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lights at midnight

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins [all eligible brides to be] who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them..... At midnight there was a cry, “Here is the bridegroom! Go out to meet him.....”          Matthew 25: 1-6

If there is anything that cannot escape being in the news every day it is oil. Oil is energy. Oil is transport. Oil is plastics. Oil is electricity. Oil is light in the darkness.


But was oil as important in AD 32 (approximately) when Jesus of Nazareth spoke the words in bold above in Jerusalem? Yes, only more so. The oil was olive oil. Olive trees were widespread throughout the Middle East, every corner had one. Olives were food. Olive oil was a balm, a medicine. Olive oil was light at midnight. In short, oil = energy.


Jersey needs energy. A States Survey into the total supply of energy into Jersey in 2008 showed 69% imported as oil with 31% imported as electricity by cable from France.


What is “energy”. Energy is intangible. So difficult is it to measure energy that, in order to speak and write about it a new term has had to be brought into play. The term is “toe”.  If anyone asks how many toes Jersey uses, the answer will not be 90,000X10 (ten toes per person) but 184,000 tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) per annum (2008). All of this is imported.


What happens if the lights go out in Jersey because there’s no oil (and no electricity)? This vital question is on the agenda of the Planning and Environment Minister in order to secure “an affordable and sustainable energy supply”. And it isn’t easy. One fear that haunts all governments is the absence of an accelerator in most areas of political activity. To apply brakes on things is relatively easy. But what do you do when there’s no energy to do the thing you want done? How do you force people to supply goods or services if no one wants to do so?


The impact of such a problem (if it arose) is much reduced by storing oil at all times in the island at La Colette. Ready to light the lamps, to provide energy at “midnight”.


When Jesus (above) was speaking about these ten eligible-to-be-brides having lamps that were oil-fuelled, he was using parallelism. And the parallel fits with Jersey’s strategy of storing oil for the midnight hour. These virgins needed to ensure that they personally had oil for a midnight scenario. Was Jesus referring to a store of energy towards God – or light from God in them, ready even in the darkness?


They were all awaiting the coming of the bridegroom. They all had oil lamps but only some had oil. A few sentences earlier, Jesus had been telling folk that the day and hour of his return were unknown – even to him, the Son of God – but known to his Father only. And now Jesus is painting a picture of his possible return at midnight – in the darkness of night time.


50% of these eligible-brides-to-be had lamps but no oil. So when the cry went out at midnight they tried to borrow oil, so as not to miss the bridegroom. Those with the flasks of oil had only enough for themselves and suggested buying from the oil traders - but Shell, Esso and Total are closed at midnight........


Eventually the five “foolish” eligible-brides-to-be returned. The door to the marriage breakfast was shut and, when these five made themselves heard, the bridegroom said, “Honestly, I have to say to you, I don’t know you.”


One thing is absolutely certain – the bridegroom knew the eligible-brides-to-be who had the oil – he knew those who lit it to give out its light.


And he didn’t know the others, even in daylight. No energy towards God, no light = none forever. There’s still time for a personal La Collette.

‘In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’(John’s Biography of Jesus Christ – opening sentences)
‘And this is the judgment:   the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.’ (John’s Biography of Jesus Christ – Jesus teaching)
Richard Syvret

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