The Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 27)
St. Matthew 25:
November 25, 2018 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The difference between the virgins is not that some are good and some are bad. The difference is not moral. It is that some are wise and some are foolish. Wisdom is the fear of the Lord. The foolish lack it. They are foolish because they did not believe that the Bridegroom would ever come. He said He would but they figured that His delay meant that He was a liar, that He had changed His mind, or that He was impotent. It didn’t matter why. What mattered was that they didn’t believe Him. The wise also fell asleep, but even in their failure they feared the Lord. They believed that He would come. They trusted His Word.
The Lord sent a cry to wake up the wise. If it were not for this cry there would be no hope. We would be doomed, foolish and wise. We would not be awakened in time. We need to be awakened constantly, like sleepy watchmen. We need to repent and be absolved, to hear God’s Word and receive the Sacrament not only that our sins would be forgiven but also that our faith would be strengthened. Christ, in His mercy, causes the cry of the Law to go out: “Wake up. Repent. Believe in Christ. The end is near.”
This is precisely what the Church does, what preaching and catechesis, Baptism and Absolution, are. It is the midnight cry. It is cold and dark and it seems as though dawn is far away but do not be lulled into complacency. The Lord is coming. Prepare.
When they are awakened the wise are not so proud as to pretend they never slept. Rather, they believe that the Bridegroom is gracious. The Holy Spirit maintained hope in them through the night by the means of grace. Thus they believed the cry. They woke up and rejoiced because even though they had slept they recognized the Bridegroom’s true character and were unafraid to ask for forgiveness. Their lamps didn’t burn while they slept. The wise virgins failed. But when they were awakened, they repented and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish didn’t repent. They didn’t ask for forgiveness. They didn’t cry to the Bridegroom. They cried to the wise virgins. This is like the rich man crying from Hell to Abraham as Abraham comforts the beggar Lazarus. It was too late for the rich man but he still got it wrong. Even in Hell, he thought he knew of a better way than asking God for forgiveness and listening to His Word. So the foolish cry to the wise not to God. This is because they had never truly known the Bridegroom. When He appears they can’t recognize Him as compassionate or merciful and they look to the wrong place for help.
The Bridegroom has sent this cry now. Do not make the mistake of the foolish. The cry might seem harsh but it comes in mercy. The Bridegroom is good. He has girded His sword to His thigh. He is powerful but He comes in peace not for war. He has been sorely abused and mistreated by our sins but He is faithful and still loves us.
He is ready not only to freely bestow oil but to provide the wedding garment. He is not simply looking for some attendants. He is looking for a Bride to present to His Father pure and immaculate by grace. He is the Vineyard Owner who provides a full day’s wages to those who did no work. He makes a queen out of a prostitute not because He doesn’t judge but because He makes something good out of something evil. Hosea embraces Gomer. Christ changes the woman, purifies and cleanses her in His own Lifeblood, redeeming her from her circumstances, birth, and selfish choices. You are the treasure of great price and He sells all that He has to have you. You were lost and are found, dead and are alive, and He is Himself the fatted calf and the cloak and the ring, as well as the father who runs to greet you. He is priest and victim, the scapegoat and the Passover lamb, the incense and the water for washing. That is who comes, whom the cry announces. He does not come in wrath and anger. He comes for the bridal chamber. Wake up. Prepare. Rejoice.
Faith clings to this and is unabashed in asking Him to be who He has promised to be. It is not too proud to ask for God to hear and help and to absolve us. It would be proud and arrogant to say: “It doesn’t matter what I do, who I hurt, what I say. God loves me and my sins don’t matter.” That is blasphemy. Grace is not increased by sin. That is really just a modern philosophy that takes the shallowest parts of universalism and hedonism and mixes them together in a convenient self-righteousness that pretends to be grace. It is the way of death. The cry to repent is sincere. The failure to keep watch is dangerous.
But it is not arrogant to say “I am one of the elect. God loves me. He baptized me and named me as His own. He won’t let go. Though I am unworthy, I trust and wait on Him who does not lie. I can’t trust myself. I can’t trust my pastor. I can’t trust the synod or President Trump or my Uber driver, but I can trust and I do trust God and His Word. He is here for me in Word and Sacrament. He maintains me in the things He has instituted. He loves me and He is coming back.”
Without God’s Word and gifts faith will dry up and die while the sinner sleeps. Only the virgins whose lamps were lit, who had oil, got in. You have to get that oil now. The dealers are here. They aren’t selling it. They are giving it away. It is free. Take it. Receive it. Believe it. Because the doors will eventually be shut. Not everyone goes in. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. His Word is true and trustworthy. His return is imminent.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.