Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 27)
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Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
November 25, 2012
Central Passage
Matthew 25:1-13
Description

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

The parable of the Ten Virgins is one of the most elusive and difficult to pin down of our Lord’s parables. We seem to come to the parable a bit like Nicodemus who was confused and bewildered by our Lord’s insistence that a man must be born again by water and the Spirit. We understand the words, like Nicodemus understood the words, asking how a man can be born a second time. But the meaning seems hard to grasp. We wrestle with it. And that is good, for whenever we wrestle with God we are like Jacob who wrestled with God and refused to let go until he received a blessing from the Lord.
 
It’s okay to wrestle with God. It is good, in fact. For the Lord is not always what He seems. Sometimes He seems a mad and arbitrary dictator, inflicting even the pure of heart and the upright with disease and hardships and tribulations. But in truth He is a loving Father disciplining and training His children to always call upon Him, to always wait for Him. He seems arbitrary and angry, but He is actually careful and loving; the perfect Father from whom all good things come. When we wrestle with the Lord we learn what the wise Virgins knew, we learn to always look forward to the coming of the Bridegroom.
 
This parable is one of the most difficult to settle our minds on not because we don’t know its purpose, but because we’re unsure of its specifics. We know the purpose of the parable, our Lord gives it: Watch! Be prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom, who of course is Jesus, the Son of God. Be prepared for His return for it comes at an hour and time you do not expect. That’s the point of the parable, to strengthen us to keep watch for the return of the Lord. It’s an end-times parable, and it’s not always so clear what the specifics are.
What’s the oil? Is it faith or good works? As many theologians throughout history have said the one as have said the other. What’re the lamps? Are they the tongues of the faithful spurned by the oil of faith? Or are they the bodies of the faithful made pure by the oil of Christ? But here we see the reason our Lord speaks in parables: that we may learn to wrestle with Him and obtain a blessing.
 
Those who don’t wrestle with the Lord, who give up because it’s too difficult to understand or who put it away because they think they know it already, they have received their reward. They find their rest when they stop wrestling. But the wise are not content to find rest in this life, for here the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. The wise are waiting for the Sabbath rest to come.
 
But too often we want easy, black and white answers from the Bible. We want our faith to be easy and simple. And while our faith is simple – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ – it is not easy. Because we have faith, we want God to bless our lives by taking away pain and hardship, by never having money troubles or problems at work or with our families. We even think that because we have faith God should make our lives easier and less troublesome. But it is by those troubles, as the Bible teaches, that we are being fashioned and molded, re-created in the image of Jesus, who is the firstborn of all creation.
 
Easy things are soon forgotten and even despised. That’s why once your son has beaten a video game a dozen times or so, he moves on to the next one. It’s become too easy. But our faith is not easy. It’s not easy to subdue the old Adam or to tame the tongue or to give to the poor as you have given to yourself. It’s not easy to do the things of faith. In fact, we usually find that we can’t do them. We can’t love our neighbor as ourselves. We can’t forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. We can’t pray without ceasing or find contentment in poverty or riches, health or sickness. We hear the apostles tell us to bring our bodies into submission, yet our eyes wander to our neighbor’s wife or to his money; our fingers take what isn’t ours; our ears delight in gossip, in the destruction of those we hate and the elevation of ourselves before others. We are never satisfied with what the Lord has given us. And this condemns and damns us. For the Lord is God and He is above all things and for Him all things were created. Who are we to want what we do not have or to complain about what the Lord has given? Whether we call it good or evil, good or bad, right or wrong, happy or miserable?
 
It becomes easier to let go rather than hang on and wrestle with the Lord. It’s easier to water the faith down than to wait. It becomes easier to fashion a god that is a little less demanding a lot more understanding. A god that gets us. A god who will accept us for who we are rather than kill us on the cross and reshape us in the image of His patient, loving, obedient Son. Such a god won’t rebuke our sins, unless they’re really bad ones, which we don’t think we do anyway. But he won’t judge our motives when we think our motives pure, and he’ll overlook the times when they aren’t. He won’t question our actions when we think we’re in the right; and he’ll overlook those times we were angry with others.  Such a god won’t rebuke anything specific, like our divorce or our bigotry or our lies or our neglect. Such a god will preach a generic law for generic sins that other people do. It’s easier to fashion a god who will bless us because we are righteous when compared to others than one who will bless us because we wrestle with Him.
 
Even the idea of wrestling with God is at best odd; at worse it’s foreign. Yet that is how we obtain a blessing. That is what made the wise virgins wise and the foolish virgins fools. The wise wait upon the Lord to bless them even though that means we must wrestle with Him. That is what it means to watch and be prepared.
 
We prepare for a trip by packing and making sure we haven’t forgotten anything. We prepare by doing everything that needs doing in advance. Then we wait. So when we hear this parable about oil and lamps we want to assume that what needs to be done can be done and then we wait. But in truth, it is the waiting that is the preparing. The expecting is the oil, the anticipation of His coming is the lamp, and you are the virgins.
 
Made pure by the blood of the Lamb; without spot or stain. Holy and pure, cleansed from all your sin and guilt; from all the sin you harbor in your heart; made pure and undefiled, a virgin bride. A virgin doesn’t decide to be a virgin; a virgin is born a virgin. So you have been born a virgin by water and the Spirit. You have been born from on high through the blood and water that poured from the side of the Bridegroom. The old is gone and the new has come. The old is buried and the new is raised in Christ. A virgin bride is what you are, O congregation of saints. And you wait for the coming of your Bridegroom.
 
And in waiting, you have oil for the wait. In waiting you trim your lamps, that is, you make everything ready. The waiting is the virtue that makes you wise. Here you wait, receiving a foretaste of the feast to come. Here you wait, joining by faith in the praise of the heavenly throng whom you cannot see but who surround you as a great cloud of witnesses. Here you wait upon the Lord and by His word He renews your strength so that you may wait and not grow weary as you wait. And should you fall asleep, should the Bridegroom be a long time in coming so that ages pass and this world has forgotten you as she has forgotten so many thousands of your brother and sister virgins throughout history, you will find that when you are awakened you will not have waited in vain.
 
Do not be afraid to wrestle with the Lord, for so the virgins were wise. For what is it to be wise but to wait upon the Lord? Waiting upon the of the Lord is wrestling with the Lord, and in so doing you will be blessed. Here, my friends, we wait. Let us not let Him go until the Lord blesses us!
 
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +