This morning Jesus speaks to us of a heavenly wisdom, personified in a group of (rather human sounding) women before a (rather human sounding) wedding. I admit I am always a little startled when Jesus uses wedding imagery to illustrate the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Yet he does so with notable frequency. For his contemporaries, as for us, there is a familiarity here.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’”
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16
Five of the bridesmaids Jesus calls foolish; five he calls wise. It’s not that the five wise bridesmaids knew when the bridegroom was coming. It’s the opposite. They were wise because they did not know when the bridegroom was coming, and so they were prepared for any eventuality. Jesus tells this story about the coming of the bridegroom as a kind of “heads up” about how to live our lives, not just in the end times but all the time: a kind of attentiveness to practice the presence of God all the time. In the scriptures, wisdom is the gift extolled above all others for how to make meaning of life. Wisdom is a deep knowledge, much deeper than simply information. We have today an information glut. As you well know, it’s possible to browse through an almost-infinite stream of information about life with simply the click of a computer key or a television remote control: an endless array of “horizontal information,” surfing life only at the surface, none of which automatically translates into wisdom. Information alone may make us smart, or make us look smart; information alone may breed arrogance; information alone may overwhelm us, information alone may make us conversant in multiple platforms, as they say. (1) Information alone is not wisdom.