O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Here Comes the Groom
Here Comes the Groom
Based on Mt. 25:1-13
Preached on Novemebr 9, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints and bride of Christ, here comes the groom! It's the year 30 A.D., we are in Ancient Israel, and someone is getting married. Now I want you to throw out everything you know about weddings and marriage today, because in Jesus' day things were completely different. The groom didn't stand awkwardly at the altar waiting for his bride. He had a completely different duty. And the bride didn't venture out with her entourage in hopes of finding the groom at the altar. In fact, things were the complete opposite.
On the wedding day, the bridegroom would dress in wedding garments, and his friends would escort him to the house of the bride. The bride would come out to meet them with her friends. Then, the whole group would joyously parade to the home that the groom had prepared for the feast, which you could guarantee was going to last an entire week, at which the most elaborate meals that the groom's family could afford would be served one after another after another. And in order to seal the marriage covenant, the bride and groom would drink wine from a common cup to signify the joy of their new life together.
Now, with all of this in mind, let's take a look at the parable our Lord speaks to us this morning. It is wedding day. The bridegroom is coming to get his bride. And the bride and her friends are waiting at her house for him to arrive and take them to the feast. But half of these maidens are flabbergastedly foolish. Even though they know the groom is coming, even though they know the feast is going to last a week, they have brought no extra oil to keep their lamps burning. It's like they haphazardly grabbed their lamps as they ran out the door that morning. Consequently, when the bridegroom arrives these foolish virgins run off to get oil and miss out on the feast.
The question is: What does Jesus want us to understand from this picture? It contains both warning and promise. It paints the most beautiful day for some, and the most awful day for others. But what is the key? And the answer is faith.
Christ is the groom who is coming to get His bride, the Church. He is going to take us to the place He has prepared for the marriage feast - His heavenly kingdom. We are the maidens waiting here on earth for His return. We are the ones who know He is coming, who know the feast is going to last a very long time. But it can seem like He is delayed, can't it? Like its taking a long time. Here He teaches us that faith is needed - oil. Faith that is continually sustained by His Word and Sacrament. Faith that is continually being topped up by Him so that it doesn't run out. Faith that lasts until He arrives. Jesus is warning us not to neglect our faith. Do not miss church, He says. Do not miss hearing my Word and receiving my Supper. For if you do - you are foolish - and you do understand the importance of your faith.
Jesus wants us to be wise with our faith. To take our faith seriously. To attend Bible Study, to grow and learn and keep the lamp burning bright, otherwise we will become drowsy and fall asleep. Sure, we'll still call ourselves Christians, we'll still number ourselves with the wedding party, but our lamps will go out because they have no oil. Watch therefore, Jesus says, it is not your words that keep the oil burning, it is my Word.
Because let's face it, we've all become drowsy. We've all neglected our faith. We've all been foolishly distracted with the temporary things of this life, the fleeting, dying wasteful temptations that take our attention. We've made light of our faith, thought too little of it, sold it short. And worst of all - we've rationalized it - we've justified it - we've told ourselves we had to - not only do we put things ahead of our faith, we defend ourselves when we do - "But these are my circumstances" we say - "Don't be foolish," God says. Stop explaining why you have the wrong priorities. Stop telling yourself that this is the way it is. Repent. Turn back to me. Change your priority - or you will find yourself without oil and you know neither the day nor the hour.
If this isn't terrifying, I don't know what is. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Speak your mercy Lord. Free us. Comfort us. We have been foolish. Make us wise and save us.
For this Jesus comes. To forgive your sin and renew your faith. For this Jesus speaks. To wake you up and give you oil in your lamp. Jesus wants you at the feast, and He comes to seal the marriage covenant with you now. To give you the joy of your new life with Him. Drink of it all of you, this cup is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. How do you remember your Lord? In His feast. How does your Lord remember you? In His feast. This is REAL. Jesus gives you a foretaste of the feast to come so that you do not lose hope. So that you take your faith seriously. So that you study His Word and grow in grace. So that you care for the people in these pews with you, especially the ones you have not met. So that He Himself can keep you close to Him as He is delayed.
Alleluia. Thanks be to God. But there is one last question, isn't there? What is taking Him so long? What is the bridegroom doing that keeps Him from His bride? Jesus says, "In my Father's house are many rooms and I go to prepare a place for you. I am coming. And I will take you to myself, that where I am you will be also." Jesus is doing what the bridegroom does - He is preparing a place and a feast for His bride. As the Scriptures say, no eye has seen. No ear has heard. No heart has imagined the glory of what He is preparing. So do not let your lamps grow dim. Because you do not want to miss this party, and the bridegroom is coming. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr