Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sermon for 11/23/14: Last Sunday of the Church Year



Lamps and Oil

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Ten Virgins went to meet the Bridegroom. Five were wise and five were foolish. The Bible says, "The fool says in his heart there is no God." The foolish virgins are foolish because to them the things of God are not worth desiring. Perhaps they think the Bridegroom will not come. Maybe they don't care whether Jesus is returning. The gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation are not things they crave. Perhaps they have some sin that they want to keep. Whatever the case, they are foolish because they leave behind the gifts of faith. When the Bridegroom comes, they are not ready.

On the other hand, the Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." The wise virgins fear the Lord. They know they owe their existence to the Bridegroom. Their whole life is one lived waiting for Him. They live by His mercy. They live in the forgiveness of sins. The oil of that forgiveness is what keeps their lamps lit, and they know they will need it on the Last Day. They are ready to meet the Bridegroom because they live in that forgiveness.

Where does the oil come from? Lamps in Bible times were fueled by simple wicks in olive oil. Olive oil comes from olives. And the oil is gotten out of the olives by taking them from the olive tree and crushing and squeezing them. But the oil in your lamp is from the tree of the cross. On that tree, the Son of God in the flesh is squeezed and pressed and crushed for your sins. And as He is crushed and killed by the weight of your sins, blood and water flow out of Him. Christ's blood and water flow into the vessels prepared for them: the water into the holy font and the blood into the holy cup. The oil that the virgins carry is not some oil they made themselves or came up with. The oil that fuels are lamp is not our good works or good intentions or even our own faithfulness and believing. The oil that fuels our lamps, that gives us light, is the oil of Christ Himself pressed out of Him on the cross as He gave Himself for the Bride to make her spotless and holy and perfect for Himself. The oil you have, brothers and sisters, is from Christ Himself. Only what is from Christ Himself burns purely and supplies you light at the midnight hour when our Lord comes again.

Take a minute to make sure you've got that oil! That oil is poured into your vessel at the font when it is poured on you with water and the Word. The gifts of Holy Baptism—God's name, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the peace of the Spirit and the adoption as a child of God—these gifts are poured into you in Holy Baptism; in the words of Jesus which are written to tell you what He has done; in the words of Jesus spoken that declare your sins are forgiven; in the body and blood poured into you, given to you to eat and drink, which delivers the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

When the Bridegroom comes again, you will be ready with a lamp that is burning brightly, filled from these heavenly gifts. When Jesus comes again on the Last Day and wakes us from the sleep of death, we trim our lamps, and they burn brightly because of Him and what He has given us. It is Jesus we are waiting for, and it is Jesus Himself who gives us the oil of Himself, so that we might be prepared to enter into the wedding feast when He comes again. Wake up! He's almost here, and the feast is ready. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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