Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sermon for the Last Sunday of the Church Year

Last Sunday – November 25th and 26th, 2017 – Matthew 25:1-13

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Who doesn’t like a wedding? At least a wedding of people you like and where there's going to be a great reception. A good wedding is really a good party, a good chance to rejoice and enjoy God's blessings. In the Scriptures, weddings are always 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 a day 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, besides 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 all decked out and pretty. 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, is 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 to 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 teen-aged 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 both fall asleep, wise and foolish alike. They both 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 few catch phrases for this – “Word and Sacrament” - or “means of grace” – 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, so that it is a living faith, overflowing with Christ’s love, so 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?

Here I would like to remind you of all the opportunities Trinity provides you to be in the Word. We have service both on Saturday and Sunday – and there's bible study on both of those days too. If you're going to be traveling for vacation, let me know and I'll help find a church in the area for you – chances are I might even know the pastor. There's plenty of time to be at worship. And then there are other studies during the week – Monday morning I send out an e-mail devotional. If you want to be added to the list, shoot me an e-mail. Tuesday we have a study at 2pm that goes over the readings – it's a lot of fun. The first and third Tuesday nights we have a men's study – the women have the Hannah Circle the 3rd Monday of the month and Martha circle as well. We have bells and choir on Wendesday, which is a great time of fellowship, a great time of music and the Word. I even record a podcast for Higher Things that is basically 40 minute bible study, and if you want more on-line resources I can point you to them. You have every opportunity to be in the Word of God, to let the Word of God dwell in you richly. And you have – but I'm reminding you today to be intentional about it, to be focused upon it. Because the danger we have is to take things for granted, to skip opportunities and push them off – I'll do that later. And that's when we wither. That's when we act the fool, act the moron. That's when we ignore the reality that we are sinners who need Christ Jesus' forgiveness – ignore that Jesus brings His forgiveness to us again and again.

My friends, see all that Christ has done. See how richly He forgives you, see how often He comes to you in His Word, in His Supper, over and and over so that you are ready for when He comes again. Because it will be a good thing; not just the party to end all parties, but the eternal party, the feast that will have no end. Christ prepares you for this with His Word of forgiveness and life. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

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