Matthew 25:1 "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
Our theme for this Lenten season is: Preparing for the Kingdom of Heaven. And in good Lutheran fashion, the first question is what does this mean?
In the parables, the kingdom of God, refers to God reestablising his rule over and among men. In other words, we are not talking so much about heaven - as we are talking about how God is at work bringing salvation to mankind.
We often forget, that when we call God, Lord, we are acknowledging that not only does he have a right to rule over us, but that we recognize that right, we are not our own. Not only did God make us, and that would be enough to establish his lordship over us - but he sent His son to suffer and die to redeem us - we were bought with a price - any freedom we have is ours only because Jesus died for our sins and freed us from our slavery to sin.
Because God is the Lord of all, he is going to reestablish his rule over all. In the first place that means that God wants to call all to repent of their rebellion against him, and receive forgiveness in Jesus name. God wants all people to be saved, and Jesus died so that all might be forgiven, but some reject the gift of God, and continue to rebell against God and is rule over them. But for those who receive the gift of God in Jesus Christ, God forgives our former rebellion, forgives us our sins, and makes a new creation, that is how we become the children of God, God does it for us, it is his gift.
And so it is that we come to speak of the Kingdom of God in 3 ways:
The Kingdom of Grace
This is the way we speak of God's rule in the church, for we are saved by grace though faith in Jesus Christ - grace reminds us that our salvation is a gift of God.
The Kingdom of Glory
These are the saints in heaven and the good angels, who are in peace and joy and in the presence of God.
The Kingdom of Power
This is God ruling over all creation, even the devil, everyone will be subject, everyone will worship God, even those who are damned in hell.
Now in the Gospel of Matthew, when we hear the term - Kingdom of Heaven, the primary focus is on the kingdom of Grace, and also the kingdom of Glory - Jesus went around preaching so that everyone would know of God's plan of salvation and be saved, and have all the good things God has prepared for those who love him.
So when we look at this parable, what do we see? We see great good news, people invited to a wedding feast, and not just invited, but given a special role, to wait, to greet the bridegroom, and to share in his joy. No one would want to miss such a thing, and it would not be a hard thing to do, you bring a lamp, and you bring oil for you lamp - it was part of the ordinary household stuff, everyone had it, everyone used it. And perhaps that's the problem, because it is not hard to overlook the ordinary - so 5 forgot to bring oil, and only thought of it at the last moment, when their lamps were low.
So what does this mean? I think it is about faith. There are a lot of people who have a faith that is like a lamp, it burns, and they say - I'm ready to meet God. But they aren't prepared to wait, and so they don't bring oil, and their faith burns out. Faith needs fuel, just likes bodies need food. Salvation is not something where you want to see if you can get there when your running on empty. So, preparing for the kingdom of God is tanking up, fueling the fire - and the fuel is that grace of God which comes from the Word and the Sacraments.