Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids (Matt. 25:1-13) is not about being ready or not ready for something that will happen later. It’s a story about a way of being present to what is in this moment, in the Now. It’s a characterization of a way of living that makes us and keeps us open and receptive to the fullness of grace – call it the kingdom of heaven or the reign of God or whatever else you choose – that is available to us in the present moment. The story is not about how we prepare for the future but about how we live in the present. “The kingdom of heaven is spread out on the earth,” Jesus said, “and people don’t see it” (Gosp. Thomas 113). Ready or not, the bridegroom is at hand.
Bishop William Willimon related how as a young boy he misunderstood the invitation during a communion service he attended, when the pastor invited the ushers to “bring forth the elements” – the bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper. But young Will misunderstood him to invite the ushers to “bring forth the elephants.” Living with the kind of surprised, eager anticipation that brought Willimon to the edge of his seat will allow us, perhaps, to see the gift that is already spread out before us in this life.