Archive for the ‘Pentecost 21A’ Category

Don’t Be Unprepared!

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

21st Sunday after Pentecost A, November 6, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

INTRODUCTION: Today, both the epistle lesson (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18) and the gospel lesson (Matthew 25:1–13) speak about being prepared.  Another way to think of this is to say that God’s Word is assuring us that because we are trusting in Jesus, we will not fall victim to a spiritual disaster!  So this morning’s message is one of disaster preparedness!

Now being from California, we know all about disaster preparedness; we hear all the time that the “Big” earthquake could come at any time, so we need to take some steps to be prepared: 1. Have an emergency kit available in your home. 2. Have food and water to last you about 7 days. 3. Have at least two exits from any room, structure, or area preplanned in your mind. There are many other things we can and should do to prepare for a natural disaster.  But how should we prepare for a spiritual disaster, a disaster like death?

Our gospel reading says we need oil in our lamp.  In other words we need to have faith in Jesus Christ; we need to be like the little boy who wrote a letter to Jesus one Christmas in order to get his favorite toy. He started out by writing. “Dear Jesus, I’ve been a really good boy this year.” Unfortunately, he remembered that Jesus was all knowing and all seeing so he decided that he couldn’t lie to Him. He crumpled up that letter and started over. This time he wrote: “Dear Jesus, I know I haven’t done everything I should have, but I really tried to be good.” He stopped and crumpled up that letter, too. It was obvious that he was struggling with what to write to Jesus.  Finally he was able to remember a lesson he learned in his catechism, so he simply wrote, “Dear Jesus I am baptized and that means you love me, so I’ll just trust in whatever you decide to give to me this Christmas.”

But the story is also told about another little boy who also wrote a letter to Jesus.  His letter went a little differently. As he came to the same realization as the other boy, the realization that he couldn’t fool Jesus, He suddenly saw his mother’s favorite piece of sculpture on the mantel. It was a beautiful rendition of the Madonna, the mother of Christ. The boy perked up and ran out of the room. He came back with a towel and a shoe box. He walked over, carefully picked up the Madonna, gently wrapped it in the towel, carefully put it in the shoe box and then hid it in the closet. He immediately went back to the table and wrote: “Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again . . .”

Unfortunately, many people are more like the second little boy than the first.  They want to make deals with God in order to get what they want.  Now this is foolish when God clearly tells us what is needed to be prepared for our death and the day of the Lord.  What is the day of the Lord?  It’s the last day for creation as we know it; it’s the day of judgment and reward.  On the day of the resurrection of all flesh, some will go to judgment; a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth; a place of outer darkness and eternal separation from God, and others will go to the great Marriage Feast, the eternal banquet table of Jesus Christ!

I. In our Old Testament reading (Amos 5:18-24), those who are not prepared for our Lord’s return are warned that they are foolish, because for them, His coming won’t be a time to celebrate but a time of fear and mourning.  Listen: “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!  Why would you have the day of the Lord?  It is darkness and not light, as if a man fled from a lion (only to be eaten by a bear), or (a woman) who went into the house and leaned (her) hand against the wall and a serpent bit (her).”

But this person who is rejected by God may counter, “But Heavenly Father, I attended Divine Service faithfully; every time Holy Communion was celebrated I was the first in line.  And I always put more than my fair share into the offering plate!  And you know Lord, I even sang in the gospel choir; why people said I sang like and angel!”  And to this God says, “I loathed your participation in the communion service; your worship is hollow and meaningless!  I never noticed the paltry percentage of your income you brought as an offering!  And your voice in those songs of worship, well it was nothing more than an irritating noise in my ears!”  And to the Father’s rebuke, this person will counter, “But Jesus died for me!”  But Jesus Himself will answer, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” [Matthew 25:12]

