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081109 - Matthew 25.1-13

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26th Sunday after Pentecost                Sermon Text: Matthew 25:1-13

Let us pray: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

            As we approach the end of the Church Year, the lessons for these last Sundays deal with the second advent – the second coming of Christ our Lord. And so we hear the Word of the Lord, and look for the day when He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead. We wait.  

Waiting can be about the hardest thing to do, isn’t that so? Have you ever been told to do something in a certain amount of time? There are two types of people – the first do what they are told to do right away, so they know it’s done. They can wait in confidence because they have what needs to be done, done. These people, at least in my small experience, are few and far between. Most people, myself included, fall into the second category – those who wait until the last second to get what is to be done accomplished. They have a term for this type of person – he or she is a “procrastinator.”

            Do you remember when you were young, and your parents told you to clean up your room? Perhaps your parents told you they would be back in a half an hour to check to see if you had your room cleaned. To a kid, a half an hour is quite a long time. Especially in one’s room with one’s toys that occupy one’s mind so completely. Maybe you were the child who diligently did as your parents commanded, and promptly cleaned your room. So when your parents came to check on you, your room was spotless. If, however, you were like me, that half hour was spent playing with one toy or another, perhaps a crayon and a piece of paper haphazardly found its way to the forefront of the disaster I called my room. It would be a shame not to put them to good use with the time I had. So when my parents came back in the allotted time, they found my room still in shambles. There would be repercussions; sometimes my parents would help me clean my room, but as I got older, the repercussions were that my toys would be taken away as they cleaned. They did such things so that I would learn to keep track of time – to learn to be prepared, not just sometimes, but at all times. Unfortunately for me, the lessons did not stick, and I still find myself racing against the clock to get projects done. I still procrastinate.

            Yes, waiting can be the hardest thing to do. Again, I would bring to mind the days of your childhood, and perhaps this is still relevant to you even to this day. Remember when you would see all those Christmas presents under the tree – some big, some small, all the different shapes and different weights, some would rattle, while others remained silent to your shaking. The waiting to open those presents and find out what you had gotten…

            That is not the only time we may find waiting to be difficult. All throughout our lives, it seems as if we are waiting. Waiting to “grow up” can be torture on us during childhood. Waiting to hear if we got the job we applied for; can have us sitting on the proverbial “pins and needles.” When in a doctor’s office, in the waiting room, waiting, time seems to creep by. Or perhaps if you were in the hospital to have a procedure done, waiting for the nurses to come and get you and wheel you and the gurney to the operating room can wreak havoc upon one’s nerves. What about the waiting we are experiencing now? We of the Church militant, we are waiting in anticipation for Christ to come and bring an end to this sinful world. As we will shortly confess in the Nicene Creed, “He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” Yes it seems our lives are full of waiting, and oh, how waiting can be the hardest thing.

            In this parable, Jesus speaks of those within the Church. The foolish virgins are not, as some suggest, the unconverted. For all ten of the virgins are invited to the wedding feast. If the foolish were not morons, for that is the Greek word used to describe them, they too would have entered the bride’s house, and thereafter been a part of the procession that would go to the groom’s house where the marriage feast would be held. No, dear Christian friends, do not let the tempter trick you into believing that these foolish virgins are not members within the body of Christ, for they have been invited to the feast.

            With that in mind, let us, for a moment, focus our attention on who then would be numbered among the foolish virgins. In order to do so, we must first examine what makes the foolish virgins foolish. Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, “Oh vicar, that’s easy, they are foolish because they didn’t bring enough oil for their lamps.” I ask you; however, does that really make these virgins foolish? These women, friends of the bride, believe they do not have enough oil, and as such, that is why they are described here as morons? Consider; would not the bridegroom have come even if they had no oil? Would he have turned away from his bride based on this? If the bridegroom was an ordinary man, it is true that he might have gotten lost on his way to the bride’s home, for traditionally among the Jews, a bridegroom and his friends traveled at evening to his bride’s home where he was met by her friends who carried lamps. The whole party would then set off from the bride’s home to the house of the groom where the marriage feast would go on for a week-long. But remember, this is not an ordinary man in this parable. This Bridegroom is the Son of God, on His way to claim His bride, the Church. Jesus is the author and the subject matter in all of the parables He teaches. In fact, Jesus is the author and subject of all of Scripture. For as St. John begins his gospel account: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2). And so, whether half of the virgins waiting for his arrival were running out of oil or not, the bridegroom does come. Do you suppose then, that their invitation would have been canceled if when he arrived, he saw that five of the ten virgins were running out of oil? While the parable does not explicitly say so, I think not. Rather, I suspect what makes these virgins the foolish ones is the fact that they leave. They run out to seek more oil. They knew he was coming, for they had heard the cry that he was approaching. Instead of staying, however, and greeting the bridegroom, begging his forgiveness that they are short on oil, they rush off trying to accomplish something at the last minute, to their eternal detriment.

