Sunday, November 23, 2008

Last Sunday Sermon

If I was at Trinity, Norman I would have said something about Sunday morning being a two hour commitment. . .

Last Sunday of the Church Year – Matt 25:1-13 – November 23rd

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Coming Lord +
There is a world of difference between being wise and being foolish, but it seems so easy to end up doing the foolish things in life. Come this Thursday afternoon, I wouldn’t be surprised if many people here, right now, aren’t thinking, “Boy, I shouldn’t have had that extra helping of potatoes, I shouldn’t have had that extra piece of pie.” I suppose that there are all sorts of foolish things that we could point out. . . some that aren’t that serious, I’m sure we could find some old pictures that might have you laughing at some hair styles you wore back in the day. . . but in our Gospel lesson today, it’s no silly matter, it’s more than just a bellyache or a bit of embarrassment. No – as we close out the Church year we close remembering that Christ will indeed come again – and if we aren’t foolish, we will be prepared.

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Again, the setting is one of joy. Christ’s return is likened unto a marriage feast, a party. In Christ’s day it wasn’t unusual for a wedding celebration to last a couple of days – so what do we see. 10 young girls, all getting ready to go to their first big party. It’s a good thing, a great thing, they are eager for it to start. There’s just one thing.

Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. Now, this was part of the duty of the young gals at the party – they had a job to do – they carried lamps. Provided light. Helped everything look neat and cool. A good thing. Except, if you are going to be providing light, you need to have fuel, you need to have something to burn. And 5 of the gals were foolish, they weren’t prepared.

As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. Again, this is quite understandable. Just watch a little kid on New Years’ Eve trying to stay up and not quite making it. As a matter of fact, any more I don’t make it up to watch a show on TV if it comes on too late. But at any rate all the gals fall asleep. And then – But at midnight there was a cry, “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” And the wake up call comes – the Bridegroom returns – and there’s a problem. The foolish can’t keep their lamps lit. They don’t have the fuel. So in a panic they beg, hey, you’ve got oil, let me have some! But – no dice. But the wise answered saying, “Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.” Can’t help you – the wise didn’t bring oil for everyone, they were prepared for themselves. And the wise say, “If you need oil, you’ve got to get it from the oil shop. Go find the dealer, he’ll sell you some. Hurry.” And off they go. But alas – And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward, the other virgins came also saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But he answered, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” They get left out. They miss it.

Watch, O Christian, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Christ here gives us a picture, a warning and admonishment to be prepared for the end times. For we are waiting for the end, just like those 10 virgins, we are waiting for Christ to return. And none of us are going to be expecting it when it happens, none of us will be looking to the sky counting down. . . 3. . . 2. . . 1. . . ah, He’s back, right on time. No, we all will be caught off guard, we all will be sleeping, as it were. And when Christ comes, there won’t be time for last minute preparations – He’s back, and it’s time to go. So we need to be prepared beforehand.

So, what does it mean to be prepared, as a Christian, for Christ’s coming? In the parable, the wise and foolish virgins had a lot in common. They both knew the bridegroom was coming, they both had their lamps, they both at first were eager, at least until their eyes grew heavy as they waited. The difference between the wise and the foolish boils down to one thing – oil. The wise had it, their lamps worked, they were prepared. The foolish didn’t, and their lamps sputtered and went out. So then the key to this entire parable is understanding what is the oil, what that oil is that will have us be prepared for our Lord’s Second coming.

The oil is the Word of God. You see, all the virgins knew that the Bridegroom was coming, it’s just, some weren’t prepared. This isn’t a parable about how some people heard and others didn’t. It’s a warning to us as Christians, to us as people of faith. We wait until the last day – we let our Gospel lights shine, as it were. But how do we keep our faith alive, how is our faith kept strong during the long days of our life? That is done by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. That’s the oil – hearing God’s Word preached – studying it, learning it, receiving it on your lips and tongue in the Supper. What God does through His Word in His Church is strengthen your faith, keeping you prepared for the Second Coming.

And some Christians aren’t wise – or at least they let folly rule their life. Other things become more important. Mom and dad aren’t there to make them go anymore – or the kids are out of the house so we don’t have to go and bring them. Work is hard so you just. . . need the rest on the weekend. Or of course, might be work to do in the fields. And it’s not a conscious decision, “I’ll never head to Church again,” – but rather, just a slow, drifting away. And I’m not saying this so that you folks here can simply sit and think, “Oh yeah, I know people like that. . . naughty, naughty!” No, this is a warning for us. Many good folks fall off the wagon – pastors can snap and fall off the wagon – I know of at least 1 of my classmates from the Seminary who has already. What we need to remember is that Satan will encourage every excuse in the book for you not to be at Church, for you not to be at bible study, for you to no longer desire Communion.

And know what Satan does. He always tries to distract you from the Word, from that oil that will have you ready for the last day. There have been times when you’ve been tempted to blow off Church – and do they have anything to do with the God’s Word? Maybe you are too busy. . . eh. . . make time. Maybe the kids are gone. . . eh. . . you need it too. Maybe other people in the Congregation are mean. . . yeah, but that’s not about the Word either. You see, this is how Satan tempts – he tries to twist your eyes off what is most important – the Preaching of the Word, the Lord’s Supper, studying God’s Word – on to other things – that while important, aren’t the center. Yes, if you are too busy, that is a problem – but cutting off God’s Word isn’t the right solution to that problem. Church might not give you the same warm feeling it did when the kids were sitting on your lap – but not going to Church won’t fix that. And yeah, the Church might be filled to the rafters with people who are mean, crude, angry, miserable sinners. Guess what – you’re one of them too, and you need the Word.

And so once again I call out the end of the Church Year plea. Be in the Word. This coming year – work on your attendance – get here more often, instead of once in a blue moon, come once in a moon. Instead of a couple of times a month, come a few times a month – come more often. Find a bible study and attend it – We’ve got Sunday morning, Tuesday Night, Wednesday Morning, once a month on Thursday afternoon – we’ve got e-mail devotions – and Sunday nights for the youth. And these studies aren’t torture; we have quite a bit of fun. Be in the Word. Advent is coming – we’ll have extra services here on Wednesday. You can do devotions at home with your family – that’s great too. But don’t push God off to the side – because when that happens, good habits get broken, and you can start pushing God ever more and more to the side, and you forget, and faith flickers and dies. Be in the Word. If you have questions – call and ask. If you want the Supper – call and ask. Be in the Word and keep your faith strong.

Because, dear friends, even as we talk about how we are to be prepared, how we have to be ready for Christ’s coming – what we remember is this. The reason we get to head to heaven is because Christ Jesus died for us. It’s all about what God has done for us – and the way in which God continues to work in us, the way in which God takes the benefit of Christ’s Death and Resurrection and applies it to us, fills our life with it, is through the Word. What I’m really saying is don’t cut yourself off from Christ – rather let Him fill you again and again with His love, with His forgiveness, with His life and strength. Let Him fill you with His Word. In that way, you will be prepared not only to face the trials of this life, but you will also be ready for the life to come. Amen.

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