Sermon – November 12th, 2023
Hope Lutheran Church, Port Coquitlam BC
Text: Matthew 25:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 4
Theme: “The Oil for daily life”
Intr – Out of 10 virgins, 5 didn’t make it to the wedding feast; they were left out. Why did that happen, since it seems that they had done almost everything right?
-They came to the feast, they showed up.
-They had their lamps on them.
-They waited for the appointed time in which the groom would come with the bride, and they would be ready to follow them.
Almost everything is right. Only one thing is wrong. For many things in life that is not a big problem, it’s fixable. However, for some important things, it is 100% or nothing. (illustration: bridge 99% completed). This is the case here. We could think that those girls at some point had faith, they were in the Church, or they said they loved Jesus. But in the end, they don’t make it. The wise virgins do. They brought oil. The oil here indicates faith, because faith alone is the appropriate garment to enter the feast of the Groom and His Bride, the Church.
Now, Jesus’ parables usually have a “hyperbolic” content. Something that probably wouldn’t happen in real life. No virgin would forget oil to the lamp in a wedding. Let alone 5 of them. But they do. Bridging into our daily life, we could say “We know that pastor, faith in Jesus is essential, who would forget that?” Well, look around. Plenty of examples. Lives lived inside the Church, with “I believe in God”. Lives lived after the spirit of the time in which “being spiritual” is enough to appeased god’s wrath. Lives that in the end may not make it to the feast. Also, the good life we live in this world may contribute to this. For example, when you think about a bad world, dominated by the devil, you may thing of riots, fire on the streets, the devil on the corner and people killings each other. But often, it’s not like that. It is a world where everything works, people live the good life, comfortable, the sun comes up and goes down even when we don’t pray or go to Church, etc etc… Everything seems to be good and working well that we may get lost.
Here we need discernment. And I would quote here Spurgeon who said that discernment “is not always between right and wrong, but often between right and almost right.” When our faith life becomes too comfortable, we might want to check if that is because we have been sleeping in a nice, comfortable cultural and secular mattress. For faith always raises opposition. It is not sometimes, it is always, in one way or the other. We need discernment and wisdom, and those come from faith in the Word. We need oil.
“Pastor, that is the part that I usually find difficult. I know that Jesus loves me, He saved me through faith, and that faith is important in daily life. But how does that unfold in daily life?”
It is not easy, for life is complex. The one and only message of the Gospel, the only and one true faith that we have in our hearts enters action in the world in different ways and contexts. But faith does shape daily life. Here are three ways in which it happens:
Identity – You are a baptized child of God. You are a disciple of Christ. No one can ever take it away from you. Wherever you go in your week, being a baptized child of God makes the whole difference because it saves you from a life alone. Even if you live alone, you are never alone. Baptism, conversion, is not a once in a lifetime event that you remember as a date. You can live your daily life in the assurance of who you belong to and where you are headed to.
Illustration: When did you become a Canadian? You can say day, month, and year. Now, is that something in the past or that day still makes you a Canadian? We know the answer. And from there you enjoy many privileges and responsibilities not once in a lifetime, but In your daily life.
The same with your Baptism. It is not just a once in a lifetime event. It is an event for a lifetime. You enjoy the blessing of God presence in and with you. Daily.
Meaning –Sometimes life looks confusing. When you think you know the answers, then the questions change. Or when you think you’ve got the right questions, then the answers don’t look the same anymore. We get befuddled and disoriented. We may be left without a clue, thinking that in the end perhaps life is a series of random happenings that we try to string together to make some sense out of it.
But no, your life is not a human body streaming adrift in an ocean of cluelessness. You are inserted in the big story arc of the people of God. You are a sinner who would be lost. The Father sent His Son who died for You and the HS called you to faith. Now you know God’s word, and you will use it as your rock-solid ground for daily life. This is real meaning when life looks confusing.
