12 November 2008

Homily - Trinity 25 Midweek

“Time to Wake Up!”
Trinity 25 Midweek (Series A, Proper 27)

Matthew 25:1-13

It’s probably the last thing that a child wants to hear, especially on a school day—mom coming into the room and saying, “Time to wake up!” But as children we needed to hear that ourselves, and as parents we know our children need to hear it.

It’s also what Jesus tells us in this evening’s Gospel reading—essentially, “Dear Christians, it’s time to wake up!” It’s time to be ready and watch. In Jesus’ own words: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Yes, Jesus is coming back, like a bridegroom coming to receive His bride, the Church, and take her home with Him. Yes, He has delayed these many years. And yes, we Christians tend to doze off and fall asleep, perhaps out of boredom, as we wait. But it’s time to wake up.

The ten virgins describe all of us and each of us quite well. When we become Christians, we are eager, ready and watchful for our Lord Christ. We go out to meet the Bridegroom. Some, though, are foolish and unthinking; others are prudent and street-smart. What’s the difference? The virgins all look the same. They all carry lamps. They’re all waiting for the Bridegroom. The difference is not in their good works or way of life. The difference is in the lamps. The wise virgins have oil in their lamps when the Bridegroom comes; the foolish virgins have let their oil run out.

You see, while they waited, “as the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.” The wise virgins knew how to set their lamps, but evidently the foolish ones did not. As they slept, the oil burned out. Then came the wake up call: “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him.”

Dear Christians, it’s time to wake up. Just as all ten virgins fell asleep, so do we. How so?

This waiting for Christ to return is serious business. When we are confirmed in the Christian faith, we are full of zeal and we confess Christ and the Christian faith. We promise that we “intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it” (LSB 273). But as we wait, we fall asleep on the watch. We stop praying or reading the Scriptures at home; after all, it takes so much time and we are oh, so busy. Besides, who can understand it? Some may choose to view Sunday morning as the “only time to sleep in,” or Wednesday evening as an odd time for worship, and the rest say, “Shh! Don’t wake them up,” or “We don’t want to bother them too much.”

How else might we slumber? When we hear news of the holocaust of abortion in our land, and the millions of little lives snuffed out before they can even be born, we yawn with thoughts of privacy and rights. When we hear news of another state allowing homosexual marriage, or even see such scenes on TV or in movies, we roll over to go back to sleep. Instead, we ought to be fervently praying, “Lord, have mercy on us.” We need to pray for and speak out for those who lose their lives to abortion. We need to pray for and speak God’s message for those who commit this holocaust. We need to pray for and proclaim God’s will to those who burn with the unnatural desires for the same sex. We need to stand on and confess God’s clear words and not compromise for the praise of men. We need to pray for ourselves, that we too may live in repentance and faith in Christ. But too often we simply hit the snooze button and nestle in for a little more slumber, wrapping ourselves cozily in our own little lives.

But perhaps the most dangerous way we sleep is when we doze off in the Divine Service. Perhaps we simply go through the motions and snooze through what’s happening in the liturgy. The Bridegroom comes in His words read and proclaimed. He comes right here to give us a foretaste of His eternal wedding feast. What an amazing thing! Heaven, right here on earth. The Son of God, right here in our midst. Yet we often walk away from worship as if we were sleepily walking from one chore to another.

Dear Christians, it’s time to wake up. Trim your lamps. The Bridegroom is coming. Ah, but some may find their lamps out of oil, and the wise ones cannot share theirs with the foolish ones. So, the foolish ones have to go shopping for their oil. What is that oil? Faith—faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us; faith in the Bridegroom who by His bloody death on the cross makes us His pure, unspotted bride; faith in the Lord Jesus who rose victorious to give us life with God, both now and into eternity. So, when the Bridegroom comes again, let’s not be the ones out chasing after the sales and merchandise. When the Bridegroom comes in His Gospel and Sacraments, let’s not be hypnotized by the world’s worship at the shopping mall. As the bumper sticker says, “The one who dies with the most toys still dies.” But the ones who are found waiting and watching when Christ returns, they will be brought into the great wedding feast of heaven.

It’s time to wake up, dear Christians. Our Lord Jesus has given us His gifts of forgiveness and life and salvation won for us by His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He wakes us with a call to repentance and faith. Instead of getting so wrapped up in ourselves and our cares of life, He calls us to watch for Him, both as He comes now in grace and when He will come again in glory.

Yes, the Bridegroom already comes with forgiveness and mercy for our sleepiness. He says, “You may have gone to sleep on Me, but I have not gone to sleep on you. I have been watching over you all this time.” For us sleepy virgins who sometimes forget who we are in our Baptism, Jesus opens heaven’s door. He says, “Come on in. Join the festivities.” For us who get drowsy as we wait, our Lord prepares a sumptuous feast here this evening. He joins us to Himself in the eating and drinking. He gives us His crucified and risen Body and Blood to strengthen our weak flesh. So our lamps can be full of faith in His forgiveness and mercy.

Yes, it’s time to wake up, dear Christians. It’s time to realize that though we’ve been less than faithful, though we tend to fall asleep, our Lord still loves us and welcomes us into His wedding feast. Jesus bids us to bask in His loving presence and feast upon Him, the very Bread of Life. It’s really the only way to stay away and fend off the cold boredom of a long watch. It’s time to wake up and watch for the Bridegroom, our Lord Jesus, to come again. Amen.


  1. Dear Brother in Christ, I pray that your Sabbath Rest would be a time of renewal and refreshment in the Lord in whom we all find our rest. I give thanks for your years of service to the Lord and to your congregation who in wisdom has supported you in this needed time of rest. May the Lord bless you and them over the next six months. I look forward to reading about your Sabbath Rest as the months go by. In his peace, Richard Habrecht, Pastor, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio.

  2. Thanks much, Richard! Yes, my congregation has shown great support and understanding for this needed time of rest and rejuvenation. I will certainly post thoughts and reflections as these next six months unfold. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your prayers!