Monday, November 21, 2016

Sermon for 11/20/16: Last Sunday of the Church Year

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Wise Virgins

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

Ten virgins pure, watching and waiting in the flickering light. Outwardly they were all clean and undefiled. Nonetheless, these handmaidens of the Lord were overcome. Their flesh was weak. They were seduced by sleep, enticed to slumber. Their eyes grew heavy and they gave up, gave in. They quit fighting. They let the night have its way with them. The oil’s light burned in vain while they satisfied their flesh in slumber.
And then came the midnight cry. It caught them unaware, their duties forgotten. The oil was gone. They had forgotten to trim their lamps. And then the cry came, and then the panic, and then the begging: “Give us some of yours!” But there was none to spare. No one can believe for another. So out went the five fools into the night, seeking to buy what can only be given. They returned empty-handed, too late. The door was shut. Therefore, watch! Beware! Repent!
It is hard to stay awake these sleepy days, as Peter and James and John know all too well. We abide at the end of time. Temptation grows stronger deeper in the night. It seems so futile to keep watch. We’ve waited already all our lives, and still He has not come. There are pleasures all around, and no one seems to care if we slip in a few winks or go off for a while, if we go and do those things that sinners think to be their right. If we behave like the ancient men of Rome or the modern men of New York or San Francisco or Amsterdam, who would blame us? We are who we are. Must we really be so vigilant and suffer through this night of days and months and years? Can’t we just have our fun and then repent at the end? No. We cannot. That way leads to death. Now is the hour of salvation. Even if Our Lord should continue to delay, no man knows when his last hour will come. Repent before it is too late. Repent and watch.
And for the sake of hope and confidence, notice this: all ten virgins fell asleep. All ten. All ten were outwardly pure, yet all ten failed in their vigil. What made five wise and five foolish? The wise still had oil. By the grace of God, despite their weakness and self-pity, they never stopped believing that He would come. They trimmed their lamps, and whatever little oil was left, it was enough. It was multiplied like the widow’s oil in Zarephath. Their oil was given by God. For if He desires to be greeted and ushered into the chamber by virgins pure, He must create them. By grace, by what God supplied, five wise virgins were spared the coming wrath and saved.
And so there is hope even for us. You have not defiled yourself so gravely that you cannot be cleansed. Your God has not forgotten you. He brought you here this day for a purpose: to forgive you anew, to restore your purity, to recreate you immaculate, strong in faith, undefiled, righteous and holy, and mostly wise. You have the oil of faith, given in the waters of Holy Baptism. The world scoffs at this true wisdom, but it comes from God: He is coming back.
He does all this for and to you through His Word. By the Word He creates and restores. He called you by Name in Holy Baptism. You were born in those waters from above and made alive. He speaks these saving, cleansing words in the Scriptures, in the absolution, in the preaching, in His Church. He feeds these Words made flesh to you in the Holy Supper. He wants to be met on the last day with faith and praise and rejoicing. His work outside the city gate will not be in vain. He has not fallen asleep. He does not forget His promise. He still and always loves you and makes you again virgin pure.
Concerning then the time and the seasons, you have no need to know. Even Jesus doesn’t know. All you need to know, the best and surest wisdom in all of creation, is that the day is surely coming. It will come suddenly, unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. God in His great love will steal you away from the darkness, death, and chaos of this fallen world. He will pull you from your bed and trim your lamp. You will again be pure and undefiled. You are not of the darkness or of the night, no matter how sleepy and lazy you might feel. You are of the day. You are of Jesus Christ.
So watch and wait. Do not be afraid. Surely the day is drawing near. 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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