Illustration: When you see a disassembled object or piece of furniture, why don’t you get frustrated. “I will take it back to the store, it makes no sense”? Because you know somebody planned and designed there. If you read the book (or watch a YouTube video) you will understand how it all comes together and makes sense.
Sometimes our life may look like random pieces of happenings piling up each other. However, when you know that somebody planned and designed your life, you know that the result in the end will come together in Him.
And in the end, if somebody says, “Really? A god who created the world, people sinned, then after thousands of years he sends his son to die innocently on a cross blablabla… Do you think that makes sense?” Well, what else in the world would make more sense than that? You must go and come back infinite times to pay for your mistakes? You live your life and go back to nothingness? Your life is around food, body, and pleasure? Why would that make more sense than a Creator who saved you and called you to live near him until the end?
Purpose – Because of our identity we have meaning, and then we find purpose. We serve God and praise Him. More on this next week, in the parable of the talents. Even because there is a connector in that reading, that is, this parable is directly connected to the next. For today, let’s remember that we serve our neighbor as God’s creature and object of His love in Christ. This means that you will make choices accordingly.
Illustration: Think about a track and field athlete thrown into a football field during a decisive game. How good can he go? He can try his chances, but that is not his identity, therefore, that game doesn’t have full meaning in his professional life. Therefore, his purpose will be to run away from there as quick as he can. Now for a football player, whose identity is grounded in the game and whose professional meaning is connected to how it is played the purpose will be clear and he will make all effort to get to the end zone as many times as possible.
Your identity is in Christ. You are an athlete on His track. The meaning of your life is connected to God’s Word, you know why the field is there and why you want to play. Now your purpose in life becomes clearer – serve God and serve your neighbour in all that you do. And you will run straight ahead in your life because you want to touch up – you want to live with him and others forever.
All of this connects to the point of the parable: Wisdom. Attached to Christ we will have oil on us. We will have our candle burning. We are wise. When we fall asleep – in sin – His Word will call us back in repentance and faith. When we are losing strength His Word and Sacraments will supply us with more oil. In Him We will constantly shine forth reflecting God’s light in our life in the World.
However, one more important thing to be noted. The Groom was delayed, and the ladies fell asleep. This reminds us that our faith life is not sprint race, but in a marathon. Unless Christ comes back soon, we are not tourists here, but pilgrims. The road may be long, and we need nurturing, strengthening and perseverance. Don’t try shortcuts and easy ways out; don’t fall for promises of the good life that take you away from eternal life.
Listen to this quote:
“Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship want shortcuts. They are impatient for results. They only want the high points. The Christian life cannot mature in such ways. It is this ‘long obedience in the same direction’ which the mood of the world does so much to discourage. There are two biblical designations of the people of faith that are extremely useful: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple says we spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. Pilgrim tells us we are people who spend our lives going to God, and whose path for getting there is Jesus Christ, who is ’the Road, also the Truth, and also the Life.”
It is not about highlights only; it is not about getting things quickly done. It is about carrying on in life, day by day, trusting that our Identity, Meaning and Purpose are in the Lord. This is why we also here today (and connected online). As Paul asks us to in 1 Thessalonians we want to “encourage one another”. We want to be together in this pilgrimage in this discipleship, around Word and Sacraments, extending our hands and hearts to each other. We want to remind each other of the oil of faith, because there will be a day when the groom will come. This world will have an end and new earth and new havens will begin. Blessed are we when we are found with oil that day – faith in Christ.
Cc – Dear friend, Christ is the bridge. The perfect, 100% bridge that connects us to the life that never ends. You are a 100% saved and connected to Him. Your identity, meaning and purpose are full and complete in Him. You have oil for daily life. Stay awake and be watchful until the end. For this Faith that provides you wisdom, forgiveness and peace, will also provide you with the 100% sure outcome: you will live forever.
 (From Peterson’s Long Obedience in the Same Direction : Discipleship in an Instant Society)”
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