Trinity 27 + Matthew 25:1-13 + November 20, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn # 67 The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us
Introit - Pg. 82
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 Gospel Lesson: Matthew 25:1-13
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) “And the door was shut.” What a terrible sound to hear. What an awful sight to see. Combine the shut door with the terrible words of the Bridegroom, “Assuredly I say to you, I do not know you,” and the meaning of the shut door becomes clear. The shut door is a sign of condemnation for the foolish virgins. It is their judgment. What they had hoped to attain, and expected to attain, the wedding feast, is now forever lost to them because of their unpreparedness and unfaithfulness. They took their lamps to wait for the Bridegroom but took no oil for their lamps. The lamp is the outward works and look of the Christian life. The lamp in the parable is a symbol of a Christian’s outward good works, their church attendance, their personal reading of the Holy Scripture. The lamp symbolizes all the things about a Christian that are visible to the eyes of flesh. But these virgins carry with them no oil for their lamps. That is, they do not fill their good works, their church attendance, and their personal reading of the Holy Scripture with faith, true belief, and confidence in Christ Jesus. They are numbered, outwardly so, with the wedding party. They wait, outwardly, for the arrival of the Bridegroom. But they are hypocrites, phonies, and false Christians who go through the motions but have no faith in Christ, no oil for their lamps. They are those who hear the Word of God with interest and with joy but do not believe it and take it heart for whatever reason. Instead they invent their own version of the Christian faith, one that is more palpable for their tastes, one that does not require repentance from their pet sins, one that does not require faith to be saved, but a mushy thought that God will save all souls in the end regardless of faith. The foolish virgins are false Christians who have piles and piles of outward good works but have not true faith in their hearts.
2) Their judgment is severe. The door was shut, barring them from the heavenly riches of the wedding feast. Their condemnation fits their unpreparedness and hypocrisy, for what they claimed to be for so long is shown to be a sham and they are revealed as the false Christians they truly are. This is not the first time the door has been shut, barring the unfaithful and unprepared from salvation and the blessings of the Triune God. That phrase, “and the door was shut” calls to mind another door being shut in judgment of sin. On the day rain began to pelt the earth and the wells of the deep burst opened, Noah, his family, and all the animals the Lord had commanded for the Ark entered. Moses writes, “So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.” (Genesis 7:16) As the rain fell and the water gathered in valleys, the Lord once again shuts the door so that the wicked remain outside. At Noah’s time the false church, phony and pseudo-Christians ruled the earth. The church of Cain had blossomed as his descendants multiplied. Even most of the sons of Seth had turned from the true faith in the Promised Seed of Genesis 3:15 and wandered into the apostasy of the false church which made its own God and its own gospel apart from the Promised Seed of Christ. The world was filled with foolish virgins who had all the trappings of church and had outward good works to fill up treasure houses, but who had not true faith in the promises of God. When God’s just judgment finally arrived, the Lord shuts the door to the Ark. Their condemnation was complete. Their judgment was at hand. The door was shut.
3) These pictures in Jesus’ parable and from the days of Noah teach us to take God’s Word seriously while we have it among us. Our Lord teaches us that it is not enough to have a lamp, good works and an outwardly good, Christian, life. We must possess oil for that lamp. A candle without a flame is useless. A lamp without oil is no better. All the good works and Christian piety in the world is worth less than a pile of dung without faith one’s heart. This is the point of Jesus’ parable. Be prepared. We are to watch for the Bridegroom’s coming, that is the second coming of Christ Jesus. But the true purpose of the parable is to remind us to be prepared. We may slumber from time to time. Even the wise virgins, the true believers, fell asleep as the Bridegroom seemed to tarry longer and later. Jesus says, “But while the Bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.” We are not to spend our days sitting on a hilltop, staring into the heavens, watching for His return. We have God-given callings that we need to attend to. We may, from time to time slumber, but that slumber ought not cause our lamps to burn low or go out entirely.
