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, 2014

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (A—Proper 27)

November 9, 2014
Text: Matt. 25:1-13

            Be ready.  For you do not know the day or the hour.  Christ, our heavenly Bridegroom could come at any time.  Any day could be the Last Day.  And even if the Lord Jesus delays His coming, any day could be the day you die.  Have a care for the future.  Do not be lulled into a false sense of security.  As so many in the world say (as they did in the days of St. Peter), “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4; ESV).  Do we not, for all practical purposes, say the same thing in our hearts?  Jesus is coming soon, we may admit, but He isn’t coming today, we think.  And probably most of us believe, deep down in our hearts, that Jesus will not come in our lifetime.  How easily we fall into spiritual sleepiness.  We begin to nod off.  We neglect our lamps.  The flame starts to flicker.  We do not watch so carefully for the appearing of the Lord Jesus.  That is why the end of the Church Year, with its emphasis on the Last Things, is so important for us.  Beloved, be attentive to the preaching.  Repent, lest that Day take you unawares.
            The 10 virgins were waiting for the Bridegroom.  They were there to meet Him with their lamps burning, to escort Him to the house with rejoicing, and go in with Him to the Marriage Feast.  Now, for the most part, there is no difference between the wise virgins, and the foolish.  All 10 were virgins.  All 10 were waiting with their lamps.  All 10 fell asleep when the Bridegroom was delayed.  There was only this one difference between the wise and the foolish.  And that is the oil.  Five were prepared for the future.  They brought extra oil for their lamps.  Five did not.  They were caught unprepared.  They were not ready.  Thus when the Bridegroom came, five had to go to the dealers to buy oil, and they missed His coming.  But five were ready, and they met Him with their lamps burning brightly, and they went in with Him to the Marriage Feast, where the door was securely shut behind them. 
            The parable is a picture of the holy Church of God on earth.  The virgins are the baptized members of the visible Church.  Remember, all 10 were virgins.  All 10 had been purified by the washing of water with the Word.  So the distinction to be made here is not between Christians and crass unbelievers.  Rather, the distinction is between Church members who believe in Christ alone for their righteousness and salvation, and hypocrites, those who say they are Christians and belong to the Church’s outward fellowship, but trust in something other than Jesus for their righteousness.  Perhaps they trust in their own good works, how they stack up against other people, their superior knowledge or talent, reason or wisdom, their being “basically a good person.”  Perhaps they think they are covered as long as they are on the congregation’s membership rolls.  It’s almost cliché how we talk about people we never see again after Confirmation Day, as if they’ve now graduated from Church, but as long as they have those Baptism and Confirmation certificates, that’s their “get out of hell free” card.  Don’t let this be you.  If it is you, repent!  That’s utter foolishness.  There are other ways to be foolish, too.  In fact, there are infinite ways to be foolish.  It is certainly possible to have perfect Church attendance and still be one of these foolish virgins, if you don’t believe the Word that is preached here.  Any way in which you reject Christ and His forgiveness and righteousness makes you one of the foolish virgins.  Examine yourself.  Repent.  Confess your sins.  And return to Christ as the only source and unfailing fountain of righteousness and life, Christ crucified, Christ risen and living, for you.
            The difference between the wise and the foolish is simply this: who has the oil, and who does not.  The oil is faith in Christ, poured out by the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Word and the holy Sacraments.  You received it first at Baptism.  That is why all ten are virgins!  They were all purified, forgiven of their sins.  They all had oil to begin with, and notice, it was given them by God.  And now you receive the oil in your every encounter with the Means of Grace, as the death and resurrection of Christ are applied to you, your sins are forgiven, and you receive His life as your own.  That means every time you hear the Word: the Scripture readings, the Absolution, the Sermon, the Liturgy, the Hymns; every time You receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Supper; every time you read and study Scripture at home, with your family, in Bible Study and Sunday School; every time you encounter the Lord’s Means of Grace, there the Holy Spirit is present and active to point you to Christ, there He pours the oil of faith into your lamp.  The wise virgins aren’t any less sinful than the foolish.  But they have the oil.  They receive it in abundance at the Divine Service.  The Holy Spirit pipes it into them in the Word and the Sacraments. 
            Now, it is interesting that all 10 virgins fall asleep waiting for the Bridegroom.  So all members of the Church fall asleep.  This could mean a couple of different things, both true.  It could mean that all of us get distracted by the affairs of this world, the stuff of this life, to one degree or another, and thus fail to watch diligently for the coming of the Bridegroom.  This would be that false sense of security and spiritual sleepiness we were speaking of a few moments ago; really, denial of the possibility that Christ could come at any moment.  Again, we have to watch that as Christians, by constant self-examination, repentance, and confession.  Or, it could mean death.  All of them die.  And when the Bridegroom comes they are awakened.  They rise.  Remember, on the Last Day, everybody rises from the dead, believers and unbelievers.  Believers rise to eternal life with Jesus in a new heaven and a new earth.  Unbelievers rise to eternal death in hell.  But everyone is awakened from the grave and raised up in their bodies.  In any case, when that Day comes, those who have the oil of faith cannot share with those who do not.  You cannot believe for someone else.  Each one of you must believe for yourself.  And on that Day it is too late to do anything about your oil supply.  There are no second chances to believe on that Day.  Those who believe go in with Bridegroom to the Marriage Feast, and the door is shut.  Those who do not believe stand at the door and wail, “Lord, lord, open to us” (Matt. 25:11).  But for them He has these chilling words: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (v. 12).       
            “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (v. 13).  How do you become wise?  How do you stay ready?  You abide in Christ.  For by virtue of your Baptism, “you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).  And by virtue of His Word in your ears and His crucified and risen Body and Blood on your tongue and coursing through your veins, you remain in Christ Jesus, remain in your Baptism your whole life long, through the valley of the shadow of death, and on to heaven and the resurrection of your body for eternity with Jesus.  You abide in Christ in connection with His Means of Grace where the Holy Spirit pours the oil of faith into you.  And thus possessing this God-given oil, your lamp burns brightly with works of love.  Faith always produces good fruit.  As Jesus says, “          I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

            Abide in Christ, beloved.  For the Day is coming when He will appear, when He will descend with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, with the sound of the trumpet of God.  Then the dead will arise, the books will be opened, and the wise who believed in Christ will receive eternal life, but the foolish who did not have oil, who did not believe in Christ, will be sentenced to eternal death.  And we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together in the clouds with those who have arisen, to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will always be with the Lord (Cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18).  The Bridegroom is coming.  He is coming soon.  Today the Holy Spirit pours out His oil upon you.  In the faith of Christ, you watch and you pray: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).  You are ready.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

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