            Yes, dear Christian friends, waiting is a hard thing to do. We get antsy and oftentimes misjudge the time we have to accomplish the tasks set before us. Some people are always running late because of this or because of that. These virgins worried that they had not enough oil, and so they run to obtain more and because they run, when they return it is late – too late. If only these morons would have stayed, dwindling oil supply or not. If they had stayed as the wise virgins did, I suspect, they too would have gone in with the bridegroom.

            So we too, are like these foolish virgins. Waiting for our Lord, the Bridegroom of the Church to come again – His second advent, we get sidetracked. We fall into complacency. There are times when we think that He is never coming back, at least not in my lifetime, and so I need not be watchful. We may say something like, “I have time to ‘get right with God’ as it were.” We scoff at, or at least put in the back of our minds our Lord’s solemn warning at the end of this parable: Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. The third commandment and its explanation mean little or nothing to us. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” You and I turn away from the gifts God so graciously and mercifully offers to us.

            We might say to ourselves, “Oh, it’s only church. I worked hard this week and I’m tired. What harm is there in missing now and again?” Or perhaps we might think, “I know God will forgive me, so I can keep on sinning. It will be OK.” Or possibly, “You know I wanted to get baptized, but I just haven’t found the time yet.” Or perhaps, “Pastor and vicar must have gotten their wires crossed, I don’t need the Lord’s Supper this week, I had it last week, and I heard on the grape-vine that we are going to be having it a lot this coming month.” We take for granted that which our Lord provides for us, we get weary of waiting for His coming, and we grow lax and complacent.

            And so, when the Day of Judgment is at hand, and the Bridegroom cometh for His bride, there will be those who believe in Him who will scurry off and try and obtain more of what He has given so that they will be prepared. These believing members in Christ will realize that the gifts God so graciously has given to us over and over, throughout the ages, were for our benefit. There will be those who feel the need to be prepared, but have put off preparing until it was late – too late.

             Repent. Repent of such complacency. Turn away from thinking that you have all the time in the world to receive the gifts God has given to you. Drown such sinful thoughts, words and deeds that would keep you from that great and glorious ongoing wedding feast. Repent, and heed the words of our Lord concerning His triumphal return: Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

            Yes dear Christian friends, repent. And rejoice. For if Christ had not come to save such wretched souls as us, we would not know of His warning. We would be worse than those moronic virgins in the parable, for we would never have known nor had hope of salvation, only condemnation would await us. Rejoice that this parable pertains to us, members of the body of Christ. You, as a member of the Church – Christ’s bride, have heard this beautiful warning, and through the faith Christ has given to you, are able to heed His warning.

            Rejoice in the forgiveness of all of your trespasses; like the psalmist, sing unto God:  For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me (Psalm 86:5-7).  Delight in the words of Christ: I know my own and my own know me (John 10:14), for you have been marked as one of His own in the waters of baptism; so that even death and the grave shall not separate you from God. As St. Paul states: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Rom 6:5). Savor the Savior as He freely gives of Himself His body and blood here. His one-time sacrifice upon that ole’ rugged cross ensured our salvation. As the writer of Hebrews proclaims: we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10).

            Rejoice that our Father in Heaven and His son, our Savior sent us the Holy Spirit. For without the Holy Spirit, we would not by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, or come to Him. Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit Has been sent, for it is He who has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and keeps us in the true faith in Christ Jesus.

            Waiting may be a hard thing for us to do, yet Our Father, who sent His son to die for us, who sends the Spirit to guide and keep us in the true faith, knows that waiting is difficult for us. He therefore reminds us of His grace by setting before us a foretaste of the feast to come, the feast of forgiveness, life, and salvation, purchased by His son upon the cross. Come therefore and celebrate in His boundless grace, wait no more, for here at the table the Bridegroom has come, He is truly with us. Amen.

And now the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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