Monday, November 9, 2020

It IS midnight. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 23, Proper 27A, preached on Sunday, November 8, 2020.

     Sometimes we must unlearn the Scriptures we think we understand so that we might hear them correctly.  The parable of the virgins is not a story of the difference between believers and unbelievers.  This is a parable about the Church.  All the virgins are the same and have the same lamps.  This is not about good or bad virgins but about wise and foolish ones.  This is not a parable about morality.  All the virgins are sinners.  None is holy.  On top of this all of them fall asleep and none of them watches for the bridegroom.  I am not sure that any of us could tell the difference between the five wise or the five foolish by looking at them.  To us they would look the same.

    This is a parable about faith, the oil in the lamps.  There were five virgins who believed the Word of the Lord.  They had oil for their lamps.  Sure, they fell asleep and had to be awakened when the moment came but they believed the moment would come. The other five had no oil for their lamps.  They not only fell asleep like the wise but they were not sure the bridegroom would ever come.  They had no faith in the promise.  So when He did come, they were caught unawares.  They wanted to borrow oil or faith from others but faith cannot be borrowed.  They had to seek out the dealers and get it for themselves.  Heads up, here.  The oil dealers are the Church, those who fuel the lamps with the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments.

    So now you have a glimpse into what is going on in this parable.  But why did Jesus tell it?  This parable is like a warning alarm or wake up call.  The Lord is calling to the wise to be alert.  This is the mission of the Church.  To the world in every age, to the  people of God who have fallen asleep, and to those awakened and ready the same warning call goes out.  Repent, confess your sins, be absolved, hear the Word of the Lord, receive the Sacrament of His body and blood, pray, and serve.  For Day of the Lord is nearer today than it was yesterday.  Did you hear that?  The Day of the Lord is nearer today than it was yesterday.  The Church is not some doomsday prophet saying the end is near but the voice of God calling to say Christ is coming as Judge and King.

    So let me say it bluntly and clearly right now.  It is midnight.  The cry goes out to wake up.  Do not be sleepy.   Do not hit the snooze button.  Do not presume that God is not going to finish His new creation as He has promised and Christ come in His glory. The voice of the Lord addresses the faithful within and those not yet of the kingdom out side with the same call.  Wake up.  The Lord is coming.  To those outside the Church, it is a voice calling to a world that all accounts will be audited.  To those within the Church, it is the voice of God shaking the faithful awake and pointing them to the means of grace where they will be readied for the great and awesome Day of the Lord.
    Do not lie to God.  Do not pretend you have not been asleep.  But at the same time, do not forget that God is gracious.  He forgives all our sins and restores us when we fall and cleans our robes of righteousness with the blood of Christ.  Keep your lamps trimmed and burning and when they run out, make them burn again with hope that God will keep His promise and deliver His people from this mortal life to life everlasting.

    Be wise.  Don’t be foolish.  The foolish pretended everything was okay until they had no choice but to find oil for their lamps.  They did not seek the Lord’s mercy for their sin.  Like the rich man crying from hell for a drop of water for his burning tongue, the foolish cried for oil, for faith, to make up for the hope that had been lost and the faith that had grown cold and dead within them.  It sounds harsh but this warning is sent in love.  The Lord would have all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth in Christ.  He is faithful and He will do it.  But we are not.  We are lazy and complacent and doubting.  We put off what is urgent and we busy ourselves with what does not matter.  Hear the Word of the Lord.

    The cry goes forth from this pulpit every Sunday.  Wake, awake, for night is flying.  Your pastors are the watchmen whom the Lord has placed in your midst because He loves you.  The Lord is good and His steadfast love endures forever.  He chastens and disciplines us because He loves us.  He goes after the one lost sheep and buys a worthless field for a pearl hidden in it.  He pays all the workers the same wages.  He feeds the hungry with miracle bread.  He welcomes back the prodigal with all that He has.  He gives even dogs the crumbs from His table.  Wake, awake, for night is flying.  The Lord has born your sin and taken away all your iniquity.  He has washed you in living waters and given you the new birth of water and the Spirit.  He sends forth His Spirit into your heart so that you hear His Good Shepherd’s voice.  He bids you sinner come up to the honored place at His Table.  He gives Himself to you as food and drink.  He receives your worn out body in His arms and clothes you with new flesh and blood.

    Wake, awake, for night is flying.  Faith cannot afford to sleep, cannot succumb to pride, cannot give into despair, and cannot doubt the Lord’s Word and promise.  Our Lord is merciful beyond measure.  Here in His House He fills your lamps with the oil of His mercy.  Here He feeds you His flesh for bread and His blood for drink.  Here His Word is preached  even when you don’t want to hear what it says.  He loves you.  Listen.  Repent.  Rejoice.   Pandemic or not.  Listen.  Repent.  Rejoice.

    Don’t be the foolish who presume their sins do not matter or God will shrug off their faithlessness and open the gate to them.  Do not presume sincerity is faith for to be wise means to know whom you believe and why you believe Him.  Do not live as if you belonged to the world and expect God to claim you as His own.  Do not be a stranger to His House on Sunday morning and expect to have your own room in the mansions above.  Do not let bitterness steal your love or disappointment steal your hope.  God is even now working to bring that final day to its perfect fruition whether our eyes see evidence of it or not.  That is what His Word promises.

    The danger is never that we will take God too seriously.  The danger is always the opposite.  That we will not take Him seriously at all.  So wake up.  Teach your children. Bring them to the services of His House.  Instill the catechism in their heart so that they know the truth from lies.  Teach them to pray so that they may pray God’s promises as earnestly as they pray their needs.  Open their voices to sing the story of God’s mighty acts of deliverance.  Model before them the healing power of forgiveness as you forgive one another as God has forgiven you.  Do not be foolish but be wise and watchful.  This pandemic has created anxiety, fear, and stress but it has not created a hunger for faith or the things of God.  Listen.  Repent.  Rejoice.

    This parable is for the people of God and is about the Church.  Do not belong to or attend a Church where the Word of God is not preached faithfully or the Sacraments of God are not taught and done according to His promise.  Wake up.  Here are the dealers to not only have the oil of God’s mercy but give it away Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.  But this parable warns us that soon the time will end and the dealers will have nothing to give and the day of judgment will come for all people everywhere.  Wake up.  Be alert.  Listen.  Repent.  Rejoice.  For the Lord is coming and He wants YOU to be ready.  Amen.


Timothy Carter said...

Thanks Pastor.
I sent this one to my children. They are young adults and seem to think they have all the time in the world.
God Bless the Preacher.
Timothy Carter, simple country Deacon, Kingsport,TN.

Derek Pauley said...

Yesterday was my first time visiting the Church, Pastor. This was a stirring sermon - grounded in the word of God. I have been compelled to wake up and focus on what's most important. Our Lord tells us time and time again to watch, to arise, to keep alert. We don't know the day or hour. When the Son of Man returns - will He find faith on the earth? I will return next week hopefully with my whole family. Soli Deo Gloria.

Mabel said...

Hey, Pastor, check out the Sunday, November 8 DOONESBURY comic. It reminded me of some of your blog posts, with a pastor lamenting the loss of members to another church with a laxness of behavior.

Mabel Storm