Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the twenty-seventh Sunday after Trinity 11/21/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11:00am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, 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.
You’re all bright people; and so, there’s a very good chance you’re wondering: why didn’t those five foolish virgins simply bring a flask of oil? Why didn’t they take just one minute to plan appropriately?
If that thought has entered your mind… good. You’re responsible and forward-thinking. You know that in this world, you have to plan for things. In this world, you have to prepare.
You’re planning and preparing for things right now. You’re preparing for things like: Thanksgiving and Christmas, college and marriage, retirement and next summer’s vacation.
Those are all fine things to plan for. And you don’t want to approach any of them unprepared. Because once you’re there, the time for preparation is over.
Whatever Charles Dickens tells you; you can’t buy a turkey on Christmas morning. You can’t start saving for retirement on your last day of work. And if you don’t have a tent when you get to your campsite, you’ll be sleeping in the rain. You prepare for these things ahead of time.
Of course, I’ve just given you a list of things you can put on a calendar. You know when Thanksgiving and Christmas are. And the other stuff isn’t too hard to estimate. But what about this event that you can’t quite put on the calendar? What about Christ’s return on the Last Day?
Jesus tells you this parable so that you can be prepared ahead of time. That’s what makes it a warning. He’s telling you to plan and to be prepared.
This is not a warning to the world. This is a warning to the Church. This is a warning to people who identify as Christians, but who are more prepared for COVID or a zombie apocalypse than they are for Christ’s return. The foolish virgins were not prepared. They had time and they had opportunity, but they did not heed it.
They knew they were invited to the wedding, but they could not know when that was going to happen exactly. The bridegroom was apparently delayed, and they weren’t prepared for that.
They didn’t bring their proverbial flasks of oil, but that does not mean their flasks were empty. You can imagine them picking up these flasks on their way out the door, slinging them over their shoulders, and sensing that they felt quite full.
They were full. Their flasks were full of all the things they thought they needed: cash and assets, entertainment and distraction, admiration and comfort.
Their flasks were full to the brim with the cares of this world. And none of those things were able to fuel their lamps when the time came. And when it did come, they weren’t able to trade what they had for what they needed.
God gives you good things to care for you and the needs of your body in this world. They are not evil. But they will not come with you into the wedding feast. And you will not return to them after the door is shut and the party starts.
You cannot buy the faith that God gives by grace for free. And even if you could buy it, you can’t get it delivered at midnight when the Bridegroom comes.
The first time Jesus arrived at midnight, hardly anybody noticed. Though there was plenty of warning, the first Christmas was practically a secret. He grew up in obscurity. And even on Good Friday, only a handful of people were paying enough attention to stay near to Him on the cross.
But Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for you and the forgiveness of your sins… This is what faith clings to.
Faith in Christ is the one thing needful. This is the oil the foolish lack and cannot buy. Without oil in their lamps, they cannot make their way to the feast. Without that light, their faces are unrecognizable.
You keep this oil, this faith in Christ and what He has done, in anticipation of what He will do. You keep this oil because you know He is coming back; even if you have no idea when.
If all of this sounds rather severe, that’s because it is. It is also time sensitive. And so, you prepare now.
Every moment is a moment closer to Christ’s return. And every second is a second closer to your death. Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to fill your flasks. Not tomorrow. Not January 1st. Not when you have kids. Not when you retire. Now.
How? By being filled with the one thing needful. Where do you receive this one needful thing? How do you obtain and keep this faith? By actively receiving it here and now.
God has chosen to create and sustain faith in you by His Word. He gives you that Word now, today. Poured out in the baptismal font, proclaimed from the pulpit, served from the altar. By His Word, God fills your flasks with oil and it runs over.
The Word enters your ears and transforms your mind. It enters your mouth and changes your heart. The Word makes what was empty full.
It does this inexhaustibly. It is a faucet that never turns off. The Church has never run out of grace. Not once. Not ever.
It is not too late, but it is getting late. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be wise in the ways of the world. In fact, as long as Jesus knows you and welcomes you, it is far better if the world considers you foolish.