Text: Matthew 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.
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.
In light of the tragedy of last Sunday in Sutherland springs Texas we pray for comfort and peace to those affected there as well as asking the Lord to come quickly.
So the text today speaks of the end times and preparation for the Lord’s coming.
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 benefit and ours, with the foolish and wise virgins who took their lamps and while the wise had oil in their lamps, the foolish did not and though the bridegroom was a long time in coming … they were unprepared for the time of his arrival.
Being unprepared is not a good thing.
Preparation has been evident these last few weeks as we’ve moved things from the offices, halls, Narthex and Sanctuary to make way and prepare for the new carpeting. It has been a long time coming … some ten years in our thoughts that we needed it and a few years in preparation to make it happen. But, until the last council and voters meeting we didn’t know if it was possible and would materialize. Day by day we don’t know what will be needed and who will be available to make things happen but we are prepared and work around the schedules that are needed.
We’ve received some donations, wrote some checks, and paid some bills and as of right now – though we were prepared to borrow money to finish the carpet – it doesn’t appear to be needed.
Preparation is not always on the minds of all.
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. We also have at times had lights with burned out bulbs. How helpful is a light that is out? Not much.
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. As do fresh bulbs in our EXIT signs. 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 all who believe. So what did the foolish lose? They lost focus on Jesus, and their faith had dries up. 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 the gift of faith by God’s Spirit?
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? In John’s gospel we have a glimpse in Chapter 6:
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
This past Sunday tragedy once again came to our country. But this time it came to a church and those who were worshiping - as we are - sitting in God’s house and hearing God’s word.
How unthinkable it is that in a place of worship evil came. How unthinkable that as they prayed and sang hymns of praise to our God the brokenness of sin broke through the doors of that little church in a death hail of bullets.
How unthinkable some of the comments were:
“The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”
They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.
No need to go into all the tweets of those in support of this viewpoint as it pertains to Christians, prayer and those opposed to the faith or those who replied in opposition to these heartless statements. To say things once again became political would be an understatement.
Last Sunday’s Bible study was on the Beatitudes from our gospel reading.
2 And [Jesus] opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Had only the gunman been touched by the gospel and brought to faith then too his flask of oil would have been full and the outcome would have been very different.
If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”
Jesus himself prayed from the cross:
42 … “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42
If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”
41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked [Jesus], saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
Dear friends, we who have lamps are fools too at times.
We fool ourselves into believing that we have measured up; we fool ourselves into believing that we are acceptable in the eyes of God and that we will all stand before him in righteous acceptance.
The truth is that apart from Jesus and his Spirit working … my lamp is empty. Your lamp is empty too … and so are the lamps of all who trust in their own way.
But dear friends, your lamps are fueled by God’s word and Spirit!
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 and me who trust in Him.
Christ was feeding those dear souls at the first Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas too, and by his Spirit they are with the Lord.
You also who have been filled and are continually being filled by God’s blessed faith as you remain connected to his word and sacraments and are wise and prepared and ready for the coming of him – whenever and however that may come to pass.
Because of Jesus and your lamp of faith fueled by the Holy Spirit you who believe are ready! Come Lord Jesus!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!