Last Sunday of the Church Year – Matthew 25:1-13 – Nov. 21st, 2010
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Who doesn’t like a wedding? This week, I myself will be going to and performing a wedding for a friend in Wisconsin the day after thanksgiving, and even though it means I’m going to have to fly into O’Hare Airport in Chicago on Thanksgiving day and deal with that madhouse, even though I’m going to have drive a strange rental car through who knows what sort of weather in Wisconsin, even though I’ll probably end up having fast food on Thursday while you guys can enjoy Turkey and pie here that I cooked – still looking forward to it. Weddings are a good thing, they are the biblical image of joy and celebration and love and hope. And what do we see in today Gospel lesson? We see the return of Christ Jesus, we see the Last Day compared to a wedding.
With this comparison, our Lord reminds us of something simple. His return, His 2nd Coming is a good thing, it is something that we should with all eagerness look forward to – it something we should view like high school girls getting ready to go to prom, or kids on Christmas morning. And yet, so often the thoughts of Christ’s Return, of the end of the world treat it like a day of dread. For you who are here, right now, for you who come to this place to hear the Word of God proclaimed, to have your sins forgiven, to partake of our Lord’s Body and Blood in His Supper – the end will not be a day of dread, but rather of joy and wonderment. That is what our Lord teaches you with this parable today.
“Then the Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.” So, our Lord describes for us an old fashioned, 1st Century Fancy Jewish wedding. And the people, out side of the bride and groom, who would be most eager for the wedding would be the virgins – the young women who were now considered old enough to go to an adult function, who were now grown up, and perhaps ready for a wedding of their own, and would be in a place where they might draw the eye of a nice single man. And what would happen is as the wedding began, the young women would flank the groom, because the groom is the one who did the processing back in the day, and they would carry the lamps, the lights, and all eyes would turn to the groom, and the single guys would see the young gals. Do you see why this would be something to look forward to?
“Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish ones took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.” However, our ten virgins do not all prepare for the wedding and festivity properly. While they all know that they are going to carry lamps, that they are going to be providing light, alas, only 5 are wise and prepared. The other 5 are “foolish”. I laugh every time I read this in Greek, because the Greek word for foolish here is “moron”. And wherever you see “foolish” or “foolish ones” – it reads, “the morons.” Sometimes I think we should have used that word. What they do is utterly foolish, utterly moronic. It would be like planning to go on a road trip, but not having any gas. It would be like hosting a dinner but not buying any food. If your job, your reason to come into the wedding is to bring light, you need fuel for your lamp. It’s almost like asking someone to borrow a flashlight and they bring you one without any batteries – what are you thinking! But, that’s the point, they aren’t really. And it’s going to come back to bite them.
“As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.” Now, we aren’t making a comparison here between the foolish and the perfect – they all fall asleep. Wise and foolish alike – they are brimming with teenaged nervous energy, bouncing all over the place – and then, things slow down a bit, and they all fall asleep. Completely understandable. But then we hear this: “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 then it is go time – the groom is coming, he’s on his way, we are going to get this show on the road – and so the gals all wake up and get their lamps ready. But – “the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 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.’” So, are the wise virgins just being mean here? No – they are being wise. This is a party that will last through the night, and I have to have enough oil to last through the night. If I give you oil, we’ll both cut out early, and that will be highly embarrassing for both of us. Go get your oil like you were supposed to in the first place. So the moronic virgins run off in a huff, and then – “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.” And while the moronic virgins are off running to buy, the groom shows up, the party starts, and they are locked out. They miss the boat. And they don’t get in.
So, what does this mean? In this parable, there is really only one point of separation between the wise and the foolish. They both have lamps – they both know that there is a bridegroom coming. They all fall asleep, wise and foolish alike. They all know how lamps work – the foolish know that they need oil, they even ask for some at the end. But the thing that really separates the wise from the foolish here is one thing and one thing only – the wise make sure that they have oil, and the foolish don’t care until it is too late.
Now, consider yourself. You know who the Bridegroom is – You know Christ Jesus. You know the salvation that He has won, you can all tell me what happened on Good Friday, what happened on Easter. You’ve got your lamp. You even have a tendency to be drowsy, to not always be as eager for doing good as you ought. This really becomes a question of preparation – of your oil.
