Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November 10th, 2020

About the cover art: “The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins” ca. 1799–1800, by William Blake: The wise virgins at left are elegant, palely luminous, and composed within a single plane, recalling classical low-relief sculpture. In contrast, their foolish companions at right are agitated and characterized by dark tones. A trumpeting angel flying overhead signifies that the moment of judgment has arrived. The drawing illustrates Matthew 25:1-13 used by Jesus to warn listeners to be spiritually prepared: Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them. (vss. 1-3)

Text: St. Mathew 25: 1-13

Virgins are unstained, they are pure. That ain’t me and I would be right.  Who are the virgins?  Christians are virgins that is, those  who are unstained from the worship of false gods that is envy, greed, covetousness, and the like. Knowing in humility they are not pure, but have been made pure, washed in the blood of the Lamb. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” The hope of His appearing purifies us in as He is pure.

Too many Christians live as mere materialists.  Materialism is the philosophy that all life is only matter, emphasis on only.  We think matter is good, though, as God created it…but a materialist believes that matter is all there is.  It’s a closed system. Matter is self-created. It’s madness.  In all of our Lord’s teaching, from Genesis to Revelation, there is something outside of us, actually Someone outside of us.  The materialists, both capitalists and communists, want to beat back the voice of the One outside of us by the rant that this life is all there is, we will provide the utopia of wealth beyond belief or egalitarianism enforced by the elite, and so without hope. This closed system, locked down and locked up is the definition of hopelessness and despair.

The Bridegroom is delayed but he will be arriving, outside of our closed minds and philosophies. He did the first times: from the time He came to Abraham in  Haran to the time when  He was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem and once again, once and for all…and in between to us. Materialists and madmen do not doubt.  We doubt and that is the sign of faith and sound doctrine: will He come again?   The prospect of joy, of seeing again the One Who first loved us a sharp pang in the heart.  We were baptized for His arrival, clothed in the wedding garment of His sinless life.  So it is a good idea to be ready for the Bridegroom to arrive.  How do we make ready?

A marriage, as at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry and in many cultures, was a contract between two families.  Once the families agreed, the couple was considered married.  But the couple would go to their respective homes and the groom would build a house, or add to his parents’ house, awaiting and preparing for the consummation of the marriage.  The house was built:  the wedding Day!  The groom and his friends would go to the bride’s home.  She waited with her wedding party (today’s parable, the ten virgins) and she would not know when he would arrive: morning, noon or even midnight! The virgins had to prepared even for the dead of night and utter darkness.  Back then, the groom could not text about his ETA. The cry would come forth, the Bridegroom is arriving!  Make haste!  Sheer joy!  Contrary to the usual conception of our Lord’s coming as only a dread event, this Gospel is joy, sheer joy, joy, as in blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.  These wedding customs are the backdrop for this verse, John 14:

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

The bridal wedding party were to wait for the arrival of the bridegroom. The foolish virgins knew the groom was coming at any time, even at midnight.  Why oh why did they not have extra oil, for light in the darkness?  We trust all too often lesser lights for the darkness, but against the darkness of sin, death and the power of the devil, human flashlights of worldly wisdom will not do.  Foolish people have no self-control as they look to what they want right now.  (Proverbs) We do not know how to wait. We are not prepared as maybe we once were for the bridegroom to come.  

Looking at our bulletin cover a painting by William Blake of “The Parable of the 10 Virgins”, he depicts the foolish virgins as out of control, in a panic for they have no oil and such is the world.  The five wise virgins are in harmony, for as the lead woman points her sisters and us to the arrival of Christ for which our whole lives are pointed, as John the Baptist did as well.  Our hearts are empty until they are filled with the oil of faith, hope and love in Christ and He is leaven in this world. The wise virgins were prepared and so is the Lord:

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians
)

  • Jesus taught this parable that we may  watch for His coming. He taught this parable that we be the wise Church, not the foolish church.  The foolish church puts human opinions, theologies and the like center.  The wise Church knows Who is the Center of the Church:  Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom.  
  • He taught this parable for hope.   For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8: 24).  Hope is for us individually and together as His Body the Church. 
  • He taught the parable of the virgins for us, His teaching is the Word of God, the Scriptures, “…which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 3: 15).  He taught the parable that we be wise for salvation in Him, carrying the oil of faith in His Word of promise to us all. 
  • He taught this for hope in Him, who soon after He taught this parable in the Temple would be cast out of Jerusalem to bear the hopelessness of sin and death, yours and mine upon the Cross.  Paul wrote we Christians grieve but as those who have hope.  The hope is His salvation for the soul and the body, that when He comes all the living and the dead, judged and saved in Him, will be caught up with Him as He leads us home, the new heavens and the new earth.

The foolish virgins went out into the darkness, at midnight to buy more oil!  The dealers in the darkness and of the darkness, do not have the oil of God’s Word and with his word, faith, hope and love. The oil would have been given already!  You cannot buy God’s Word, you cannot buy salvation.  And then out in the darkness, the bridegroom says to the foolish virgins:

 “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”

“Harsh. But that’s the way it is. When our Lord returns, we know not. When our soul is required of us, we know not. And so, the key is to be prepared. It’s a lesson we take to heart in other areas of our life. A nation must be militarily prepared to defend itself. We should plan for our retirements. Whether it’s sports or business, preparation is key. A student will likewise fail apart from preparation. Why then are we so thoughtless about things eternal? So lackadaisical?”

How might we prepare? For number one, two, and three on the list, I’d say, go to church, go to church, go to church. And make it a good one. Not a self-help church but a church that preaches Christ Crucified. Oh, and yes, one where you actually confess your sins, and receive absolution. One that treasures Baptism, which is your wedding garment. (See Matthew 22:11) One that proclaims Christ’s death by partaking of his Supper.”*

His feast is not a buffet for us to pick and choose what we want.  Not a buffet but a banquet of what the King knows we need and it is bountiful. 

We need to be prepared even for the dead of night and utter darkness.  The oil was there for the giving to all ten virgins, the bridal party. The 10 virgins symbolize the Church. Someone amply supplied the oil for the virgins to meet the Bridegroom who came at an hour no one suspected. The oil was given for that purpose.

In that time, oil, olive oil,  was used for three purposes: 1. for lamps, as in today’s Gospel; 2.  for medicine, as we read that the Samaritan took care of the man robbed and beaten on the Jericho road by pouring wine and oil upon his  wounds; 3. for the face to make it shine, as it is written, Psalm 104: 15 , the Lord gives to us,

“…wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

Oil was used for lamps, for medicine, for the face, that is,  for light, healing and joy.  And oil was used for special and unique purpose:  the anointing with oil marked the investiture of the Kings of Israel, as Samuel anointed Saul and David as the Kings of Israel. God, your God, has anointed you/ with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; Oil was administered by anointing. Remember that the title “Christ” means “anointed one”.  Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew, Messiah. Behold, One is here who is greater than the prophets!  

  1. God’s Word is light:  His Law a light unto our path that may know His way and as Jesus is the Way, the only  Way, we are led by Jesus the Anointed, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. 
  2. His Word is healing and the balm of healing for broken and contrite hearts, which O Lord, you will not despise. Staupitz and Luther
  3. His Word is the joy, of not only knowing the truth, but knowing He who knows us better than we do ourselves.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:  20-21

*From a Facebook posting by Prof. Peter Scaer, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN

Read Full Post »