Title: Because of Jesus you who believe are ready!
Text: Matt. 25:1-13
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
In 1912 the "unsinkable" Titanic was launched in Liverpool, England. So haughty was the hoopla surrounding the Titanic's safety and structural integrity that it caused great anxiety in the heart of one God-fearing woman, whose family was unexpectedly transferred onto the gigantic liner for its maiden voyage. The woman was the mother of seven-year-old Eva Hart, who recalls that her family was saved from tragedy because of Mrs' Hart's spiritual convictions. Throughout the voyage, Mrs. Hart stayed awake at night waiting for disaster to strike, and thus was able to move her family to an upper deck almost immediately after the ship collided with an unseen iceberg. Because of her vigilance, the family did not join the 1,500 others who died that night.
After reading the shipbuilders' claims, Mrs. Hart believed--and so stated--"This is flying in the face of God!"
Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 8.
As we look to this gospel text and parable today let us begin with a few verses that precede this reading today from chapter 24. Here Jesus, Is speaking with his disciples and says:
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
So the text today speaks of the end times and preparation.
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
In the parables that we have studied previously, the kingdom of heaven and the joy that awaits those who believe had been described as a Wedding feast. There were those closed with wedding garments and those who were not. There was also a casting out and a weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And now we continue, for the disciples and our benefit, with the foolish and wise virgins who took their lamps and while the wise had oil in their lamps and the foolish did not and while the bridegroom was a long time in coming they were unprepared for the time of his arrival.
Being unprepared is not a good thing.
This past week we at church here ordered a pallet of rock salt in preparation for the winter and snow that will soon be upon us. It is being delivered on Monday. The call and arrangements with the plowing company that took care of snow removal last season with the great amount of snow that fell has also been made and arranged.
We are prepared for what we assume will be a snowy winter, as far as the Almanac is concerned, and I believe that we are prepared for that snow that will fall. To not have salt and to not have made arrangements would be foolish. To see the seasonable fall that we have enjoyed and to neglect to be ready for what we know will arrive soon enough, even though we don’t know the day or the hour, would be to act like the foolish virgins who came with no oil.
For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,
How much good is a lamp that has no oil? Not much. We too know about oil here at church and at times the acolytes have to try to light candles that have no oil in them. They have a dry wick and no fuel from which to draw.
4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
As we know lamps with oil bring with them light and light the way. But in our parable the oil signifies something more. It signifies the work of God, the gift of God and the working of his Holy Spirit that brings faith … the gift of God for we who believe. So what did the foolish lose? They lost focus on him, Jesus, by the working of the Holy Spirit. The faith that is a pure gift of God and not of our own doing had dimmed … to the point of flickering and had gone out.
What does this say to you and to me and to all who have been given this gift?
Let us look at Matthew 7 and what Jesus had said to his disciples and the crowds after the Sermon on the Mount.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
What is it to do the will of my father who is in heaven?
To believe on him who he has sent, is to believe on Christ Jesus by the gift of faith and the working of God. It is only possible to believe on Christ by the gift of faith and by the power by the Holy Spirit.
The learned fool writes his nonsense in better language than the unlearned, but still 'tis nonsense. – says Ben Franklin
For those who have lamps we all are fools. We fool ourselves into believing that we have measured up, that we are acceptable in the eyes of God and that we will all stand before him in righteous acceptance.
This past week on Tuesday I drove to the seminary to receive my certificate of recognition for completing the SMP program. As a student I followed direction very well, did all the work required and even at time received good grades.
So getting up at 5:00 am was not a problem and driving the 3 ½ hours to the seminary was not a problem and seeing the sign that said, Fort Wayne 20 miles, was not a problem but as I got closer … there was no signs that I expected that said Fort Wayne next 2 exits. Instead, I saw a sign that said Jefferson Ave. next exit … I wasn't sure was this the one I needed? I drove past it.
Thinking that it was the exit I needed, I turned around and headed back north. I took the exit for Jefferson Ave. and as I drove I saw signs that said Historic Fort Wayne with an arrow. No, this isn't right I thought, so, I once again headed north on I-69. I drove three miles to the next exit of Goshen rd. Was this the right exit? I wasn't sure. I didn't sound right, but it was 15 minutes to 10:00 am and I was going to be late, if it wasn't right. West Coliseum Blvd came up next. Now this looks familiar 10 minutes to 10:00 … would I make it? There were slow drivers in front of me and on the side of me.
Lord don’t let my oil run out!
I pulled onto N. Clinton St and headed the short distance to the Seminary. I turned onto the grounds oblivious to the 15 mile and hour speed limit signs. What are they going to do, give me a certificate of recognition and a ticket I thought. I pulled into the parking lot … no spaces … wait; there is one in the back. I get out of the car and hear the bells ringing the call to worship and I begin to run.
Certainly I can run to the chapel and be on time. It’s raining as I begin my jog to the chapel. I arrive with no time to spare. I head to the front with wet and windblown hair and less prepared and out of breath than I expected. I sit down in the front row next to my classmates … and everyone stands for the opening invocation.
My lamp was empty.
I had failed. I thought I knew the way. I thought I would arrive early. I thought I would have time to visit. I thought, I thought.
Had I prepared, I would have printed a map. Had I prepared I would have known the exit number. Had I prepared I would have arrive on time with plenty of oil in my lamp. How foolish I was.
But not you.
Because of Jesus you who believe are ready!
Christ has made a way to give you a full lamp. Christ has filled you with His Spirit who points you to him. Christ has promised he would never leave you or forsake you. Christ continues to feed you on word and sacrament so that the gift of faith continues to fill your lamp for you who trust in Him.
Just as Mrs. Hart, on the Titanic, stayed awake at night waiting and watching and preparing for what was unseen. And because of her vigilance, her family was saved.
You too who have been filled and are continually filled by God’s blessed faith are wise and prepared and ready for the coming of him, who is was and is and is to come, Jesus Christ our Lord!
Because of Jesus and your lamp of faith you who believe are ready!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!