1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
This eagerness, this love for the Groom and the promise of his coming, is called wise by our Lord. While the five who brought no oil are called foolish. That is our God’s judgement. These five wise ones had faith that the Groom would come, that nothing could keep Him from His beloved. It did not matter how long it took. They longed for His coming. They were prepared to wait. When He came the Lord reckoned their faith to them as righteousness and they went into the joy of the eternal wedding feast.
Meanwhile, the foolish five assumed they knew what was going to happen. They assumed the Groom would arrive on their schedule. They were not prepared to wait if He should be a little longer. Maybe they were not that excited for wedding. Maybe they viewed this as one of those obligatory weddings you have to go to even though you wish you did not have to.
But notice: all ten fell asleep. The wise are no better than the foolish. They all equally fall victim of their flesh’s desires. They all fail to keep the command at the end of the parable, “Watch, for you do not know the hour or the day.” All shared the embarrassment of being caught unawares, and had to quickly wipe the night out of their eyes, shake the cobwebs out of their heads, straighten their hair, make selves presentable, trim their lamps, and top up the oil. So why are some of them called wise by our Lord and some foolish?
God tells us to do things. It is to our benefit to listen for our Father knows best. In sinful weakness we frequently fail. Even the wise virgins failed. It is not their better character that gets them into the Wedding Feast. It is their eager anticipation, their faith, that is reckoned to them, by God, as righteousness. And even this faith is a gift given by the Gospel.
This is a parable about the Church here on earth. The Church is the Bride and the bridal party. She is pure, holy, clothed in righteousness through Baptism. She is housed and fed by the Lord while we wait for the Great Feast. We are gathered together to wait for our Bridegroom who will come. But as we wait, all are unfaithful, all fall asleep. None are found worthy on their own or awake without His prophets’ call when He comes. Yet He calls some wise and some foolish. For some believe while others who are baptized, confirmed, and may even gather regularly with the Church have fallen away from their first love. They have fallen from their eagerness for Him and His return. They aren’t going to wait forever.
These 2000 years that have passed since His first coming make it seem stupid to think that we should still wait for Him. We are tempted to think, “He isn’t coming.” The devil and the world continue to chip away at our faith convincing us that the Church’s teachings are foolish, that you know better. Eventually you are just going through the motions of faith. For after all, some of what the Bible says is good, so you are not ready to toss it all out. But a lot of it seems so stupid and passe, even mean. Today’s wisdom says, you don’t have to believe everything the Bible says to be a Christian. And we find ourselves agreeing.
Oh foolish one: repent. Awaken now. Trim your wick and top up your oil. Be filled with the joy of the Lord. Long for His coming. Trust in His promises. Hear His Word and receive wisdom—wisdom which our world calls foolish. Yet, He who is wisdom calls those who are worldly wise fools.
Whose approval do you seek? Man’s or God’s? His Word has told you all you need. It has imparted to you life and salvation. It has created faith in you. Faith which trusts all He has said to us. We don’t always understand it. In every age, the spirit of the age disagrees with some part of what He says. But from age to age He is the same. He is unchanging. He is ever there to seek and save the lost. And He will come again.
We all slumber. We are all weak. Our inborn sin put to death in baptism, keeps rising again within us. It needs to be slain daily. For coupled with the world’s voice and Satan’s deceptions it seeks to overthrow you. It causes us to be drowsy, to slumber, to cease being vigilant in all our Gracious Lord says. It wants you to give in, to enjoy the promised pleasures of earth, thinking you can have your cake and eat it too.
And you can. But not the way the world says. You can only have your cake and eat it in the wisdom of our God who feeds us cake that satisfies the soul. For His sweet bread of heaven enlivens the dead spirit, quickening eternal life within you. His is a food that teaches you to say no to worldly passions and yes to godly desires. It teaches you to love God and love your neighbour so that you are a mask of God through which our God and Father is imparting His mercy into this broken world. This new man of faith causes us to truly be able to enjoy this earth as the good gift it is from our God. But the new man in us does not hang onto it as though it is our meaning or purpose. For we know it is passing away and that the only eternal thing is our God whose Son comes for you. Thus, we can enjoy the good gifts of God’s creation and in love we can also sacrificially give of what we have, for our God and Father has given all, and showers down on us far more than all you ever return to Him in faith.
Since we are not rooted in this world, but awaiting the next, His coming will not take us by surprise. It will not grip us with panic and pain like the sudden onslaught of labour. Instead it awakens us and quickens our joy. Our hearts thrill at His coming. For He whom we were made for is finally coming to claim us as His own.
But as we wait, whether you stay awake spiritually or fall asleep, clothe yourself with the love He pours into your heart as a breastplate to ward off Satan’s attempts to make you lose heart. And be crowned with the certain hope of His coming to ward off world’s thinking that He is not coming.
And sleeping or waking the One who died on your behalf will come again so that we should live with Him. For His declaration that you are wise appoints you not to an eternity of His wrath but rather to the joy of His glorious presence at His heavenly banquet.
In +Jesus` name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON