Sermon for the Last Sunday of the Church Year, AD 2021

Wake, awake for night is flying!” the watchmen on the heights are crying, “Awake, Jerusalem arise!” Wake, and be watchful, for the bridegroom is coming! Get ready! This is what Jesus’ parable tells you today. Jesus is coming soon, and all those who are ready will enter with him into the feast, into eternal life. Yet those who are not ready will be shut out as Jesus says, “I never knew you.”

Jesus says, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.” What is the kingdom of heaven? We know from the Small Cathechism that the kingdom of heaven comes “When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and there in eternity.” Entering the kingdom of heaven is being brought into the rule of your heavenly Father which happens by his holy Spirit. Through the Word and the Sacraments he sends to you his Holy Spirit who is embraced by faith, trusting what he has promised to you – that Christ has died for your sins and risen again. So this parable of the ten virgins is what the kingdom of heaven is like. The virgins are those who have believed their heavenly Father’s holy word and are brought into the church.

These ten virgins all represent the church, they represent those who have heard the word of the Bridegroom coming, that Jesus has died for their sins, rose again, and will one day return. They know the Apostles’ Creed. This applies to both kind of virgins here, both the wise and the foolish. This is why they are both waiting for the bridegroom. If they were just unbelievers they wouldn’t be there, but those of the church on earth who we see gathering to hear God’s word and receive his gifts are all one of these virgins, either wise or foolish. This warning is for you, the church, you who show up even week after week.

All of these virgins have some preparation, they have brought lamps with oil, but only the wise virgins have brought extra oil for their lamps. Lamps are necessary when night is coming. They know the night will come before the bridegroom arrives. In the same way, you know that life in this world is not perfect. Now the church waits in the night in hopeful expectation for the day, for the time when Jesus will come and bring and end to sin and death. What you partake of now in Christ’s Word is just the beginning of what you will have when He returns. Yet that time is the “not yet.” It is not now. So you wait.

The coming the bridegroom is not like the coming of the dawn. He comes at a time when the virgins do not expect. So much so that they all fall asleep. If to have your lamp burning and watchful is to be ready for the coming of the bridegroom, falling asleep is the reality of sin in the night of this world. Isn’t it true, as Jesus tarries, as His coming seems so far away, you tend to invite sin. You tend not to be prepared because your sinful flesh says, “it will be quite awhile before the end, before you die, before Jesus returns. Do what you will now, look out for yourself first. If He never comes, at least you enjoyed what you had.”

What am I saying here? That all have sinned. Not just those out there, but you all in the church here. You are all in the kingdom of God, yet act like there is no king. Can you honestly reply that even this week you have done all that Christ wishes you to do? Can you say you acted in a godly way every day? Sometimes God gives his children a reminder. A reminder which seems like a curse, but ends up a blessing. A reminder – those pains, those doctors appointments, those loss of loved ones, that word from Scripture which convicts and reminds you that Jesus will return soon. So be ready.

Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” comes the cry in the middle of the night. Yes, all have become drowsy and fallen asleep in the night. All have sinned. Yet when the call comes the question is not who is asleep, but who is ready. The wise virgins have brought extra oil, and ready their lamps again to meet the bridegroom. The foolish virgins ran out of oil in the night. They are not ready. They ask the others for their oil, but there is not enough. They must go to the sellers. When they return, the bridegroom has already come. The door is shut. They missed their chance. They will not be let in.

They were not let in because they were not ready. No one else could be ready for them. What is readiness? It is not a lack of sin. All fall asleep in the night. Although Christians fight sin, you will never be rid of your sinful flesh in this life. The question is, what is there to do when you sin, when you fall asleep and act like the bridegroom will never come?

It is not enough to merely come to church, to act as if only hearing or receiving was sufficient. You may say, “what do you mean, I thought hearing the preaching and receiving the Lord’s Supper was everything? I thought coming to church was important!” It is! It is the coming of the kingdom of heaven to you! Yet as you heard with the wise and foolish virgins, it can be done wisely or foolishly. Just like it is foolish to wait for someone to come in the night and not prepare enough oil for your light, it is foolish to hear the Word, to receive the body and blood without faith.

Without faith, you receive the body and blood of the Lord with indifference, as if it were nothing, as if it has nothing important to offer you. Without faith, you receive the Word of God with indifference, as if it were just another voice. A lack of faith is an attitude that says, sure I go to church, sure I am good enough. Jesus will save me, I showed up.

If this indifference has come upon you, repent. Or pray that the Lord will not have to bring chastening upon you to wake you up. It is better to be rudely awakened now, to see your indifference, than to be rudely awakened on the day when Jesus returns. For on that day there will be no time for repentance, and no one can have faith for you. So repent now.

And rejoice now, for the kingdom of heaven is among you. You see the night of sin, do not be indifferent. The evil of this world is plain to your sight, but the gift of Christ is only seen by faith. If you see the gift here, if you believe that Christ forgives you, that he gives you his body and blood, you have that faith. If you think you are a sinner too unworthy, that you have been indifferent to Christ, going through the motions too long, then the Holy Spirit is working on you. The faith is being stirred in you. For faith is trust in a Savior.

That Savior comes, and is coming, but the night is still dark. You may fall asleep. Extra oil is needed. In the darkness of this fallen world, you can truly see by the light of the Word. And when you know you need the Word to see clearly, you have faith. Our Lord gives you strength to make it until he comes with his body and blood. Trust and receive, for it is a foretaste of the feast to come. Jesus gives you this taste of the feast now, but he will return and invite those who are wise into his feast eternal. There you shall say, “Now come, thou Blessed One, Lord Jesus, God’s own Son, hail! Hosanna! We enter all the wedding hall to eat the Supper at Thy call.” Amen.


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