The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (11/8/2020)



Ps. 70; Amos 5:18-24; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13.

Day, “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!... It is darkness, and not light… I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies… But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing wadi” (vv. 18a, c, 21, 24).

We commence the last-three Sunday’s of the Church Year, urging self-evaluation; have we advanced in knowledge of God and Jesus whom he sent? Your answer is important: Jesus equates “knowledge of him” with “eternal life” (Jn. 17:3). More than midway through the Year Jesus gave advance notice of our “final exam”, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15).

We might ape St. Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16); but it turned-out that until the Resurrection, Peter was clueless of what his confession meant. We have our being in Jesus’ Resurrection reign, and on the Last Day can expect the same question from Jesus, “But who do you say that I am?”.

You may not be able to unpack your response with the theological eloquence and precision of St. Paul; but as you attend Christ in your midst (Lk. 17:21) in word and Sacrament; you know, desire, and honor Him, to be your Bridegroom; your heart is manifest to God, bringing us to the “Ten Maidens” parable.

We are informed by Amos and Jesus about “the day of the LORD”. For the five foolish maidens that Day is dark judgment, avoided at all cost; for the five wise maidens, in true worship of God with angels, archangels, and the company of heaven, that Day is expansive Light.

Amos and Jesus seek to awaken Israel out of a false sense of security, slumber, complacency, and presumption toward God. In these NT end-times God is winding-down the days of world; he will judge the world and the church in the man Jesus.

In his final days, Jesus, entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosana to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (21:9). Immediately he cleansed the temple, declaring its priesthood, sacrifices, and furnishings irrelevant; no longer God pleasing (vv. 12-20). He pronounced “woes” on Israel’s religious authorities (23:13-36); and lamented his rejection by Jerusalem (vv. 37-38).

Jesus vacated the temple precincts, leaving it God forsaken. From then on Jesus no longer taught Israel that failed to comprehend its “Hosanas”; then and now he only teaches new Israel, his disciples coming into being in the knowledge of God and his Christ.

St. Matthew begins of Jesus’ teachings, seated for his Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1—7:29). For today’s final teaching, Jesus, seated, delivers on Mt. Olivet (Mt. 24:3—25:46). He compares his churchly reign over “ten maidens” awaiting their betrothed. Five are “wise”, five “foolish”, in Greek the word is, “moronic” (25:2).

Note, importantly, the “moronic maidens” are not Satan’s planting, “Weeds” among “Wheat” (Mt. 13:24ff.). They are “Baptized” who call Jesus, “Lord” (25:11). Surprisingly, in shutting them out of the wedding feast, he says, , “I do not know you” (v. 12).

On this third-last Sunday Jesus announces judgment, not on atheists, unbelievers, or rank heretics; but on “believers”. For these foolish maidens “the day of the LORD!... [will be] darkness, and not light.” Does this get your attention; it should!

Clearly, I am preaching, not a so called “once baptized, or once saved, always saved” gospel. Jesus, as does Amos, admonishes Baptized and communicant Christians, some may fall from grace for infidelity to God’s word and Sacrament salvation (Mt. 13:5-7; Amos 5:19).

God says, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.”—Did you hear it; right worship pleases God. What then is God pleasing worship in the OT and NT epochs?

Certainly, not Rome’s assertion; “doing” prescribed forms, “ex opere operato”; rather to know what pleases God, we look to “the day of the Lord”. Amos and Jesus explain; for ancient northern Israel, “the Day” was judgment executed through an Assyrian invasion concluding in eternal loss of the “ten lost tribes”.

NT Christians discern God’s abandon of the northern tribes a prophecy of Christ; His abandon by God on the cross for the sin of the world, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46b; Ps. 22:1).

On Mt. Olivet, the church, the Ten Maidens, were to hear with new ears that which Jesus initially proclaimed in his Sermon on The Mount; the filled and trimmed lamps of the wise maidens are “the light of the world… [giving] light to all in the house. (5:14a, 15b).

The Bridegroom denies the Foolish Maidens admittance into the marriage feast; again, we turn to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (7:21a).

These final teachings are delivered before Jesus’ Supper, to comprehend our entry into his reign on the cross, a foretaste of his “Last Day” marriage feast.

From Jesus’ crucifixion and handing-over the HS for his church, he has taken into himself all time, holy places, religious feasts and festivals. “The day of the Lord” arrives eucharistically, shaped either in judgment (“unworthy” reception, 1 Cor. 11:27-29) or grace for those who worship in a manner pleasing to God; faithful reception of Christ’s crucified and risen flesh.

Jesus comes to his militant Church in word and Sacrament; the question is, how will you receive him; as “wise” attentive maidens or “moronic”, presumptive ambivalence? Saving faith is relational; it desires that which Jesus gives and seeks, our righteousness, sourced in the HS, the church’s oil for light and sight.

In this time of the Church, word and Sacrament provides the Spirit in Jesus’ beatific promises (Mt. 5:3-12), these the Wise appropriate; distinct from the distracted and unprepared maidens caring little for their Lord’s coming.

Certainly, wise maidens sleep; yet even in the throes of daily sin they repent, anticiating and honoring their Lord’s coming. Lord’s day to Lord’s day, distributed by “pastor purveyors” they garner a supply of the spiritual Oil for forgiveness and true worship.

Our relation with God is of awaiting maidens. St. John characterizes the church Militant as 144,000 “male virgins” (Rev. 14:4). Their desire seeks the Groom’s loving and eternal presence; He, who has given his life, imparting forgiveness to the poor, the least, and unattractive, will lead them into the wedding chamber.

True worship, is impossible except we receive Christ’s sacrifice, his crucified and risen flesh out of whom, “justice roll[s] down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing wadi” (cf. Jn. 7:37-39). Amen.

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