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Trinity Last, November 26, 2017 - St. Matthew 25:1-13

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Posted: Sunday, November 26th, 2017 by Pastor Westgate

When will Jesus come? Some have made careers and church bodies out of setting a date. One church leader in the last week even said the end is near. Jesus says nobody knows – He will come like a thief in the night; if you don’t expect a thief, you surely won’t expect Him. Therefore our Lord says to us, “Get ready! I could come at any time. Be prepared.”

Today is the Last Sunday of the Church Year, and it has a bit of an Advent flavor. Some church years have up to 4 last Sundays focusing on the last things; in 2 weeks this theme will return on the Second Sunday in Advent. This may be a remnant of those days when some churches had an Advent as long as Lent that started after St. Martin’s Day, November 11, Dr. Luther’s baptism and name-day.

We are looking forward to our Lord’s Advent. We love Advent because it’s preparation time for Christmas, but that’s not the Advent we’re looking forward to. That word comes from Latin; it means “coming.” Jesus is coming. The patriarchs looked forward to His first Advent, His Birth at Bethlehem. Today we look back to that Advent and we look ahead to His second Advent, His coming in glory to judge the living and the dead. That is what today’s Gospel is about. Isaiah foretold that God would dress His people as a bridegroom dresses His bride. St. Paul teaches us that The Church is The Bride of Christ. St. John in his Revelation sees The New Jerusalem come down from heaven adorned as a bride for her husband, Christ our Lord.

Today’s parable pictures for us a wedding from Jesus’ day. The bridegroom and the father of the bride already had signed a marriage contract. At that point the marriage was official. Eventually the bridegroom went to the bride’s home to pay the dowry and the bride price and to consummate the marriage. On the way to her house the gentlemen of the bridal party shouted his arrival with voice and shofar. The ladies of the bridal party then came out to meet him. They all served as witnesses and celebrated. Then they went to the bridegroom’s house for the weeklong feast.

The bridegroom in this Gospel had signed the contract, maybe many years before. He took his time in coming. The bridesmaids were waiting, waiting, waiting. Eventually they fell asleep because he took so long. When he finally came with trumpets blaring they woke up. They got ready by trimming their lamps, but half of them realized they were out of oil. They went out to find somewhere to buy oil. It took them some time, so they showed up at the bridegroom’s house late for the meal. He did not let them in. They were late. They needed to be ready when he came. They were found unworthy of celebrating with him and his beloved bride.

Christ Jesus is The Bridegroom. With His Death He has signed His marriage contract with His Church. He shed His Blood to pay the purchase price for her. He has washed us with His Blood and made us pure virgins, holy in His sight. Now we, the members of His Church, await. But He is taking His time. We might like Him to come tomorrow. Dr. Luther was sure the end of the world was right around the corner, but he’s been dead about 470 years and here we are. The wait is long. We may very well fall asleep in death too. Therefore take care that you be found by the angelic trumpet to have your lamps burning with oil in store that you may find the open door!

So what are the lamps and oil? Jesus says we are to let our lights shine before men so they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. Are the lights the good deeds? Scripture says Jesus is The Light of the world. It leads us to say, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path.” Holy Scripture shows us what is true. It leads us to believe in Christ Jesus. Faith in Him is the burning light, and faith is fueled by Word and Sacrament.

His Light keeps our lights burning. The story is told of a pastor who went to visit a member. That member needed to be encouraged in his church attendance. It was a cold night. A fire was burning in the fireplace. The pastor didn’t say a word. He went to the fireplace. He took the tongs, and with them he took a burning coal out of the fire. Then they watched the coal burn out. The member got the message. He was in church after that.

He understood the message the pastor was sending. As long as the coal is in the fire, it’s going to burn. But once it leaves the fire, it will slowly or quickly burn out and get cold. The Divine Fire is God’s Word. You are the coal. As long as you are in it, as long as you are hearing it, and not just hearing it but believing it, you have the fire of The Holy Spirit, that is, you have faith. But if you begin to neglect His Word and eventually leave it behind and give it nary a thought, that fire will go out and die. Faith can die. And with it dies salvation.

Today’s parable takes place on judgment day. The angelic trumpet awakens all the dead, and those who belonged to His Church went out to meet Jesus. But 5 of the virgins discovered their lamps were out. They had no more faith. They tried to get in based on the faith of the others. But that is impossible. The only faith that will save you is the one The Holy Spirit has given you through His Word. So the 5 wise virgins sent the foolish virgins off to the sellers of oil, to the Scriptures and those who preach it. But they were too late. The door to eternity was shut.

The trump will sound. In a flash you will get up out of your grave alive and He will divide the sheep from the goats, the wise from the foolish, the faithful from the unfaithful, the godly from the ungodly. Those who have done good will go into life everlasting. Those who have done evil will go into death everlasting. But what and who determines that? Not us. We look at the outside, but God sees the heart. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Those who departed this life in the true faith will enter into the eternal marriage feast of The Lamb called eternal life. Those who departed this life without it will find the festal door shut to them, never to be opened.

What is faith? Faith confesses first that we are sinners. It confesses that we cannot please God with anything we do because we are corrupt with sin. So it admits we don’t deserve eternal life and can’t earn it by what we do. Therefore it prays God for forgiveness. It trusts Him to forgive, to absolve us from the bonds of our sins. Why? Because it believes Christ our God was punished for our sins on The Cross and rose to life again to give us eternal life. This is the true Christian and saving faith. Without this faith we will perish. With this faith we will live eternally. (TLH 612 follows)

That day of wrath, that dreadful day, When heav’n and earth shall pass away! What pow’r shall be the sinner’s stay? How shall he meet that dreadful day?

When, shriv’ling like a parch-ed scroll, The flaming heav’ns together roll; When louder yet, and yet more dread, Swells the high trump that wakes the dead,

Lord, on that day, that wrathful day, When man to Judgment wakes from clay, Be Thou the trembling sinner’s Stay, Tho’ heav’n and earth shall pass away.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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