Sunday, November 12, 2023

Matthew 25:1-13; The 24th Sunday after Pentecost; November 12, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, 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.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:1–13, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Be prepared. Watch therefore… Jesus says. That’s what this parable is about. The ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom. Five came prepared, five came unprepared. Five brought enough oil for a long wait. Five didn’t. It is that simple. If the ten virgins are the church (and they are), the church should be ready for the bridegroom to arrive at any time.

There are so many passages in the bible that talk the same way. In fact, in the passages just prior to this parable, Jesus sets the stage. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:38–39, ESV)

Everything will seem normal. The world will be going about its regular business and be caught unaware. He continues,
Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:40–44, ESV)
Speaking to us, he says he is “coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Anyone who says they know when Jesus will return, doesn’t. He will come when he is not expected.

So, what are we to think of the conflict in the middle east. What does it have to do with Christ’s second coming? Isn’t it a sign that the end of time is at hand? It is a common misconception (especially in Pentecostal circles) that the current nation of Israel is equivalent to the Old Testament Jews, as God’s chosen people. Modern Israel, as a nation is not the chosen people of God. Nor are modern Jews, who are not Christian, God’s people. That privilege falls on the church. The prophecies of the Old and New Testament that talk about Israel are not talking about the current Jewish people or the Nation of Israel founded in 1953. They speak of the Church of God in Christ Jesus. These wars in the middle east are no more a sign of the coming than any war. The church of God, God’s chosen people, have never been defined by boarders or bloodlines, but by faith. And that faith has always been faith in the forgiveness of sins delivered through Jesus Christ on the cross. In the Old Testament they looked forward to Jesus, in the New we look back on him.

Jesus did, however, speak about war as a sign of his return.
And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.” (Mark 13:7, ESV)
Don’t you think the people who lived during WWI and WWII thought that the end was near? Those conflicts were far bloodier than what is happening now. What Jesus says is “do not be alarmed” and “be prepared” for you won’t know when it will be.

The fact is that every war, since Jesus ascended, every earthquake, every environmental disaster, every mass killing, every pandemic, every sinful act of human beings, are all signs that Jesus return is eminent. As we march through time, we are certainly closer to his coming today than ever before.

And what should our reaction be to all these signs? Jesus calls us to be prepared, be ready, always. In terms of our parable, bring enough oil for a long wait, because we don’t know how long it will be.

How exactly do we do that? Martin Luther was asked if he knew for sure that Christ was returning tomorrow, what would he do? He said, “Plant an apple tree.” What he meant was that he would continue to do exactly what he was doing.

So, should we continue to build a church? Should we hunker down and wait for Jesus eminent return? We should continue to do what we have always done. Preach the Gospel of Jesus. Call for repentance. Offer baptism for those who God calls to faith. Live at the foot of the cross. It is there we receive the promises delivered by Jesus. The forgiveness of our sins, life, and salvation. As Luther said, “Where there is forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation.”

And what of the terrible things we see around us? They should drive us to the cross, in repentance and faith. Faith that God is in control, and the time will come when all these things will end. And they should compel us to tell the world about the solution for distress, trouble and evil. That solution is faith in Jesus.

Only faith in Jesus overcomes evil. Only faith in Jesus allows us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Only faith in Jesus allows conflict in our personal lives to end. Only faith in Jesus gives us comfort in the face of death. Only faith in Jesus allows us to see war for what it is; a horrible consequence of sin. One that has its only solution in Jesus, and his death on the cross to forgive that sin.

“Always be prepared.” I think the Boy Scout motto goes something like that. It is what we are to do also. And to be prepared we do what we have always done. Trust Jesus. Trust his word. Trust the gifts he gives us in the sacraments. And proclaim his forgiveness to the ends of the earth. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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