Sunday, November 6, 2011

Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2011

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Matthew 25:1-13
Theme: Five Wise And Five Foolish

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The promises of God are never subject to human judgment. The believer clings to His mercy despite all evidence to the contrary. The skeptic debates whether such unconditional love is possible and whether it is relevant. In the pending return of Christ all uncertainties will be clarified, all judgment will be rendered and all things unfinished will be brought to resolution. His return is the topic of our gospel today illustrated in the parable of the ten virgins.

In what way did the five foolish ones lack wisdom? Was it merely a practical matter of short-sightedness? Was their mistake a simple matter of over-looking the possible need for more oil? No, this was only the evidence of their folly relevant to the occasion. It was a sure indication of a much bigger problem. They were not really prepared to meet the bridegroom- not on his terms, only theirs. Their foolishness consisted of the assumption they still had the right to enter the wedding banquet. Dear friends, the presumption that when Christ comes again people will be able to enter the kingdom on their own terms is what is at stake here. This is folly in the fullest sense. Can the human heart be absent from Christ- by will and self-determination- and still presume it can rush to greet the Saviour? Can trust be totally invested in the world’s agenda and then allegiance be instantly reversed when it is clear the jig is up? The wise virgins were not being uncharitable in declining the request of the foolish ones, only realistic. No one is saved by the faith of another.

Dear friends, the patience of God is often interpreted as a lack of interest. Perhaps you know of someone who has or you yourself have tested God in this way: transgressing His revealed will you nevertheless did not experience His immediate anger or judgment. Maybe it involved a situation of on-going dishonesty or unfaithfulness? And yet God seemed to overlook it. Maybe you were or are even beginning to doubt whether God really does judge our ungodliness. But have no illusions, God’s memory is never faulty. The hour to repent of your sins is always at hand? Many will be surprised when Christ returns in glory. How could these foolish virgins be treated more harshly than the “prostitutes and tax-collectors” Christ said were entering the kingdom of heaven ahead of the Pharisees?

There was a man, who by no doing of his own, was made, along with others, a signer to the account of a charitable endowment. The endowment was a very large sum of money and the directive was that it was to be used for works of charity and then at a specified time, the signers would divide the amount that remained for their own works of philanthropy. What none were told and what only the bank trustee knew was that if one of them failed to draw on the account for charitable purposes they would not receive their share at the designated time. This man, having neglected all requests and opportunities to aid others from the account, appeared at the appointed time and found that his name had been removed. The foolish virgins were denied entry not because of a simple error of judgment; they had no true interest in the bridegroom.

Any life lived detached from the Living God is vanity and decay regardless of how things appear outwardly. Scarcely do we reach maturity and the human heart becomes a cemetery. Dashed hopes, buried dreams, forgotten plans are interred there. In the vigor of life we may move forward thinking there is time and opportunity to recover the past, to mend what is broken and straighten what is crooked- but the limitations of mortality soon dictate otherwise. And here we begin to learn of our need for the refuge of God’s mercy. Only in the vastness of His grace is there a reservoir deep enough to receive and absorb our folly and our sinfulness. Do not try to bury your grievances, your hurts and pains in the far corners of your heart. That grave will not be big enough to hold the festerings and stirrings of unforgiven and unresolved sin. The body of Christ is the only morgue, the only place to inter sin where it is finally and fully put to death. Only His death terminates the punishment for your sin.

In the person of Jesus we see the face of God. In His sacrifice on the cross we see His heart. He ascends the hill of Calvary bloodied, beaten, broken, bearing the weight of the world’s sins. There He is sacrificed and this is called the very wisdom of God- the death of the Holy One. The Scripture says, “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”1 Sealed in the chamber of death He breaks its stronghold- not with worldly pomp and circumstance-but with a tour de force through the domains of death and hell. He triumphs. Death is shattered. Eternal separation from God is broken.

We have fellowship with God through Christ, but not through the efforts of our spiritual determination but through the sacramental means God provides. The Scripture says you, “Have been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.”2 Baptism incorporates you into the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Every time forgiveness is declared to you the power and promise of your baptism is put into effect. Whenever forgiveness calms the anxious heart and puts the conscience at ease the Holy Spirit is present freeing the Christian to love his neighbour. In the person with whom the Spirit lives, the works of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control3 -follow as a matter of course. When the sun rises it shed its rays of light. When the Spirit converts and sanctifies, the good works of the believer are evident. Our good works cannot be staged or fabricated- God does not play such games.

Dear friends, can the mission of the church go forth unless this truth is unreservedly confessed: When Christ condemns no one can forgive; when Christ forgives, no one can condemn. The Scripture says, “What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”4 Our hope is not placed in some idea that God will recognize the best we have to offer and open the gates of heaven accordingly. Our salvation, our rescue, our redemption is accomplished solely through the sacrifice of the crucified One. He is present with us through word and water, bread and wine. And we receive this grace only by faith. This is foolishness to the world but to us it is the wisdom and power of God.5 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost
6 November 20111
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 5:8
2 Colossians 2:12
3 See Galatians 5:22
4 Revelation 3:7
5 See 1Corinthians 1:18