What is it that keeps you as a Christian focused upon Christ, ready for His return, prepared to face Judgment Day and the life of the world to come? What is this oil that fuels your faith, that keeps your eyes upon Christ Jesus? It is the Word of God, it is the preaching of God’s Word, it is our Lord’s Most Holy Supper, it is being given Christ’s own forgiveness over and over and over so that you are always full, always ready for His return. As Lutherans we have a catch phrase for this – “Word and Sacrament” – that these are the means by which you receive Grace, receive forgiveness, by which you are constantly forgiven and renewed and kept strong in your faith, that it is a living faith, overflowing with Christ’s love, that it is vibrant and shines even in the darkness night. You enter heaven by virtue of forgiveness, won by Christ upon the Cross.
And what can happen? In our foolish, moronic love of the world, we can be tempted to say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all about that Jesus stuff,” and blow Christ off. Put Him and His forgiveness to the side. And we dry up, and our faith dissipates. Faith isn’t simply knowing of Jesus, faith isn’t book knowledge, but it is a trust and love of Him, a trust in His salvation. And if you ignore Him, if you constantly blow off Church or Bible study, blow off our Lord Himself by ignoring Him when He physically comes to you in His Supper – what do you think is going to happen to your faith? If you stop eating and drinking, you die. If you put no gas in your car, it runs out. If you cut yourself off from the Word of God, from the Communion of Saints, what do you think will happen to you?
Now, today also happens to be our Stewardship Sunday, and you may have noticed that the pledges this year are different. They don’t mention cash at all. You know, we have this famous phrase about stewardship being the wise management of our time, our talents, and our treasure. That’s a good grouping – but most of the time we jump right to treasure, or maybe to talent if we need some stuff done – by the by, my thanks to all who helped with the cleaning last week – I have appreciated it greatly this week. This Sunday – look at time. Are you being wise with your time? And I’m not going to lay some guilt trip on you – I can if you really want me too, but I don’t like that. Rather, be wise, and with wisdom examine yourself. How much of your time to do dedicate to being gathered together with other Christians and being built up in your faith? We have service every Sunday – it shouldn’t surprise any of you, in fact a full quarter of the year we have some midweek service, be it Thanksgiving, or Lent, or Advent. We have them the next 6 weeks, in fact. We have at least 3 different bible studies each week – Sunday morning, Tuesday night, Wednesday morning – once a month on Thursday afternoon – and if we need another one, let me know, I’ll be glad to teach. You have ample opportunity to be in God’s Word – and I urge you not to let this go to waste. So, in your pledge card, after considering this, you will get to say how much time a week you will spend at Church, not working, not doing this or that, but simply being gathered with other Christians around the Word of God so that your faith might be built up and strengthened. And I would encourage each of you to set as a goal at least 2 hours a week. That’s not that much time – hit Church, hit one of the bible studies. And it’s less time than you probably spend with your favorite two or three TV shows. Or if you have been lax in attendance, if you’ve been a once a monther in attendance – try and get it up to 2 or 3 times a month at least – increase, improve, be in the Word more.
And again, I urge this not because if you come more you’ll be a better and nicer person. You might, I certainly hope so – but that’s not my main concern. My concern is this. You live your life in a world that is harsh, that is rough, that is demanding – and it is a world that will try to convince you to be harsh, rough, and demanding as well. It is a world that will try to destroy your faith. And in contrast to the world, in this place you will hear something entirely different. You will hear God’s Word speaking forgiveness and salvation to you, You will hear Christ Jesus say to you, “Take and Eat, this is My Body, take and drink, this is My Blood” so that you might be filled with forgiveness and love and thus strengthened and enabled to be prepared for our Lord’s Coming. God does not want your faith to wither and die, and so He has given you His Church so that you might come and be filled with Him, with His Love, with His Forgiveness – that you might be made wise unto salvation and life everlasting. Until He comes again on the Last Day, come to this place, and often, so that you will be found ready to meet Him, so that you never forget His love for you. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +