Trinity XXVII - St. Matthew 25:1-13 - November 22, 2015

Hymn #67 The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us
Hymn #609 Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying
Hymn #446 Rise, My Soul, To Watch and Pray

Isaiah 65:17-19
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
St. Matthew 25:1-13

Collect For Trinity XXVII
Absolve, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy people from their offenses, that from the bonds of our sins which by reason of our frailty we have brought upon us we may be delivered by Thy bountiful goodness; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Collect for the End of the Church Year
We thank Thee, Lord God, Heavenly Father, that in the past Church Year Thou hast preserved Thy Word among us in purity and by it effectively enlivened our souls; and we beseech Thee, that Thou wouldst graciously forgive us all our neglect, unbelief, and disobedience with respect to Thy Word, and continue to give us this precious treasure with Thy blessing forevermore; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

1)         The parable Christ tells us this morning is a stern warning for Christians living in the end times. People often ask me if I think we’re living in the end times. It makes sense why they’d ask. All you have to do is turn on the news to hear of wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6). Television brings the Mohammaden threat of global dominance through Jihad into our living rooms. Primetime television is an incessant reminder that morality is in a death spiral. The internet is an open sewer where all so-called glories of man’s imagination is on display and celebrated.  Are we living in the end times? Absolutely. But then again, we have been living in the end times since Christ’s foot left the Mount of Olives when He ascended into heaven. Don’t let any fool you into thinking that our time is special because they’ve calculated the seventy weeks of the prophet Daniel to reveal that Christ will return on a certain date. The seventy weeks of Daniel point to Christ’s first advent when He assumed human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Don’t fear the Muslim threat, they are only doing what the Lord allows them do to just as they did in the Middle ages when the Ottoman Turks carved out sections of eastern Europe and tore those states away from the West. The Islamic threat is nothing new. Don’t be alarmed at wars and rumors of war. Neither be concerned that the modern nation state of Israel has anything to do with it all.

2)         All of these things can and will overwhelm you if you let them. They are designed to do just that, to make you watch those events rather than watch for the coming of the Bridegroom. Some would argue that to watch world events is what it means to watch for the Bridegroom. But I don’t think so. Jesus says, See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet (Matthew 24:6). Wars begin and wars end. Nations rise and they crumble. God scourges the world for its unbelief and rejection of the Gospel through the Mohammedans in our day as He did in Luther’s day. Culture eventually rejects honor and virtue and embraces immorality, idleness, and entitlement. It happened in Rome and elsewhere. These are not signs by which we know the Bridegroom is near. They are merely signs that He is coming on a day an hour unknown. Christ our Lord ends today’s parable with this admonition, Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. Watching the events on the news will not show you when Christ is to return. We cannot know the day or the hour of His return for so Christ says. Watching the news is not how you one watches for the Bridegroom.

3)         So how do you, dear Christian living in the 21st Century, watch for the Bridegroom? Consider the parable Christ our Lord told His church twenty centuries ago. First consider who these are that wait for the Bridegroom. They are virgins. By this Christ teaches us that He wants His church to be made up of spiritual virgins. This means He wants His Christians to be faithful to Him alone and rely solely upon His Word and His gifts in the sacraments, not seeking “spirituality” in oneself or being lured to another’s doctrine which is not Christ’s. St. Paul speaks this way in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3. He tells the Corinthians, I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. The Christian is to wait for Christ as a virgin bride waits upon her groom, with eyes only for Him and ears yearning to hear only His words and no other’s. So Christ wants His Christians to be pure from idolatry and false teaching, to hear His Word purely preached so that they shun false teaching and false fellowships which are detrimental to the Christian’s bridal purity. The Christian in the 21st Century is to keep himself pure from human opinions about God, even the imaginations of his own heart that arise from the human heart, since the heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

4)         Second we see that these virgins have lamps in hand, ready for the dark night of waiting for the Bridegroom. They know that it will be some time before He returns so they prepare accordingly. But only five of the ten, half of them, are called wise for taking oil in their vessels with their lamps. These five wise virgins recognize that they don’t know, nor can they know when the Bridegroom will come. They prepare accordingly by bringing extra oil. The foolish virgins do not bring extra, imagining that the Bridegroom will come early in the night. The oil for the lamp is faith which trusts Christ and places its confidence in His Word. Christ wants His Christians to be every exercising their faith, trusting His promises instead of what their eyes see in the world. The Holy Ghost gives faith and strengthens faith through His means of grace, the preaching of the word and the sacraments. Since faith is a the most precious gift God gives He wants you to stir up the gift of God which is in you (2 Timothy 1:6). He does not want your faith to be idle. If faith is not nourished by hearing the Word purely preaching and fortified through the Sacrament, faith will become sluggish, thoughtless, and eventually cold. This is what happens to the foolish virgins. They assume that since they have oil in their lamps when they start out, there is no need for more. But Christ wants His Christians to always be using their lamps and obtaining more oil through His Word and the promise of the Gospel.

5)         So many in the external church are foolish virgins. They begin as eager and excited in the faith. But they are taught that they should feel His presence like one feels an emotion. They either equate their emotions with Christ or, feeling nothing different, their faith grows cold. Others are faithful but when hardship and suffering for the Gospel comes upon them, they falter and shrink back, seeking instead comfort and ease. Still others, when they become aware of even the partial apostasy of their church or church body, sinfully remain because leaving would cost them friendships or more gas money to drive to a parish that preaches the pure Word of God. Such things are foolishness in the eyes of God and are dangerous to souls because such decisions can lead to spiritual destruction. So many in the external church preach and want to hear about themselves, putting their faith in all sorts of worldly philosophies and social movements rather than Christ. These are the ones who will, on the Last Day when the Bridegroom comes again, will find the door shut because the lamp of faith grew dim, and, to mix metaphors, if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? (Matthew 5:13). Each of us are tempted to let the lamp of faith grow dim. The world knows our weaknesses and continually tries to extinguish the lamp of faith in our hearts through worry, thought doubt, through the temptation to creature comfort and ease, through reputation, and all sorts of other temptations. These must be resisted steadfast in the faith.

6)         It is a terrible fate is we do not resist with the help of God the Holy Ghost. To those whose faith grows dim and is extinguished when the Bridegroom arrives, they will hear two terrible sounds. The door being shut and the voice of the Bridegroom, the voice they once longed to hear, saying to them, Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you. In this way, the parable serves a stern warning for us as the church year comes to a close. Watch. Don’t watch the news. Don’t watch the calendar of the date setters. Watch yourself lest the lamp of faith smolder into nothingness. Watch yourself that you hold sacred preaching and the Word and gladly hear and learn it, as you were taught to do in the Catechism. Watch yourself so that you do not neglect the means of grace but partake of them as you are given opportunity, since they are the means by which the Holy Ghost works to fortify your faith and replenish the oil of the lamp of your heart. Watch for the temptations of the Devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh because they are working together to lead you away from the faith and into a complacency which masquerades as true faith. Don’t worry about the signs of the times, for wars and rumors of war are bound to come. You are to be a pure virgin set aside for Christ, placing your trust and confidence in Him alone, desiring to see Him alone and to hear His word alone.

7)         While the parable ends on a stern note, there is also great joy hidden under the surface. The parable ends on the fate of those who are foolish virgins at the moment of Christ’s return. But there is great promise Christ’s description of the fate of the wise virgins. The Bridegroom came, and those who were ready went into with him to the wedding, and the door was shut. The Bridegroom will return for His beloved, for the words of Solomon are the words of the church when He says, My beloved is mine, and I am his (Song of Solomon 2:16). The wedding feast awaits the faithful. Those who remain steadfast in the true faith unto the end will wear their wedding garment to the great banquet. The door will be shut because once Christ returns, no devil, no sin, and no temptation will be able to tempt you away from your Lord Jesus. The door will be shut so that the agony of hell does not reach the saints and so that the pure virgins of Christ the heavenly Bridegroom may never leave, for in that place there will be perfect bliss, so there will be no reason or will to depart from Christ. On that day it will be as Pastor Nicolai wrote in the hymn he wrote for this day, “The joyful call we answer all and follow to the nuptial hall.” There will be no more sin, no more death, no more tears, no more suffering, no more hardship; only glory, righteousness, blessedness, and innocence as we reign with the heavenly bridegroom is paradise. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming to fetch you for the heavenly banquet. Amen.

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