I nearly burned down the house.
We have a wood burning stove in our family room. In the days before the winter storm of 2016, known parochially as Snowzilla, we decided to lay in a whole lot of wood. 27 inches of white stuff later, we were glad we did. Thankfully, the power did not go out and we burned the wood for pleasure, not necessity. We had more wood than we needed.
Then it warmed up. The snow melted. Life went on. Everything went on, except that pile of wood in the living room. It just sat there. I needed to do something about that pile or it would sit there rotting all summer. One cool evening I decided to burn the remaining wood. After a nice evening around the fire, we sent the kids to bed and Aimee and I keep feeding the fire.
Hour by hour I kept shoving wood in the stove. I was on a mission. By 10pm the fire was so hot it would have made Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego uncomfortable. Next to my wood burning stove I keep an accessory kit that includes a poker, brush, and small shovel. I opened the glass door on the stove, and with the fire raging, attempted to brush fallen pieces of wood and bark into the stove from the shovel. In doing so, I managed to set the brush’s bristles ablaze. The brush had an aluminum handle about 2 feet long, so when I held it up the whole thing looked like a torch. A burning torch. I looked at it and cogently said, “Huh.”
My wife, also known as My Better-Half, leaped into action. She grabbed the nearby fire extinguisher and quickly assumed an aggressive stance. But nothing happened except that my torch kept burning. We look at each other in horror. Neither one of us knew how to use the fire extinguisher.
We thought we were prepared.
In Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus told a parable about His return. It was a wedding story. In those days, the groom would arrive at the bride’s home around dusk on the night of their wedding. Taking his bride from her family, he would lead her, along with her family and other celebrants, back to his parent’s house in a festive procession. When the party arrived at the groom’s house all would go in, the doors would close, and the party would begin. How nice! Don’t you just love a wedding?
In the Lord’s story, 10 young women are set to wait for the procession as it approaches the groom’ house for the wedding feast. For whatever reason, the wedding party was delayed. Jesus doesn’t give us a reason, but have you ever known a wedding that started on time? Me either. Anyway, the young ladies fell asleep. After midnight, the procession finally arrived with shouts and laughter. The commotion woke up the sleepy maidens. Once awakened, 5 of the gals found that their lights had burned out, and worse, they had no more fuel. They ran off into the night, looking for oil. However, the other 5 young ladies are prepared. They had brought enough fuel for an extended evening. With their lamps burning, these gals greet the wedding party with much joy, going into the feast before the door is shut. The others are locked outside.
The moral of this story is that weddings are ridiculously expensive and the wise will figure out ways to eliminate their unwanted relatives from the reception. Weddings are, by and large, tricky affairs. Lots of emotions, expectations, and financial obligations. It’s a volatile combination. Thankfully Jesus gives us much counsel regarding these happy events. Apparently, the worse thing that can happen at a wedding is for people to sober up – a situation requiring divine intervention; see John 2. [Ed. note: Please disregard that last joke. As a baptist preacher there are certain subjects that Todd is not allowed to joke about and that last paragraph involved at least 2 of them. He really should know better.]
There may be another lesson here as well. Jesus warns us, including 5 times in Matthew 24-25(24:36,42,44,50; 25:13), that no one knows the time of His return. But return He will. Therefore, all must live in a state of preparedness, but not all do.
When the call goes out, will your lamp be “trimmed and burning?” When the trumpet sounds and the Lord of the universe arrives, will you be a peace with God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? When He returns, will He find you reading the instruction manual He gave you? Will He find you doing what it says? Will He find you living your life for Him, or rather living your life for yourself? On that day, our priorities will be exposed to the light.
Someday it will be too late to change, but it’s not too late yet. Go buy some oil. Personally, I’m going to go read the instructions on the back the fire extinguisher.
Then again, maybe I won’t. It’s Spring. I’m done burning wood. I won’t need to know how that thing works until at least next fall, right?