Matthew 25:1-13 My Father’s House
I read the 16th chapter of the gospel of Luke, “the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light.” In the world, the children of light appear foolish. Their freedom and their joy, as of the radiance of their Father is all delusion in the world. The foolish ones trust in God, and so they trust others more. The world does not know the children of light as they are. Shrewd labels are attached to them, for they are naive in self-interest. They act like children. Now the gospel of the day….
Jewish weddings occur on Tuesdays. Tuesday starts at sundown on Monday. Weddings are late evening celebrations, the bride and groom in the bridegroom’s chamber for the night, and revelry resumes over brunch, with wine and a lutefisk sandwiches. Notice, her father’s house, the bride’s father. The wedding will be there. Why? If the groom had a father, it would be in his father’s house. Bring the virgin bride, to be a precious means to provide new embodiments of the father and his son, boy children. But this boy has no living father. Yes, and what manner of lad is the groom? He shows up at 2am. Bridesmaids had a good nap after waiting from the appointed time, and bored, slumbered. The lamp burns out. Six hours late, the groom, in the merry company of Israeli stallions, draws near, the bachelor party come to fruition. The fatherless son-in-law will become the adopted son, predictably to malinger with plenty of fat in the fire – useless, mow a little grass, and have a party, and have the guys over. Here he comes, 2am. And the bride is bound for life to provide offspring for both her father and his. This is the scene.
Ten virgins, parthenoi. We have the word, “parthenogenesis.” It means, “virgin birth.” And the ten virgins present themselves, bridesmaids, eligible for marriage. Not necessarily life long knicker socks forever buddies. No, a kind of coming out party, the bridal cotillion. And then, if you are a swain of the fields or the pottery, and you see a woman of charm, you tell your daddy, and he goes to her daddy, and they work out the “bride price.”… She’s very beautiful….Yes, but will she produce strong children?….Am I not a strong man? How can you doubt this?…Yes, but for all your strength, your farm looks like East of Eden…Your sons children shall give flourish to the plot, and I shall broadly praise you…. Like that. What will it advantage each side to have this marriage. Now here is this handsome, well oiled lad, Mobab, and he has no daddy wealth and property, but just now a kind of defunct heir. She, the bride, Angelica, chose Mobab. She liked his Lion of Ahab air. Her daddy would like to have the farm of the deceased, farm unkempt as a dirty rug. And so he is pleased with Angelina’s choice. A wastrel, you see, idle rich – give him a tent in the back yard, and barrels of beer, and let him run. And have two farms and be big. Bride’s price, there.
Now if you want glamour, one could appreciate ten, beautifully coiffed, spangled, young Israeli women, rich farm girls, gowns flowing white and ruby in highlights, rippling with shadows in the flicker of oil lamps, a bowl of oil with fire coming out. Elegant, perfumed, somber and giggling, ten marriageable women to meet the groom and friends, trudging with a stagger, singing The Honeymoon of Adam under the stars. A very pretty sight. But, grievous to say, only five went out. Each had to have a lamp aburning. Sign of respect and of self-offering. Have to keep the lamps burning while your wait. You didn’t just flick a bic at the moment of need. Always ready, there in the pillow room, ten lambs aburning. And slumber and sleep, and the lamps all go out, burned up the oil. Very hazy kind of room by then. So they wake up because there is a shout, “Mobab is coming down the hill, beyond the creek, that waters yon barley field. So look sharp to fire up and be ready to parade out when they’s stompin’ down the grain.” Good, but five have a lamp’s worth of extra oil in a Wedgewood jug, and five, never expecting to sleep through the burning of all that oil, brought none extra. Yes, they could have, eve should have known to be ready for anything, knowing Mobab as we all do. So that was silly, to bring no extra oil out of trust that everyone would do right. So the five say to the five, “How about we just make ten out of five, share and share alike, and make the opportunity equal for us all?” I mean, would you do that? Here are a dozen randy swains, and if there are five maidens rather then ten, the odds are better for fascinating a good looker. It’s wise to bring extra lamp oil when consorting with those Mobab boys. That’s wise. And it’s foolish to want to be part of the flirt, and can’t put your gorgeous face in light for the better seeing of the bearded rascal.