What went wrong?  What could this person have done to be prepared?  Well these are the very questions that the prophet Amos was forcing the people of Israel to ask themselves.  You see like our worship today, their worship was designed to produce and express faith in the Lord and His proclamation of love and salvation.  Through their worship services, they were to see God in their midst coming to them with His Divine service giving them faith and a willing obedience to follow Him and serve Him.  All of their festivals were designed to acknowledge that the Lord had delivered them from bondage and that He was providing for all of their needs in the land that He gave to them.  Their sacrifices for sin were God’s visible promise that He would soon send a Savior who would offer a perfect sacrifice that would make their reoccurring sacrifices obsolete.  Their offerings, music, and praise songs were all designed to give them faith to believe that God was with them in a mighty way; a way of love and forgiveness.  All of these things were designed to remind them that the time was coming when the Messiah Himself, would come and make all things right.  But they failed to see God’s gospel promise in these things; they failed to see their Savior.  Instead all that they saw was a system of quid pro quo.  If we do this then God will be happy and bless us!  They believed in judgment day, in the day of the Lord, but they had no faith in the one who would come to protect them from judgement!

II. In our gospel reading Jesus is speaking of this very thing!  He talks about 10 virgins with lamps.  Five were prepared by having oil in their lamps and five were not!  The oil is nothing less than faith.  Faith that comes by hearing, using, and living a life centered in the Word of God, the Word that is always about Jesus Christ!  Like the little boy in my story who remembered his catechism lesson, it is nothing but resting in the work that God has done through Jesus Christ.  Resting in what Jesus has done, first in His atoning death upon the cross for all of mankind, and second in what He has given to you in your baptism, this is the oil in your lamp!

Like the five wise virgins, God’s Word makes us wise unto salvation.  His Word alone makes sure that when Jesus the Bridegroom comes to call together His church, you will be ready!  By remembering your baptism, you remember that Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross, His once and for all sacrifice was for you!  You are reminded that when it comes to your salvation, nothing else will do!  You know this because His Word promises you this very thing!  By coming regularly to God’s Divine Service, you not only offer Him your Worship, but you receive the very thing that makes your worship acceptable to Him… you receive faith!  By coming to His Holy table each time His meal of forgiveness is offered you are allowing Him to fill you with faith; faith to first see your sin, and then faith to see Jesus’ body and blood in the meal, which actually gives you forgiveness for these sins!  Because you have been given faith, or oil in your lamp, you may live your life with the greatest of assurance that you will never hear God say, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.”  You will not hear Him say, “Take away from me the noise of your songs.”

Today dear saints, God wants you to know with certainty, by faith, that on the day of the Lord, you will only hear words of love and welcome!  You will hear those Words because you know that upon the cross and in your baptism, Jesus has provided the justice of God, (justice) which has rolled down (upon you) like waters, and (His) righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” [Amos 5:24]

III. Today, we have reason to celebrate; we celebrate All Saints Day, the day we remember that all of our family members who have by faith finished their race, have gone home to be with the Lord!  We celebrate because just as God has prepared our loved ones, He is preparing us for His great day, the day of the Lord!  We celebrate because God moved St. Paul to write these words of assurance for us; words which teach us that we will see our loved ones who have died in faith again.  Listen:  “But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, (since we have faith; since God has given us oil in our lamp), even so, (we believe that) through Jesus, God will bring with (Jesus, all) those who have fallen asleep.

Let us pray.  Dear Lord we thank you that death is not a swallowing up of life, but an entrance into your eternal Kingdom in Heaven.  We remember those who have run the course of faith before us and trusted in your Word and Sacraments and we thank you for the fulfillment of your promises that say it is You who began the good work of faith in us Who will completed it.  Thank you for these saints we remember today: Bruce Owens, Cornelius Jordan, Jeanette Sorenson, Lena Edwards, Norma Iva, Pearl Mealing, Trinidad Henderson, Wanda Ramsey, and Mildred Machart.  (PAUSE AND LET OTHERS NAME THEIR LOVED ONES)  As you have watched over them, we pray dear Lord that you will continue to watch over us and complete the work of faith that you began in us.  Keep us always in your church through your Word and Sacraments.  We ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Dear friends, since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will one day soon, descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.  I pray you will continue to do this very thing, and I ask this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN!

Don’t Be Unprepared!

Thursday, November 10th, 2011