Sunday, November 21, 2010

Last Sunday: A Devotional Commentary

Isaiah 65:17-25 “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be you glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying. There shall be no more there an infant of days, nor an old man who has not filled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, and the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for calamity; for they are the seed of the blessed of Yahweh, and their offspring with them. It shall happen that, before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,” says Yahweh.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that anything be written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. For when they are saying, “Peace and safety,” then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape. But you, brothers, aren’t in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don’t belong to the night, nor to darkness, so then let’s not sleep, as the rest do, but let’s watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunk are drunk in the night. But let us, since we belong to the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God didn’t appoint us to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do.

Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘What if there isn’t enough for us and you? You go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Most certainly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Watch therefore, for you don’t know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

The virgins that Jesus calls wise in this parable seem rather foolish and the foolish seem wise. Why bring all that oil? The wise seem pretty OCD. It's a wedding and the bridegroom ought to show up in the daytime. If you're invited to a wedding you probably don't bring some pajamas with you to change into.

The "foolish" are reasonable people and by nature we are all "foolish" and act reasonably all the time. And since we are reasonable we expect God to be reasonable and we create Him in our own image. We create a God who is transactional in nature and we even try to read the parable this way. The "oil" becomes something else that we can check off of our list of things we need to do to get to heaven. So we make the oil good works or sincerity or prayer or whatever we think it might be and then pat ourselves on the back for having the oil that the other guy doesn't have. But God does not behave in this reasonable way.

God invites both the wise and foolish to the wedding feast. God invites everyone to the party. God's invitation to the party goes out continually in the preaching of the Word and He invites us to partake of the wedding feast in the Sacrament of the Altar where we feast upon the Bridegroom. Being the foolish virgins that we are, we neglect these good gifts. We are always asking the question, "How much do I have to do to get to heaven?" or "If I commit this sin will I still get to go to heaven?" Our goal is to have just enough oil to pass the test on judgment day and anyone who wants just enough oil doesn't really know what the oil is. The invitation is not to some examination where we see if we got just enough oil. The invitation is an invitation to a party--the greatest party of all! If someone were handing out free money, you wouldn't start asking them what the bare minimum is that you have to take from them in order to pay off your debt. So why do you act like you already have enough forgiveness of sins? "Forgiveness of sins? Oh, I took care of that at an altar call 20 years ago, I don't need anymore. Why do I need forgiveness of sins every week? Doesn't infrequently receive the forgiveness of sins make it more special?"

Even when we drag ourselves to church each week we tend to treat the forgiveness of sins as if it were a necessary evil. Just give us enough to get by. We doze off or our minds our occupied with other things.

But the oil of forgiveness is not something to be taken upon our lips like some kind of necessary but disgusting medicine. O taste and see that the Lord is delicious! Getting the oil is not something we do but something we receive. The foolish virgins tried to buy some off of the wise when they saw that their oil had run out and went out on a quick trip to purchase more when the wise virgins would not give them any. But it was too late. They didn't miss out because they weren't invited. They missed out because they didn't really like the oil very much and weren't that excited about the party. The party was better than the alternative but the party is also a reminder of our own sinfulness and inability. We could never throw the party. We can never pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and create the feast.

Jesus does it all. Jesus is the bridegroom. Jesus provides the feast. Jesus is the feast. O taste and see that the Lord is delicious!

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