Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 11/20/2022. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity27 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Trinity, click here.
Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins to warn us. We must not treat our faith trivially or superficially. Instead, we must recognize and treasure it as our most priceless and necessary gift. Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven.
All ten virgins fell asleep. All were in danger of missing the Bridegroom. The wise virgins were not morally superior to the foolish, but they heard the warning cry and they repented. They woke up and trimmed their lamps. They attended to God’s Word and believed that He was coming and that He would accept them for Christ’s sake. They were welcomed in, by grace, as though they had never fallen asleep and needed to be awakened.
The foolish hit the snooze button. That is the essence of their foolishness. They are not those who never heard the Word of God or didn’t have a chance. They are those who did not take it seriously. They should have known better, but then it was too late. They failed to respond appropriately, and they were shut out of the feast.
That cry comes to us today: Wake up. Pay attention. The Bridegroom draws near. For those with eyes to see, for those who know what to look for, the world is burning all around us. It is obsessed with the wrong things. It is self-righteous and vain, wicked and cruel, oppressive and hateful. Come out from the world. Repent of your lust for it and your jealously over the delicacies of the wicked. Prepare for the Lord’s coming by attending to the one thing needful every day.
You’re doing the right thing now. God be praised. You have been gathered by God around His Word and Sacrament. This is right where you need to be, where you belong: in the place where you hear God’s Word and are absolved of your sins; in the place where You receive the Sacrament of Christ’s risen Body and Blood; in the place where you are ministered to by your brothers and sisters in Christ and where you minister to them. You offer here your praise and you join in the prayers of the Church, making intercessions for yourselves and each other, for our nation and this world. This is how faith is bestowed and sustained.
But you don’t get to stay here. You have to go back to the dishes and the laundry, to school and tests and homework, you have to deal with city traffic or a telework situation that feels just like city traffic. You have to deal with coworkers bragging about their weekend’s drinking or sexual exploits. You have to deal with their uninformed political or theological opinions. You have to deal with your children’s temper tantrums and manipulative behavior; with your wife’s drinking, your husband’s inattention, your mother’s loneliness, your brother’s anger issues, and your own struggle with vanity, judging and gossip and the like.
The devil prowls around seeking to devour you. He has a large arsenal and thousands of years of experience. No Christian is immune to his efforts. We are under attack. You cannot procrastinate on your chores or your duties forever. Your place in life, your vocation, is Divine. All these things: dishes and laundry and traffic jams are spiritual realities. How you deal with them or how you slump them off has earthly and eternal consequences.
On top of all that, you must also negotiate your interactions with the world. You have to be deliberate about how much you watch television, play video games, or look at the internet, especially how much time you spend on social media or reading the news. You can’t turn off your brain and simply let these things happen to you. You can’t trust what you read. You have to stay awake, and be on guard.
Your smartphones are as dangerous and deadly as alcohol. They can ruin your life and your relationships. They can convince you that your life and your relationships aren’t even worth having.
It is not just porn on the internet that destroys faith and families. It is the internet itself. For all the good it can do, it does far more evil: it teaches that you need to be constantly entertained, that you can’t be bored. It trains you to be passive, to let others think for you, even as it pretends to be informing you. It stokes covetousness with false ideas of a perfect family and an organized pantry. It pontificates against God and objective truth. It promotes all sorts of dubious and wicked claims from a cult of experts.
You might be squirming right now with the discomfort of one who just heard that Satan has an IP address, but uses a VPN, and that he wrote the algorithm used by TikTok.
Maybe that’s now exactly how I would put it, but that’s still probably about how you should feel. Where, exactly, did you think the devil was not prowling about like a roaring lion? Was there a realm that you thought was beyond his reach? He knew how to manipulate the Roman legal process and the Jewish rabbis. Did you think him incapable of figuring out the same internet your 9-year-old has mastered?
This has to be dealt with.
I know that you can’t be completely separated from all these things, but neither do you need to be immersed in them. Our forefathers got along without them, and they did better than we are doing. These tools, despite their potential, do far more harm than good.
You have to wake up. You have to recognize the battle before you and the stakes. If you do not wake up this will take over and you won’t even know it. These things are not neutral.
Resist. Be aware. Repent. Strategize. Plan. This is why we come to Church. But what happens here needs to extend into the rest of the week. It needs to define our time and our lives. It needs to be present in our cars and on our couches and at our desks. We can’t fall asleep to spiritual reality for the sake of entertainment or let the devil have our children for a few hours so that we can relax.
Christian discipline, Bible reading, and prayer need to be practiced every day by every one of us. We come to Church to be cleansed, re-awakened and reoriented back to the reality of the world as it is revealed in God’s Word.
We are sons of light and of the day. We do not want to sleep through life, drugged by Satan and the world into false security or love of material things. We want to watch and be sober. The Lord will return like a thief in the night.
We don’t know when this will be, but statistically speaking, it will not be on Sunday morning. We must redeem the time. We must sanctify our homes and everything we touch with the Word of God and prayer.
If it hasn’t been your habit to have daily family devotions, start now. Start small. Open up the Gospel of John. Read one paragraph a day. Then pray the Lord’s prayer and some intercessions for people you love and people in need. Keep it simple. Just say something like, “God bless Grandma and help Joe.” God doesn’t need lots of instructions, but you need to pray and your brothers and sisters in Christ have a right to your prayers. This will take you less than 2 or 3 minutes.
And if you can do that, 2 or 3 minutes, I’ll refrain from comparing it with how much time you spend eating or sleeping.
Just do it every day at the same time, at the dinner or breakfast table or at the bedside. But do it every day. And if you miss a day, then start over. Don’t quit. Keep on beginning anew.
Hold one another accountable. If the children are old enough to read, have them take turns reading it. If they have questions answer them. Let the Bible drive your conversations.
On top of this, take a break from the media. Take a walk without your phone in your pocket. It’s okay to wear a watch that doesn’t know how many steps you’ve taken.
Declare an hour each evening, after the chores, that is electronic free. Read a good book together, maybe even out loud. Play a board game. Talk to one another. Do a craft. Wrestle with your children or chase them around the yard. Engage in some actual re-creation that is active and builds relationships.
We live in evil times. We must stay vigilant. But for all of that, do not mistake this warning as merely a threat. It comes in mercy.
Jesus doesn’t sneak by the sleeping virgins. He wakes them up. He has bought them with His own Blood, at a terrible price. He wants them with Him. He wants you with Him, not just on Sundays and not just through this mortal plane, but forever.
He loves you. You are more than His attendants or acquaintances. He knows you as a Bridegroom knows His Bride. You are worth His very life. He died for you and has risen for you. He has declared you righteous and holy, has promised to Shepherd and guide you. He comes for you, to bring you home. He wants you; not only then, on the Last Day, but now.
*Inspired by a sermon from Rev. David PetersenFirst Lutheran Church Sermon Archive