Monday, November 10, 2014

Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 25:10
Theme: The Door of Heaven

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The shadows of the Church Year are lengthening. We are nearing the end of the cycle that celebrates the gracious intervention of God into our lives through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Scriptures through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us today prepare us for the end of time and the commencement of eternity. The Bible leaves little to doubt about the Lord’s intention. “The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”1 May God prepare us for this hour of glory.

Today Jesus seeks to jolt His hearers out of apathy through the parable of the ten virgins. The context is a First Century Jewish wedding in which it was customary for the groom and his attendants to process to the house of the parents of the bride. They would be joined by the bride and her family and then process to the groom’s home where the wedding would take place and the celebration, typically a week in length, would commence. Like today, weddings were announced well in advance and involved much preparation by everyone involved. Our story involves five ‘wise’ virgins and five ‘foolish’ ones. All went with their lamps to meet the groom but when he was delayed they fell asleep. When the call went out the foolish ones were found to be out of oil for their lamps. When they went out to buy some the bridegroom came and the wise virgins went into the wedding celebration.

Now we reach the critical juncture. The Bible says, “The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”2 This is the turning point of the parable: The door was shut. When the foolish virgins return later, they say, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us! But He replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’”3 Were this a typical wedding celebration the response would have been almost unthinkable. How could the bride’s attendants be denied entry! It now becomes crystal clear that the final coming of Christ, the Bridegroom, is spoken of. The foolish virgins say, “Lord, Lord!” But the time is already past. He does not know them. That is, they were not true believers who endured in faith to the end. When God drops the curtain on history there will be no curtain call.

The door was shut. The foolish virgins were on the outside of God’s eternal grace. The shutting of the door is the final chapter in the book of history, the final act in the divine drama of judgment and salvation. But is should not come as a surprise. It is not without preview, precedent, or parallel. In a previous chapter of the history of redemption we are reminded that when Noah’s family and the animals were on the ark, “The Lord shut him in.”4 The ark was the sole place of salvation. Everything shut outside perished. The earth was purged of sin and Noah and the creatures emerged to inhabit a new and transformed world. Not surprisingly St. Peter says that it symbolizes baptism in which God washes us clean and makes us new.

Sin seals shut the door of heaven. We are powerless to unlock it or break it down. The essence of repentance is to recognize that we need help. There exists One more powerful than all humanity combined. His blood covers all sin. His death sustains all life. His life overcomes all death. Of Him the Scripture says, “These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”5 Christ is the door of heaven.

It is difficult when studying this parable to know exactly what symbolism is intended. The virgins appear to be the same except for their preparedness in regards to the oil and the lamps. Does the oil represent faith, love, or perhaps the Holy Spirit? Nevertheless the main point is unmistakably clear, “Keep watch, because you do not know the day or hour.”6 Such watchfulness involves perseverant faith and it can only take place under the shadow of the cross. The wisdom of the world laughs at the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion but for Christians it is the wisdom of salvation.

We must understand beyond all doubt that for every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth the door has not yet been shut. In fact, in this life, until we die or until the Lord comes again, the door is only shut by our own unbelief. No one can be saved except by the Lord’s doing. Yet, no one can perish except by their own fault. The grace of Christ is universal. He died for all. No sin is left un-atoned for. No sinner is left without hope. Yet those who deny the need for His grace begin swinging the door shut. And once they have driven the Holy Spirit away the door latches. It is not within our power to open the door. But, rest assured, Christ never turns away the repentant soul.

Inside the banquet hall the eternal wedding feast of the Bridegroom has already begun. The banquet hall is lit by God’s own radiance. The saints feast on sumptuous fare. Their souls are white as the driven snow. Yet even now we participate in the glory of that celebration. The Holy Spirit lights our paths. The bridegroom gives us of His own body and blood. The words of salvation sink into our ears and fortify our hearts. Our baptismal robes of righteousness cover our sin-soiled souls.

The reality that St. John saw has been secured for us, “After this I looked, and there was before me a door standing open in heaven.”7 Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep…I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved.”8 As the shadow of the Church Year’s approaching end fades to the dawn of Advent may the Holy Spirit fill you with peace and joy as you look forward to the celebration of the wedding feast unencumbered by the weight of sin. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
2 Matthew 25:10
3 Matthew 25:11-12
4 Genesis 7:16
5 Revelation 3:7
6 Matthew 25:13
7 Revelation 4:1
8 John 10:7, 9

Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost
9 November 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

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