4) We are to prepare for the bridegroom’s arrival by stocking up on oil, that is, faith. This is done by hearing the Word of God as we have opportunity. This means if there is Divine Service and you are physical able to make it here, you need to be here, not letting excuses dictate your actions, for excuses are the mask of unbelief. It is here in the Divine Service where your faith is nourished by the preaching of the Word, for “faith comes by hearing.” (Romans 10:17) It is in the Divine Service where your faith is strengthen by confessing the Words of Scripture in the Holy Liturgy, since it is the words of Scripture. It is in the Divine Service where you exercise your faith by praying with the congregation for the needs of the church and world, for this corporate prayer teaches you how you ought to pray privately and forms your own life of prayer. It is in the Divine Service that the Lord fortifies your faith by giving you His true physical body and true physical blood, in, with, and under the forms of bread and wine, in the Lord’s Supper. These are His means for bringing you to faith and strengthening your faith. These means are how He pours the oil of gladness into your hearts so that you may hear the Word of Jesus and cling to it in faith.
5) Right now the door into the kingdom of heaven is still unlocked. Jesus tells the Philadelphian Christians in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” St. Paul quotes Isaiah 49 when he writes in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Now is the day of salvation. The Word of God is preached once again that sinners are justified by faith in Christ, and that that faith is gift from the Holy Ghost working through the means of grace. Faith in the forgiveness of sins won by Christ Jesus goes forth as long as the Bridegroom is delayed and tarries in returning, so that more and more may repent and believe the Gospel that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, so that in that repentance and faith they might be baptized and clothed with Christ, prepared for the wedding feast of eternity with the Triune God. The Gospel goes forth, so let all of us be mindful of how are hearing the Word of God lest we forsake faith in Christ. May the Lord preserve us from becoming foolish virgins, chasing after a faith of our imagination or a delusion of our heart which is from the devil, the ways of the world, or our own sinful flesh. Once the door is shut, it is shut. For Christ says to the Philadelphian Christians that it is “He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7).
6) But all this business about shutting doors isn’t all law, judgment, wrath, and condemnation. The shutting of the door to the kingdom of God is also great Gospel for those who believe. Just as Noah and his family was saved by the shutting of the Ark door from the water and the masses who would trample anything and everything to save themselves, so at the end of the world, when the door is shut, those who believe in Christ Jesus, those who are prepared for His return with true faith in Him and true trust in His Work on their behalf, will enter the heavenly wedding feast. With the door shut, evil and falsehood must remain outside where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The door is shut so that we may enjoy the blessings of eternal fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is important to note that to the believer, the Lord will return not only to be Judge. Last week, the Judge and King Jesus separated sheep from goats. This shows us that He will return not only as Judge and King but also as our Good Shepherd. He says, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep.” (John 10:14) In today’s parable He does not arrive as judge and King, but as bridegroom because He comes to usher His faithful into the wedding feast which has no end, the wedding celebrates the union of Christ with His Bride, the church. St. John sees this in Revelation 19:7-9. He hears a great multitude shout, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” This is the culmination of our salvation, that for which every Christian hopes, yearns, watches, and waits.
7) Let us therefore be careful how we live, that we have our lamps. But let us be even more mindful of possessing oil for our lamps, that is faith in Christ Jesus. Faith clings to Jesus and His works and merits. Faith takes Jesus’s perfect life as our own, saying that what He did, He did for me. Faith appropriates and grabs hold of Jesus’ atonement for the sins of the world and applies it to the individual. Faith clings to every word of Jesus as the absolute truth of God and lives its life according to that precious word. Faith holds tightly to baptism, to preaching, and to the Lord’s Supper since those are the Bridegroom’s means for preserving faith in our hearts and adding to it. Let be ever mindful of this, lest we find ourselves numbered among the foolish virgins, shut out of the marriage feast, out of salvation, and out of eternal life. To this end, may God be gracious to us. Amen.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.