Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sermon: Last Sunday - 2010

21 November 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 25:1-13 (Isa 65:17-25, 1 Thess 5:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Our Lord has much to teach us in his Parable of the Ten Virgins.

The difference between the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins has nothing to do with intelligence. We know nothing about their IQs or the ability of the girls in our Lord’s story to calculate math formulas or to wax eloquently about philosophy.

The difference between the two groups has nothing to do with wealth, race, age, or being from the “right” families, schools, or social circles. We don’t even know whether or not the girls are morally upright if they have a bad reputation. We know nothing of their past. In fact, other than their state of wisdom and folly, we don’t know much about them at all.

All that our Lord says is that “Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.”

Using the foil of a tale of a wedding feast, our Lord teaches us about the necessity of wisdom in matters of “the kingdom of heaven” – especially when it concerns the end times and the Lord’s return. He teaches us the terrible consequences of spiritual foolishness. He implores us to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” of His glorious return and the end of the age.

For the Kingdom of God is open to all, but not all enter it. The Kingdom of God offers universal forgiveness, but not all receive it. The Kingdom of God is eternal, but not all find it in time.

Dear brothers and sisters, time is fleeting. It gets shorter every hour, every day, every year, and every century. We are in the last days. And “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” On that final day, it will not matter how much you know about the Bible – it will matter whether you believe it. It will not matter how many sins you have committed – it will matter if you have received forgiveness. It will not matter if you have everything you want in this life – it will matter whether you have all that you need for eternity.

All that has ever mattered, matters now, and will matter for eternity is whether or not we are prepared like the wise virgins in our Blessed Lord’s parable.

The wise virgins, the “children of light,” the ones who do not doze their way through this life spiritually snoring and dreaming of fantasies and worldly gain, the ones who are instead soberly vigilant and prepared, they will hear the cry: “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” They will experience the “marriage feast” and will see with their own eyes and no other, the “new heavens and a new earth,” they shall “be glad and rejoice forever,” without weeping, without death, without anxiety, pain, hunger, or fear. They shall see the wonder of the wolf and the lamb grazing together as God intended from the beginning of creation, a world without predator and prey, but rather peaceful perfection.

The foolish maidens, by contrast, those who prefer the cover of darkness, those with the self-delusion of “peace and security,” they who squander their opportunity to prepare for the Kingdom of Heaven, opting instead for idleness and procrastination and a preoccupation with the temporary kingdom of this fallen world, they will instead see a closed door and hear the tragic words: “I do not know you” echoing through their consciousness for eternity.

And we who continue to wait and struggle in this fallen, temporal, sin-soaked and corruption-laden existence do not know when the Lord will return to rescue us from this body of death.

And so we must wait.

But, dear friends, we need not wait with trepidation and fear, in anxiety and doubt, ill-prepared and wasting our time. For our Lord has not abandoned us. He is not leaving us to find our own way. He came into our world to save sinners, to shed His blood in place of ours, to win salvation for us, and save us, to prepare us for the new heaven and new earth, to escort us to the heavenly realms - not on the illusion of our works (which would be a delusion of the foolish virgins) but rather literally borne by the wings of angels, under the protection of the Lord’s grace and mercy (which is the very preparation of the wise virgins).

He has prepared us by His atoning cross, through His glorious resurrection, and by means of His creation-bearing Word – even giving us unworthy sinners a peek into the wedding feast itself in participation in the Holy Sacrament, preparing us with the forgiveness of sins and the bolstering of our faith.

For once again, your preparation to enter the Kingdom of Heaven does not lie in impressing others with your knowledge of the Bible, your sterling reputation, your ability to wow others with your personality, your piety, your fame, your fortune, nor the names you can drop. For many a foolish virgin will rely on such ultimately shallow things and will be shocked to find the door slammed shut. No, dear brothers and sisters, our preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom is elsewhere, and thanks be to God that it is!

Our preparation is found in the oil of forgiveness and the trimmed lamp of faith. Our wisdom is in being dependent not on what we can do and what we know, but rather on what Jesus has done and upon what we believe. Many times our Lord told people: “Your faith has made you well.”

The difference between the wise and foolish virgins is this, dear friends: faith. Intellect says that Jesus died on the cross (even the demons say the same and shudder), but faith adds this confession that makes all the difference: “Jesus died on the cross… for the forgiveness of my sins.” Logic says, “Good people go to heaven, and Satan is eager to say the same thing. But faith reminds us that Jesus is the source of all goodness and is the judge of who is good – and this righteousness is His and it is given to us as a gift.

And if you are afraid, take comfort. As the Psalmist says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It is the wise person, not the foolish one, who cares about eternity and considers the return of the Bridegroom. The wise think on these things and trust Jesus. The foolish do not give such matters any thought.

Those who are wise, who hear the Word of God, who take it to heart, who repent, who confess, who receive the gifts, who cling to the promise with all of Christ’s might – they are the wise virgins, and they can look forward to the return of the Bridegroom with anticipation and with joy, marking the passing of each minute, each day, each year – content that we are just that much closer to the great feast that will never end, confident that we are well-prepared and filled with thanksgiving for what has been given us in faith.

Go in peace, wisely putting your trust in Christ, being prepared to meet the Bridegroom upon His imminent return. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

chaplain7904 said...

Easier to apologize than ask permission. I stole your Mt. 25 sermon, spread it to my people, and put it in the file for 2012 when I will preach on gospels again. Thanks for the labor saving device.