Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
November 9, 2008
Text: Matt. 25:1-13

Beloved in the Lord, these final three Sundays of the Church Year we turn our attention to the coming of the Lord as Judge, to the Last things, and to the need of the disciples of Jesus Christ to watch. “Watch therefore,” says Jesus, “for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13; ESV). The Son of Man will return when we least expect Him, “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). Therefore Christians take heed. Watch. Be sober and alert. And let not the Lord’s delay, a delay of grace for the sake of those who will yet come to faith in Him, let not that delay lull you into a false sense of security. For be assured, He will return. And you don’t want to be caught without faith on that day. You don’t want to be caught having thought, “Oh, there is still time to believe later. I will repent later. I will make time for the Word of God and His holy Sacraments later. For now, I will enjoy myself and take time for the pleasures and cares of this world.” For if you go on thinking like that, the Lord’s coming will take you unawares. And then there will not be time to repent. There will not be time for coming to faith. The Word and the Sacraments will have been fulfilled. There will be no more chances. The end will have come. Watch therefore, dear Christians, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

For this reason, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins. And Christians need to take particular warning from this parable, for the whole parable is about the Baptized. There are no obvious unbelievers in this parable. We often mistakenly take the five foolish virgins to be rank unbelievers. But notice that all ten are virgins. That is to say, all ten are outwardly righteous. They are undoubtedly, all ten of them, members of the Christian congregation, in good standing. They have good works, at least before the eyes of men. They appear to believe. All ten go out with their lamps burning to meet the coming Bridegroom, which is to say, all ten appear to be awaiting the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And undoubtedly, at least at one time or another, all ten had genuine Christian faith. At this point there is no recognizable difference between the five foolish virgins and the five wise virgins. They all appear to be zealous for the Lord.

And there is yet one more important similarity between the five foolish virgins and the five wise virgins. When the Bridegroom delays, all ten virgins, wise and foolish alike, fall asleep. So whatever the distinction between wise and foolish may be, it is not that the wise are better than the foolish, more vigilant, less sinful. For they all fall into the sleep of sin. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The parable just goes to prove it. The Bridegroom has promised to come soon. Where is He? Why does He delay? Maybe He isn’t coming as soon as He said He would. Maybe He isn’t really coming at all. So the virgins are lulled into a false sense of security. He hasn’t come for the last four hours. Surely He will not come this hour either. All ten virgins begin to get sleepy. They yawn. They stretch. Their eyelids become heavy. And before you know it, all ten are asleep. Isn’t this a picture of you and of me? Do you live your life with the honest expectation that Jesus may return at any moment? Admit it, His delay causes you to lower your guard, as well. You really don’t expect Him. Not today. Maybe not even in your lifetime. You are lulled into a false sense of security. There is always time to repent later, you think. I will set my spiritual affairs in order later. You fail to watch. You get spiritually sleepy, and before you know it, you are right there with the ten virgins, snoring away in your false security.

Suddenly, you are awoken by the sound of a festive procession. The Bridegroom is coming. He is here. Get up! Light your lamps! The time you thought would never come, has come! “‘Wake, awake, for night is flying,’ The watchmen on the heights are crying; ‘Awake, Jerusalem, arise!’” (LSB 516:1). When the Bridegroom arrives in the parable, the lamps of all ten virgins are dead or dying. And here, finally, is the difference between the wise and foolish virgins. The wise have brought extra oil. Somehow, by grace, they didn’t lose faith in the long night of expectation. Somehow, by grace, they believed that though He delay, the Bridegroom really would come. Even though they fell asleep, even though they sinned, they knew that the Bridegroom would come and wake them and take them to the wedding feast. He would do this, though they did not deserve it. He would do it by grace. He would forgive them. He would deliver them out of the darkness of night. The wise virgins were well supplied with the oil of faith. But the five foolish virgins brought no extra oil. They didn’t really believe the Bridegroom would come. They foolishly left their lamps burning through the night, having no oil to spare. They thought there would be plenty of time to go into the city and buy oil later, in the day time, that for now they could sleep. And when the Bridegroom finally appeared, they were caught without oil, without faith. “Give us some of your oil,” they said to the wise virgins, “for our lamps are going out” (Matt. 25:8). But the oil cannot be shared. There is only enough oil for the one who brought it. Each must believe for himself. The foolish virgins must go and buy oil for themselves. But while they are gone, the Bridegroom takes the five wise virgins into the wedding feast and shuts the door. This door, once shut, is never again opened. Cry as they might, “Lord, lord, open to us” (v. 11), the foolish virgins are left out in the cold. Even though they had been outwardly righteous, even though they had been members of the visible Church in good standing, they had no faith, and the Bridegroom pronounces the chilling judgment, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (v. 12). Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Beloved, repent. Wake up. Arise. Wipe the sleep out of your eyes. Trim your lamps. For your Lord is coming. He is coming soon. Whether it be a thousand years from now, or ten minutes from now, the Lord is coming very soon. And even if He does not come in your lifetime, no man knows when or how his life will end. Whether the Lord returns in your lifetime or not, you must be ready now. Repent now. Believe now. Don’t expect that there is time later. Take warning from the foolish virgins. But also take comfort from the wise virgins. For they, too, were sinful. They, too, fell asleep. They are just like you. But they believed, anyway, that the Bridegroom is gracious. And gracious He is. He loves you. He died for you. He died for you on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins, even the sin of spiritual sleepiness. He is risen, and gives you His very own righteousness. He Himself grants you oil. He pours out His Holy Spirit, His grace, His faith upon you. He names you with His Name in Baptism, washes away your sins, and makes you God’s own child. He gives you the food of His own righteousness in the Supper of His body and blood. He sustains you with His holy Word. By means of these gifts He keeps you for the Day of His coming.

And what a Day it will be. St. Paul describes it in our epistle lesson (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Since Jesus died and rose again, He will raise those who have died, who have fallen asleep in Him, to eternal life. On that Day the Lord Himself will descend from heaven as the apostles saw Him go, on a cloud, with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, with the sound of the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ will rise first. And then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. What a joyful reunion it will be. And so we will always be with the Lord.

So we see it is vanity to live this earthly life as if this is all that matters. So also it is vanity to live this earthly life as if there is an endless amount of time to repent and believe the Gospel. For the time is short, and in truth, the greater reality is that which will be revealed on the Last Day when our Lord Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom appears. Beloved, “What a glorious future you have! What joy awaits you. Be eager in Christ for the end is drawing near. Watch in prayer, with His Body and Blood upon your lips and His holy Word ringing in your ears. Stand innocent in His death, full of repentant joy and expectation. The Lord returns. He beckons you to the company of saints. His Word is true.”[1] You do not know the day or hour. But you know He is coming. And that is enough for you. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The Rev. David H. Petersen, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, IN, http://redeemer-fortwayne.org/displaySermon.php?sermon=115.

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