Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
to get her poor doggy a bone..
But when she got there, the cupboard was bare
and so the poor doggy got none.
It is a pain when you run out of something you really need. It is a pain.
I know what it is like to be my running late on my way to a funeral and run out of gas. It is really bad when you are the minister and are late for the funeral.
It is a pain to run out of something you really need.
If you have ever been without food for any length of time, you will know what I am talking about when I say it is a pain to run out of something you really need.
In Prince Edward Island most of the homes are heated with oil furnaces. Consequently, there are good size oil tanks in the homes and the oil man comes by in his big truck and fills up your tank every so often.
Now they judge it so that you never run out, but never means, almost never. Occasionally they misjudge or if the weather goes into a cold snap you might use up your fuel more quickly than expected and believe me it is a pain to run out of heating fuel when it is 20 below and you wake up with frost all over the inside of your windows and you see your breath.
So, when Jesus tells a story of five girls, bridesmaids who run out of oil and miss the wedding reception, we can surely identify.
But Jesus really isn’t talking about oil.
He is not somehow peering into the future and predicting that in this day and age there will be a shortage of oil caused by wars in the middle East, pandemics, or hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico,
No Jesus is talking about something else that we need.
He is talking about spiritual resources.
One of our spiritual resources is love. And if you have ever been dumped, ever been rejected you know what it is like to run out of love.
Or maybe you know what it is like when you just don’t feel like caring today. You have run out of love.
One of our spiritual resources is forgiveness and maybe you have crossed the line just one too many times; and friends or family or society, just do not want to forgive you anymore, and you have run out of forgiveness; or maybe you have had it up to here with someone and you have run out of forgiving them.
One of our spiritual resources is hope. It is a painful thing, a sad thing when you feel that everyone has given up on you, that everyone thinks there is no hope for you.
And it is a most depressing thing, a terrible thing to think that you have no future, nowhere to turn and there is no hope.
One of our spiritual resources is faith. It is a sad and painful thing when nobody trusts you any more or it is an awful feeling if you believe there is nobody to be trusted, or that God can’t be trusted.
One of our spiritual resources is purpose and meaning. It is a sad and painful thing if people think that you are worthless and have no purpose any more. I have heard people called “a waste of skin”.
And there is just an empty feeling if you realize that you have no goal, no purpose, no meaning to life.
There are other spiritual resources too, friendship, joy, honesty, laughter, patience etc., and it can really be devastating to run out of these things.
You ever met someone who has run out of joy?
I have, and it is not a pretty picture.
Or someone who has run out of patience? Hey wait a minute. I think that one is me.
It is a pain to run out of something you really need
One of my mother’s cousins married a German man. This man as a teenager had served in the German army during Word War 2 and as you can imagine had seen some terrible things.
He hated the smell and taste of turnips: that was pretty much all he existed on at the end of the war. He said that he would walk twenty miles to steal turnips from a farmer’s field.
But of all my mother’s cousins he was probably one of my favourites if not the favourite. He was instrumental in helping to learn bridge. He taught me how to play tennis. He took an interest in me.
But one day he jumped from the balcony of his apartment building. He ran out oil. He ran out of hope. He ran out of faith in the future.
It was a very sad thing. It was sad because in many ways there seemed to be no reason. On the outside at least he didn’t seem to have any real problems. But on the inside, he ran out. Who knows, it is possible the horrors of war still ate him up on the inside.
You, yourself may know of people who completely ran out of hope and future and harmed themselves, or committed suicide, and it is sad because all those spiritual resources of which were talked, are available, yet some people don’t know how to drink at the well of living water.
I mean we all have those times when we run on empty. We all have times when we think we have nothing left to give, but usually someone is there to give us a little pick-me-up. Someone usually comes with a little oil for the tank.
Or if we run out of something, like the afore-mentioned patience, sometimes we can draw on humour or love or something else to get us through until we can get filled up.
But there are times when people just get so tapped out that they are bone dry.
Sometimes people who run out commit suicide.
Sometimes people who run out get a gun and go postal and start shooting people.
Sometimes people who run out of spiritual resources try and find another substitute... Something they can smoke or drink or ingest or inhale and feel better if only for a moment.
Sometimes people who run out end up on the streets.
Sometimes people who run out take it out on their spouses and their children.
Sometimes people who run out just start closing down and end up in depression.
Sometimes people who run out start blaming everybody and everyone. It is my family’s fault. It is the government’s fault. It is the boss, or my coworkers, or God who is at fault.
Some people who run out, think they can be filled up by having an affair with a new lover.
We all know people who have run out.
And there are times when we have run out and have tried strategies of blame, or of hurt, or of retreating inside, or of filling the void with something that doesn’t solve the problem, but maybe temporarily makes us feel better.
One of my favourites is to eat.
When all around you are losing their heads and blaming it on you, there is nothing like a good double quarterpounder with cheese, large fries and a triple thick chocolate milkshake.
When I run out, sometimes I try and fill myself up with food. Unfortunately, my problem is not that I have run out of food. I have lots of food stored away on my body.
But food, or drugs, or shopping doesn’t solve spiritual shortages.
