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Give Me Oil In My Lamp: Guest Blog by Steven Norris

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 25:1-13) transports me to a typical evening meal at the Norris house. Let me begin by saying that my sons have a deep love for music (no big surprise since their dad is a musician). Our youngest, in particular, just comes alive when you give him an instrument to play or a song to sing. The most recent of his five-year-set-list has been the perennial favorite: “Give Me Oil In My Lamp.” The lyrics of this camp song are based on Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins and their oil lamps:

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning.
Give me oil in my lamp I pray.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning.
Keep me burning till the break of day.

As he sang, I immediately had a flashback to my years in the youth group of Plymouth Park United Methodist Church, where this was one of our staples in Middle School worship. The thing my son didn’t realize, however, is that there are many more verses than he was taught at preschool.  For example:

“Give me gas for my Ford, keep me trucking for the Lord…”
“Give wax for my board, keep me surfing for the Lord…”
“Give me beans for my burrito because God is really neat-o…”
“Give me hot sauce for my taco, I’ll go witness in Morocco…”

The list just goes on and on. My son was enamored at all these new verses that he didn’t stop singing all night. He also started making up verses of his own that were more nonsensical than anything else.  As we sang, he giggled and laughed as a child unencumbered by worry or fear. It was pure joy.

I imagine that it was not unlike the joy felt by ten virgins invited to a daytime wedding. The giddiness of preparation. The delight of dressing up in your wedding best.  The anticipation of the bridegroom’s arrival. The ecstasy of being chosen.

For a daytime wedding, all ten girls have exactly enough oil for their lamps. It’s the exact way most of us live our lives – focused on what is right in front of us – the demands of the moment, the next item on the to do list, the “tyranny of the urgent.” But in their slavery to the now, being caught up in the preliminaries, they end up missing the main event. In their effort to be sensible, they found themselves unprepared. I imagine it must have been inconvenient to lug around an extra bottle of oil. It probably didn’t fit into the small handbag that matched the brand new evening dress. I’m sure there were comments made: “You are always worried about what might go wrong,” “What are you, a boy scout?” But it was these girls, not caught up in the hustle and bustle of the to-do list, that made it into the party.

So, as I sang and played with my son, I realized that there were many things I needed to do that night.  There were sermons to be written, phone calls to be made, and emails to return. But such slavish devotion to the now would have meant that I was in danger of being left on the outside, looking in on a party that was already in full swing.

Rev. Steven Norris is Senior Pastor of Ecclesia Baptist Church in Fairview, NC. He is also an accomplished trombonist and performs on occasion with the Blue Ridge Orchestra.



  • November 1, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Now that’s excellent stuff right there dear Steven!

    Comment by Kelly Dotson

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