Trinity 27 2003

Trinity 27
Last Sunday of the Church Year
Matthew 25:1-13

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

The ten virgins all look the same. In weakness, they all fell asleep. This is not a parable about good works. None of the virgins was perfect. The thing that separates them is wisdom. This is a parable about faith. The foolish virgins had burned up their oil, exhausted their faith. Somehow, during the wait, their oil had been consumed for something other than the coming Bridegroom. They figured if He was coming at all, they’d have time to make up for their sins, time to prepare. He came unexpectedly. They were shut out. There was no time for deathbed repentance. They were damned. The Bridegroom did not wink at their lack of preparedness. He did not respond, “Aw, shucks. Come on in. I know you didn’t mean it.” Instead, He said: “Truly, I do not know you.” Be warned.

The wise virgins also were caught unawares. Neither had they kept the vigil without fail. Somehow, though, they still had oil. They trimmed their lamps and were welcomed into the bridal chamber. Somehow, during the wait, they managed to never completely forget what they were waiting for, what really mattered, who was coming. They still had oil. The ‘how’ of somehow is grace. The ‘some’ is enough.

This is what faith is. It is not the outward appearance of good works, such as being a virgin. Nor is it a perfect keeping of the Law. Rather, the wisdom of the virgins, that is, faith, is to remain ever aware that we are waiting, that this short life is not all that there is, that He who has bought us with His life is coming back. It is worth waiting for.

Still, there is danger in the waiting. Satan has his season. He has asked to sift you like wheat. Will your faith be consumed? At confirmation, full of zeal, we were bold to say: “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, into prison and into death.” But before the night was over we fell asleep on the watch. We quit praying. It was too bothersome, too much of a hindrance, too much of an obstacle to our beloved sins. Rudely roused from our slumber, we want to resort to violence. Who dares wake us! We want take control. We want to cut off the ear of  Malchus, roll over, and go back to sleep. We want Jesus to come at a more sensible hour.

Hear the cock crowing, O Christian! Repent. It is time to get up. Repent, before it is too late, before the door is shut, before the night cometh when no man can work. Like St. Peter before you, repent, and be welcomed back yet again into the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in the bondage of love to the Father, by the Word of the Son. Be welcomed back by grace. The door is still open. The oil is not yet consumed. The Spirit has multiplied it for the widow Church and her sons. He provides and your cup runs over. You will never run out of what He gives.

Refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Suffer affliction with the people of God instead of enjoying the passing pleasures of sin. Esteem the reproach of Christ as being greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. Embrace the promise. Faith lives by and in Grace. It is not a flexing of the will. It is a submission to the Goodness of God. It will not be consumed in the waiting. Because it is the gift of the Spirit. God will provide. He has satisfied His own wrath. Isaac goes free and alive. God intervenes for His children. He wakes them, rebukes them, and forgives them. He fills the oil flask with His Word which never passes away.

Awake from your gloom, sons of men. Hear the distant trumpet’s song. Step out of your self-pity and anxiety. Christ returns! Soon, He comes in glory for all the world to see. Soon, He will  reveal to those who have derided and mocked you that contrary to all earthly wisdom and appearances, you are in fact a son, or a daughter, of God most high. This is how it is in the Kingdom of God: a lowly shepherd boy can kill giants and be king. Joshua can knock down fortified walls with trumpets. The sword of Gideon has no edge. It is but broken jars and torches. The enemy defeats itself! Samson defeats more in death than he did in life. Mary carries God around in her womb, and three days after He dies Lazarus walks out of his grave. Without credentials, earthly honor or titles, without money or fame, you, O lowly and unlikely one, you are God’s beloved. You are significant and special to Him. He loves you.

While you wait, when you grow weary, when the flesh proves its weakness, then He wakes you with a call to repentance and to faith. He fills you again. He prepares you for His coming then by gathering your together for His coming now in Word and in Sacrament. His perfect, risen Body, once crucified to make you His, is placed into your body.  His cleansing Blood courses through your veins. Your hearts are pure. Your minds are alert. Your spirit is willing. cleansed and purified. His innocence resides in our souls and minds. We proclaim that gracious, life-giving death every time we eat and drink Him until He comes again. We proclaim that for the life of men.

Here is oil for your lamps, Food for your soul! Here He rallies the troops, encourages, nourishes, and strengthens for the watch. The Bridegroom comes now with forgiveness, with life and salvation, with strength for the day, for sleepy virgins who sometimes forget who they are, why they are waiting. Heaven is opened.

His return is not so far off as it once was. You have fallen asleep. You have been less than faithful. You have gone after other gods or bridegrooms. But nonetheless, He loves you. He forgives you. He welcomes you and bids you come into the bridal chamber by the Grace of His own merit, to bask in His loving presence and feast upon the very Bread of life! This is what we do while we wait. It is the only way to stay awake, to fend off the cold boredom of a long watch, to remember what He has done for us and who we now are. This oil will not fade nor be consumed. The future is upon us.
Pastor David Petersen

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