Amos the great prophet talked about the people of God running out spiritually. In some very famous words, he tells the people of God what God thinks:
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos could see that even for people of faith, there are times when they run spiritually dry and they go through the religious rituals, or they are interested in hellfire insurance, so they do what they think they have to in order for God not to punish them…
But they have lost a relationship with God, and they have lost right relationships with their neighbours…
They are religious. But they don’t seem to connect to the Spirit of God.
God tells them to drink from the water of justice and the stream of right relationships.
They too are part of our spiritual resources.
Jesus had some of his harshest words for spiritual leaders who talked a good game about spirituality, who practiced certain spiritual practices, but didn’t back it up with actions of love, acceptance and mercy.
How can you tell the quality of your spirituality? How can you tell how your spiritual resources are holding out?
Easy. Look to the words and actions of Jesus. Are you kinder, more loving, more accepting and tolerant of others? Are you moved with compassion, motivated to kindness and generosity? Will you feed the poor and accept the outcast and forgive the sinner?
Now it my job to remind people of the spiritual resources available to them. That is what I do for a living as a minister. I point to a light that lights the way in the darkness. I encourage them to drink at the well that will quench their thirst for love and acceptance. I warn people of the dangers of not filling up with the oil of God’s spirit, the milk of human kindness, and the food of God’s banquet.
I tell people to arm themselves with the shield of faith and the sword of truth.
I try to guide them to a straight and narrow way that leads to green pastures and avoids the dark valleys.
I proclaim. Take enough oil.
Take enough oil.
You know oil in the bible was used for more than light. It was used for heating. It was used for cooking.
But it was also used for healing.
And we need spiritual resources because we get hurt. Not just physically. We get hurt inside as well as outside.
We get rejected. We get abused. Someone makes fun of us. We get left out, missed. Someone lies about us, or hates us or has it in for us. Someone holds a grudge against us.
It is a tough world out there. And we need oil for our wounds.
But there is healing. Jesus says: Come to me all you who have heavy burdens and I will give you rest.
Come, my oil is free.
Which of us doesn’t need healing from time to time?
And Jesus says: Come.
Jesus says. I have love, I have mercy. I have acceptance. I have forgiveness. I have faith in you. I believe in you. You are my child. You are special. You are precious.
Everything I have is yours.
For people who run out I believe, Jesus is there for them
But sometimes it isn’t one person who runs out. Sometimes it is a leader of a country, or sometimes it is the government of a country who runs out of spiritual resources.
And they look for ways to cope. What do countries do when they run out of spiritual resources?
Sometimes they blame ethnic groups within their society.
Sometimes they try to grab land or other resources from some other country.
Sometimes they occupy another country.
Sometimes they silence all their critics who are reminding them of their emptiness, and their twisted values. They jail them or kill them. One of the most dangerous jobs in the world is to be a journalist, trying to tell the truth in a country where there is an oppressive and violent regime.
Sometimes countries or governments without spiritual resources start wars.
Today we remember especially men and women and children who were involved in war.
We know that there were governments who made mistakes, who ran out of spiritual resources and tried to cope by taking what was not theirs.
And no government and no country was, and is absolutely blameless when it comes to war and hurting.
We also know that many people gave up theirs lives in the pursuit of freedom, justice and peace.
They didn’t run out. Instead, they poured their lives out.
They poured out themselves for others.
And today in worship we are very thankful for those in war, or in times of peace, who poured, or who pour themselves out for freedom and justice and peace.
And we honour their memory today.
And we can do that not just by remembering the dead and those who made sacrifices…
…But by doing what they did… Pouring the self out for others.
So, take your spiritual resources and share them. Pour them out for others
Give away your love.
Share your faith.
Forgive as God has forgiven you.
Hope in God.
Have faith in people and give them reason to have faith in you.
Let your joy be contagious and win people over with your laughter and good nature.
Be givers of oil.
You will not run out.
A friend went back to the family farm that had been in his family for generations. It hadn’t been really used for fourty years. The old farmhouse where his grandparents used to live was long gone. But the family had kept the property for sentimental reason. He remembered playing there on the farm when he was a child and he remembered the beautiful well with its sweet crystal clear water.
He was looking forward to taking a drink, but when he lifted the lid off the old well it had run dry.
Later he found out why. You have to use a well. If you keep drawing water out of the well on a regular basis the tiny rivulets suck water from behind. If you do not draw water over time the rivulets dry up and the well runs out.
So, it is with love and our spiritual resources, I think. They need to be drawn upon and drawn upon and God will replenish them.
Keep giving away your spiritual resources and you will never run out.
Stop giving them and you will dry up.
I am reminded of another fellow who ran out. We don’t know his name but he was called the Prodigal Son.
The Prodigal son took his inheritance and went to Vegas and blew it all on booze and floosies.
And the scripture says that he ran out.
But here is the best part of the story.
When the prodigal returned home, his father ran out to greet him with open and arms and hugged and kissed him.
And even though the prodigal had screwed up, that Father was all forgiveness and love.
And so, I proclaim to you one of the greatest truths I know:
Maybe there are times we run out, but God never runs out.
God’s love is always there for us. God’s mercy is always there for us. God’s acceptance is always there for us. God’s spirit is always there for us. God is always present to us.
God’s grace and love never run out. Amen