It’s funny how things connect, isn’t it, I suppose we move in small patterns that overlap, and I know that none of us are very many connections apart from anyone else – one has only to meet  a couple of famous and well-travelled people, and one is two-steps from meeting almost anyone else.

I think the theory that we are only six-degrees of separation at most from anyone else living was put forward in the 1920s, now as people travel more, it seems likely to be fewer. I’ve met a lot of people who’ve met the Queen of England, including a heck of a lot of bishops and a couple of Archbishops (Desmond Tutu, Justin Welby and Ezekiel Kondo), of England and other countries so I expect I’m about 3 degrees of separation from most folks, as they travel and meet people all the time.

But it’s funny how far from friends and family I often feel – as close to strangers as the people I grew up with, sharing their lives, their worries, their marriages and funerals – more often than I attend the life-events of old school friends.

This Sunday, the Bible reading set is from Matthew Chapter 25, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. I re-read it in the Greek as a fresh translation often helps awaken fresh understanding, and it struck me clearly, what a simple portrayal of the resurrection and coming of the Kingdom of God it is:

All the ladies ‘fall asleep’ as the bridegroom (Christ) is so long returning to the marriage celebration. – They are awakened (resurrected) from their inevitable sleep, to greet the bridegroom, and as he is coming, the wise virgins prepare their lamps. The foolish have no oil to light their own lamps and ask for some, but they are refused…

There is something in the bare Greek that isn’t clear in the tidied English – the literal translation is ‘they prepared the lamps of them’ – and the unprepared foolish say ‘give us of the oil of you’…

‘the lamps of them’

‘the oil of you’

On the one hand that is just a literal translation of ‘their lamps’ and ‘your oil’… but linguistically it is important – it was not ‘they prepared THE lamps’ which would have been grammatically fine, or ‘give us SOME oil’…

It seems to indicate something intrinsic that cannot be shared, and recalls the baptismal promises ‘shine as a light in the world, to the glory of God the Father’ and also ‘let your light so shine before men’ and ‘when a lamp is lit, you do not place it under a bushel’…

In this season between All Saints to Advent, we remember many of those who have ‘shone’ as lamps in the world… and I recall gladly that I still have time to prepare ‘the lamp of myself’ and to stock up on the oil of holiness… so that after I fall asleep and am wakened by that call ‘arise, the bridegroom is coming’… then I should be ready to shine in procession to the celebration.

But I think too with some anxiety, of the people I love, who are around me, and who may fall asleep with their lamps unprepared, and without the oil of holiness that will make them shine ‘like stars’ as the Bible says…  But even if I wanted to (and I know I would) on that day I will not be able to give the ‘oil of myself’ to them, to help them light the way. And I worry, in amongst that six degrees of separation – and all those relationships of love and care… how many of my loved ones lamps will be equipped with oil… I don’t suppose a lot will be needed, only a very little – because as it says in Matthew 12 ‘a smouldering wick He will not extinguish’… we only need a little holiness, but we won’t be able to borrow it on the day that the Kingdom comes.



About Jemma

Learning to be both a priest and a human being in the Anglican Church
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