She isn’t setting tests. She doesn’t play hard to get. She never runs out. She never forgets our name.
When the earliest Christians were grappling to understand Jesus one of the first biblical images they turned to was Lady Wisdom. Jesus, they said, is Lady Wisdom alive among us: the one who danced at creation; the one who lived our life to the full; the one we still know in our hearts. They borrowed existing hymns to Wisdom and sang them about Jesus: ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God…’
A Jesus who doesn’t set tests, who isn’t in short supply, who doesn’t hide but comes to seek out anyone who needs him. A God without boundaries.
So who’s this bridegroom guy getting all huffy behind his door?