Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Gospel of John, November 12, 2023

This past week's adult Sunday School class. After initial confusion, we tackle John, chapter 8, starting at verse 20.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023


[Below you'll find live stream video from worship at Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, this past Sunday, and the text of the message shared during the services.]

Matthew 25:1-13
In today’s gospel lesson, Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells the story of ten virgins who were meant to play a role in the wedding celebrations of a bridegroom and his bride. Apparently, they were to escort the groom, his bride, and his wedding revelers to the groom’s home.

All of the women knew that the groom and his bride would appear. None of them knew when they would appear.

They simply needed to be ready whenever it happened, so that they could enter the banquet at the groom’s home, the place he had prepared for them.

The appearance of the groom and his entourage took a while. Because of the delay, all ten women fell asleep. When the announcement finally was made that the bridegroom was near, five of the women awoke prepared: they’d brought oil to keep their lamps burning. They would have the light they needed to walk through the darkness–even maybe, through the valley of the shadow of death, if necessary–to get to the celebration.

The other five women had candles in hand; but they had no oil. These foolishly unprepared women begged the five prepared women for oil.

But the five with oil, the “wise” ones, Jesus explained, could not comply with that request. If they did so, they too would run out of oil. Then nobody would be able to fulfill their part in the wedding ceremonies.

And nobody would gain entrance into the bridegroom’s home.

As you know, the five foolish virgins set out in the night to buy oil. Later on, they appeared at the locked doorway of the banquet and begged the groom, “Lord, lord, open the door to us!” But the groom refused them entrance, saying, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”

After telling this story, Jesus says to us, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:11-13)

What is Jesus telling us in this rather sad story? The great Lutheran preacher and novelist of the last century, Bo Giertz, in one of his sermons, identified three messages we can take from Jesus’ words to us this morning.

First, Giertz says, there comes a time when it will be too late to follow Jesus.

Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus provokes the disciples to ask Him when the temple in Jerusalem and the ancient nation of Israel would be snuffed out of existence as Jesus had already told them would happen. Instead, Jesus uses their question as a way of talking about the far more important topic of this world’s end, when Jesus will return from heaven and judge the living and the dead. It’s pointless for us to speculate as to the moment of return by Jesus, the Bridegroom to His Church, which is the Bride of Christ composed of all who, by the power of the Word and the Sacraments, trust in Jesus as their God and Savior. “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” Jesus says. (Matthew 24:36)

Our call is to be ready for that moment we meet Jesus face to face, whether that moment comes at the ends of our earthly lives or, if we’re still living in this world, Jesus returns.

We will be ready to meet Jesus when we do so with oil, that is, with faith in Him.

Sometimes, the light of our faith grows weak. We become overwhelmed by life. We fall into sin, failing to love God completely or love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

But the oil in our lamps can be renewed as we regularly partake of the means Jesus has established for delivering His gracious love and salvation to you: when we remember our baptisms, when we worship with God’s people and hear His saving Word, and when we receive His body and blood, receiving the gifts of repentance, faith, and life with God.

The oil of faith will allow us to enter Jesus’ everlasting banquet even when others, who have turned a deaf ear to Jesus, are left eternally outside of His kingdom.

You and I can proclaim Christ, God the Son, as the only Way to life with God. That Word about Christ can be used by God to create faith in those to whom we tell it. But we cannot have faith for them.

As Martin Luther says, “We can shout [the gospel] into another’s ears, but everyone must himself be prepared for the time of death, for I will not be with you then, nor you with me.” For those who spurn faith in Christ, the day of Christ’s return will be too late to receive it. God-given faith in Jesus though, prepares us to meet Him and join in His joy forever!

The second thing Jesus is telling us in this parable, Giertz reminds us, is to keep watch!

Jesus tells us elsewhere, “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:44)

You don’t know when you may meet Jesus face to face.

You and I could be killed in an automobile crash on our way home from worship today.

We may be suddenly felled by some unexpected illness. (I certainly didn’t plan on having the widowmaker heart attack my cardiologist said should have killed me thirteen years ago.)

Jesus might return to judge the world, send the unbelieving to hell, and usher in the new heaven and new earth for believers during the Bengals-Texans game this afternoon.

You are ready to meet Jesus when you live in daily repentance and renewal. Jesus describes this lifestyle when He tells us, “​​Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

The disciple knows that saving faith in Jesus comes through hearing and receiving the Word of God as it’s given to us preached, taught, and embodied in water, bread, and wine. With Peter, we tell Jesus, there is nowhere else for us to go for life with God because Jesus alone has “the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Of course, God remembers that we are only dust, sinners prone to sin, living in a fallen world full of temptations, distractions, and sin.

Like all ten virgins in Jesus’ story, we grow weary.

We have to sleep, work, bathe, get kids to school, see our doctors and dentists, pay the bills, spend time on hold, fight traffic.

Just as Peter, James, and John couldn’t spend their whole lives up on the mount of Transfiguration, bathing in the glory of God 24/7, in this life, in this fallen world, we can’t be constantly receiving Christ’s Word.

But, Giertz says Jesus is telling us, just as you remain nourished right now by the meal you ate several hours ago, when you regularly receive Jesus–in weekly worship with His people and regular encounters with His Word–you will be nourished and prepared to meet Jesus face to face even when the demands and distractions of life pile up. Jesus tells us, “​​I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

One day, you and I and this world will come to an end. Jesus has prepared an eternal banquet to which He has invited you and all the world. He secured your place in it by dying for your sins and those of the whole world. He secured everlasting life for you when God the Father raised Him from the dead.

You need not be afraid to meet Jesus face to face when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you turn from sin and trust in Christ now, today and every day, before that unknown moment when you meet Him. In 2 Corinthians 6:2, the apostle Paul quotes the Old Testament book of Isaiah: “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” And then, Paul says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

Friends, the door to His eternal banquet is wide open to you.

Jesus brings you the free gifts of faith and life through Him now.

He freely forgives your sin declares you innocent and fit for His eternal banquet through His means of grace.

Now, you can believe in Him.

Daily repent and turn to Him as your good God and Savior.

Then, whenever you meet Him, you can do so with peace and joy and hope.

You will be ready to meet your Lord and God and live with Him forever. Amen

The New Testament Book of James, Part 3