Friday, November 14, 2014

Do not be ignorant. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 22, proper 27A, preached on Sunday, November 9, 2014.

    From Left Behind to Heaven is for Real, movies try to tell us what the Scriptures do not say.  Is there a subject more curious to us than what happens to those who die?  Are they in heaven already as some passages of the Bible suggest or are they sleeping in death awaiting us as other passages seem to say?  The short answer is "yes".  In other words, every perspective on those who have gone before us can give us but the smallest facet on the whole picture.  Speculation, however, offers us little real value and nothing of the sturdy hope we need to endure to the day of Christ’s return, the Bridegroom who comes to claim His bride.
    We do not hope because of what appeals to our curiosity or what touches our feelings.   We do not believe because of a little boy who thinks he went to heaven and returned and we do not believe because the answers to all our questions are rational and reasonable.  God has given us what we need to know in Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord.  Explaining away the mystery of death or our resurrection is not the source of our hope.  Christ is.  And faith is how we approach Christ – trusting in His Word, in its sufficiency and in its truthfulness.
    St. Paul warns us "Do not be ignorant."  What does he mean?  Ignorance is not an intellectual problem, not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of trust and confidence in what you do know.  Don't be stupid.  In other words, do not ignore or overlook what God has made known simply because it is not all that you want to know.  We do not have a lack of answers from God but we do lack confidence in Christ who is the answer.
    We have a preoccupation with questions.  Like the child who constantly asks the mother "Why" – we refuse to be comforted by what we have been given to know and insist upon dwelling on and speculating about what has not been given to us to know.
    We have looked at the comfort God has provided and decided that is not enough.  So we have sought after comfort elsewhere, from other sources, and ultimately a comfort of feelings instead of facts.  But where will this lead us?  Nowhere.  This is appealing but not strong enough on which to hang the hopes of our lives and our death.
    We are not the first to turn up our noses at what God has or has not revealed and insisted that we want more or different answers.  In Paul's day there was the same lack of faith in what God has revealed and promised and the same pursuit of other comforts and other promises.  Do not be deceived.   We have been given Word and promise enough to keep us in Christ until the day of our joyful resurrection and blest reunion.
    What do we know?  We know that Christ Jesus died to kill death and that He rose again to impart eternal life.  We know that His death was real and we know that He appeared to more than 500 witnesses.  We know that He is the author and pioneer who writes our future and walks it before us, where we shall go with Him and in Him.
    Easter is certainly about Christ and His resurrection but it is equally about us and our own resurrection sealed up in Him.  Those who die in Christ live in Him.  He is not a God of the dead but of the living.  Yet for now we live captive to time and waiting for the completion of all that Christ began.  We live in anticipation of what is to come but waiting in faith for that day, for that revelation, and for that future.
    What does He bid us do?  Stay the course in faith.  Trust in His promise.  Live and act on the basis of what we do know – we know He died for our sins, that He rose for our new life, and that we already own this forgiveness and new life by baptism, though not yet in full.  Yet we shall not only be with Him but like Him – wearing the glorious flesh that death and disease cannot touch, where disappointment and despair cannot go, and where tears no longer flood from our eyes in pain and painful longing.
    In the Gospel for today, Jesus told a parable to put the focus where it belongs – not on the curious but upon the solid promise of His Word.  He died.  He rose.  He will come again.  Ten virgins waited but only five acted on the basis of what they knew and prepared for the wait.  The other five slept in blissful ignorance.  They were neither prepared nor ready to receive the bridegroom.
    God has given us what we need to know to endure and by His Spirit we grasp hold of the hand of His promise by faith.  In baptism, we died to rise in Him and with Him to the life He has promised and prepared.  For now we wait, girded and strengthened by the means of grace.  And by the knowledge He will return to finish His new creation.  Are you wise or foolish?  Do you act on the basis of what you know or do you live in the fantasy world of what might be?  There is only one comfort.  Stay the course, trust in His Word (that you know), live in joyful anticipation of what He has promised, and feast upon the foretaste of the marriage banquet to come. Amen

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