The message is, be lovely, obedient to who you must be for the men and their need of offspring, play your role: inspire a parley over the bride price, making the fiancé tell his daddy he will pine and die if you are not his Sarah forever, until the molder sets in. That is a daughter’s role, and if you do not show up, woe and a pox on ye. And what will your momma say to you in the morning if you don’t? And how long won’t your daddy even look at you? And all those other girls marry, and here you are with the reputation of a failed bride’s maid. Very serious. And, obviously, if you have extra oil you are not going to share it. So the five must heartily bother ourselves to buy some. Run out, Solly’s Pitless First Pressing, right down the road, good oil, burns like a sacrificial fire. Wake him up. Jump up and down and scream, throw rocks at the door. Have to have oil, put it on momma’s account for double, pint a piece, that’s all. Orofors jugs full of pale green oil, sacred for healing and cooking, and dash back to get in, and fill up, and ignite, and out to the dance of veils and fire. But no, the bride’s daddy brings down the hammer. They have betrayed the grandeur of his house. How many weddings of Schlomo Terrace are peopled with ten bride’s maids and their pappies? They made his party look cheap. He wants to be a treasure on the land, and the girls betrayed him. Did we think Big Dan the Tishbite would open and welcome in these betrayers of his advantage in marital politics? No, worse. Big Dan says, “No, I do not know you.” – the five foolish as children of light unknown to the world.
Now Jesus has told a story with a lot of energy in the family of families, the people of Israel. And everybody there who hears that story about the five and the ten, the foolish and the wise, feels the stickiness of that web of marital politics. You have to be very careful about the terms of the bargain made for the bride, very alert – is it land, or social rank, or money, or gang alliance. It’s all a long shot, and you must calculate the terms, and factor the risks, and sign the paper, and exchange sandals. Very alert to know who you are dealing with and what he has got to put in the game. Very shrewd amongst your own kind, bargaining for extension of your life through the bride of your son.
And Jesus is saying the kingdom of heaven shows itself here through the way of the children of light. It is absurd for a child of light to contract marriage by a “bride price.” That is because the children of light are children of God, eternal light free of darkness. God is all father, and, as eternal radiance, all mother. The Son of Man is coming, Jesus says, in the power of his Father, to awaken our truth that we are children of light. The shrewdness of the children of light is in being alert for his coming. If you are not alert, he will not know you, and you will not know him. You do not know when or what he is.
Jesus is telling this parable to his disciples. He is the Son of humanity, the God-man. And notice, that his father, our Father in heaven, is not of tribe or nation. And see that it is the mother, who reflects the creator, the mother who gives unique embodiment, to the child. The child is in her womb as we live and breath and have our being in God. Jesus, I affirm, is son of Mary by the Holy Spirit, a body, from her body, prepared to embody the fullness of the Godhead. Be alert, Jesus says, for you do not know who will be dealing with you. He is coming to claim his human sisters and brothers as all children of the most high God. We are to be alert, awake to receive the revelation that the creator mothers forth our lives at each beat of the heart, each rhythm of the brain. A child of God lives and dies, and lives anew, not born of flesh but of Spirit. Such destiny disrupts this wretched bargaining over women, as vessels for the extending of father’s life through sons. Be alert, open, wakeful, for a revolution from the selective politics of patriarchy, to God as immediate progenitor. A spiritual revolution of family, of human culture, is coming. New wine will be put in new skins. The Son of Man, as resurrection, will pour out waves of the Holy Spirit that will shock and roll across the planet sudden thunger. When the Son comes, you will be awakened, in horror or joy, to know that you have only one father, your father in heaven. You don’t know when he is coming, and when he does, everything is on the line.