The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Once the Bridegroom Comes”
November 12, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 25:1-13
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
So, how many of us have jumper cables in our cars, flashlights in our homes, and take at least one extra set of clothes on a trip, beyond that which we know we will wear? You know… just in case. Just to be ready… to be prepared.
And here, it is interesting to consider the differences among people in regard to their level of preparedness. Looking at the extremes, on the one hand, you have men and women who like to live on the edge… to live without the use of “a safety net” so to speak. Be prepared? Why? It seems that when they were fearfully and wonderfully made in their mother’s womb, somehow the “preparedness gene” was left out.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who have an overabundance of this gene and then some. You may be one of them or you at least know of a person like this (and this is not the time to being looking around you). We are talking about people who make preparedness an art form and take such to entirely new levels.
Just Google the word “prepper” and you will have before you a wide variety of sites that will amaze you as to the degree, the lengths that people will go, the steps that they will take to be prepared for any and every possible scenario.
Looking at these sites, though, it is easy to start wondering and second guessing one’s self about your own preparedness. I mean, who knows what really constitutes being well prepared… properly prepared… versus under prepared or over prepared?
Well, when we it comes to spiritual preparedness… that which the Lord our God would have us do… the state of readiness He would have us in… constantly in… we need not wonder. He tells us exactly how it should be… how we should be… and this, out of love for us… this, out of divine concern for our eternal welfare… for there is much at stake here.
The ramifications of being unprepared as were five of the virgins in the analogy Christ shares with us this morning. For them, it resulted in not being able to enter the wedding feast. It was too late. THEY were too late. We are told “the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’” (Matthew 25:10-13)
My friends, if there is a more tragic moment… a more devastating outcome and end… I do not know of one or can imagine one than to have your Lord, your Savior and King… God Almighty… tell you He does not know you… and to be forever barred and banished from His presence. Forever!
And to think that such will be the case for those who are among the “foolish” … foolish in regard to not hearing and heeding the command to be prepared, to be ready for Christ, the Bridegroom’s coming… His returning to earth to receive unto Himself all who are prepared and faithfully waiting… and to take them to the mansions He has prepared for them… to take them to the wedding feast that is all prepared and waiting to start.
What then constitutes a “wise person?” What separates him or her from a “foolish person?” And while we are at it, what do the lamps signify and the needed, necessary oil to keep them lit… to keep them burning bright?
First of all, a wise person is such not of their own doing or making, but solely by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit who truly makes people wise unto salvation. It is the same Spirit who creates faith, kindles faith and then continues to fan into flame the one true Christian faith in them.
Faith in none other, no other, than the Bridegroom Himself – Jesus Christ.
Faith that He, Jesus, the very Son of God took on human flesh and truly bore the sins of the world on the cross… faith that Jesus offered up His very life, His precious body and blood, in full atonement for our sins and that of the whole world.
Faith that He, Jesus, rose victorious from the grave and ascended into heaven.
Faith that He, Jesus, now rules over all things in heaven and on earth for our good. Faith, indeed, that all things are working out for our good even though, at times, everything seems to the contrary.
And faith that He, Jesus, the Bridegroom, soon returns to claim His Bride, the Holy Christian Church, and all who are part of that Church, and take her home… take us home to the wedding feast that awaits us and all the faithful.
This is the mighty work of God the Holy Spirit in us, ever working in us to keep faith alive in us… faith burning bright in our lamps that we may see, that we may know, that we may be fully prepared for the Bridegroom’s glorious return.
So how do our lamps stay bright as was the case with the five wise virgins? Is this not also the work of the Holy Spirit? Yes! By what divine means does He work to keep our faith strong and burning bright? It is through Word and Sacrament alone.
Here is your oil! All the oil needed throughout your life and mine as we always seek to be prepared, ready, patiently waiting for our Savior’s return. That upon the same, He may find us faithful… with our lamps burning bright in the darkness which grows thicker, heavier, all around us.
Make no mistake about it. Your lamps are fueled… your faith fueled and you yourself are fueled in body, soul and mind by the very Word of God preached to you and the blessed Sacraments administered to you.
It is here in abundance and yet there are many who avail themselves of the same so scarcely… so meagerly and miserly. And they wonder why their lamps have grown dim.
Others are totally oblivious to what has happened over time in regard to their faith and the light that once burned bright in them… but no more. They have failed to see, to realize and recognize the ever-encroaching darkness which actually… eventually is welcomed for it seems to hide a multitude of sins. Fools and foolish… the lot of them.
How is it with you? With your lamp and the amount of oil to keep it burning bright… your faith burning bright today, tomorrow and so on for however long we do not know.
And in the meantime… while waiting for the Lord, for the Bridegroom to come… it is so easy to grow weary and become drowsy as did all ten virgins – the wise and the foolish. Sin, Satan and this world can so easily lull us into a spiritual stupor. Our weak flesh tires over time especially as we wait for the Bridegroom and He doesn’t come… we wait some more and He doesn’t come.
All the more reason for being here in God’s house, every opportunity that presents itself, to be spiritually refreshed, recharged, awakened and invigorated, strengthened and filled, our lamps filled and properly trimmed to carry on every hour of every day until there is for you and me, no more days.
We take to heart… we take very seriously our Lord’s injunction “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)
We know neither the day nor the hour when the Bridegroom comes, but we do know and have full faith in fact that He is coming… and soon… as He, Jesus, has told us again and again in His Word.
He comes for you. He comes for me… and for all of the faithful. All who trust in Him, have faith in Him. This is certain. Our future certain. Our entering into the wedding feast, certain. Thanks be to God and Him alone the glory. Amen!
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Once the Bridegroom Comes” 11/12/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL