November 25, 2017
Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:4–5:5
Christ Lutheran Church
November 26, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Last Sunday of the Church Year
But you, Brothers, are not in darkness, for that Day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of Light, and sons of Day. We are not members of Night, or of Darkness. So then let us not sleep like others, but let us watch and be sober. 1 Thess. 5:4-5
Today is the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year and the church’s byword is: Watch! This is the theme we find in all three of today’s lessons.
Our Old Testament lesson holds the carrot before our eyes. It spells out the things that God has prepared for those who “look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” A new heaven and earth where the former things, the weeping, misery and distress of this present age will be remembered no more. Where people will no long labor in vain, or bear children for calamity, “for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them.” Watch for these things, dear Christians, they are coming sooner than you think.
Today’s epistle also warns us to Watch. To stay awake and sober lest the Day of the Lord’s return overtake you by surprise and you, like the five foolish virgins, should be locked out of the Feast forever.
Today’s Gospel, the Parable of the Ten Virgins, counsels the same. Watch, because you know neither the Day nor the Hour of the Lord’s coming.
But what does the Lord have in mind when he says that? And, how exactly is it accomplished?
The answer becomes clear if you understand that when the Lord tells us to Watch, that he is speaking about himself.
But if you listen to the prophets of culture they will tell you to look elsewhere. They will counsel you to Watch the temperature of the planet, and to be kind to the environment, so as to avoid the ecological train wreck they are sure is coming – in which the oceans will dry up, and earth’s inhabitants will die a scorching death with no ozone layer to save them from the sun’s rays. But they are phony prophets; and that is not what Jesus means when he says, Watch!
On the other hand if you listen to Fundamentalist preachers they will counsel you to Watch the news! To keep close tabs on the state of Israel. Because whatever happens to it, happens to the world. If Israel thrives the world thrives, but if it is attacked then you know that Jesus is about to come back, and that he is not happy. But they, too, are fictitious prophets, and that is not what Jesus means when he says, Watch!
What does he mean?
When the Lord says Watch at the close of the parable he is drawing all eyes to Calvary.
He is referring to the sacrifice that he is about to make for the life of the world! The atoning death of the cross that dispels the darkness of death and Satan, and makes us Children of Light and Sons of Day.
He is the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15) that hangs on the tree of the cross, for the sins of earth. Suffering as no one ever suffered from the foundation of the world, nor ever would again. ( Matthew 24:21, Lamentations 1:12) His victorious death is the central event, and turning point of all history. The end of the Old, sin-encrusted world, and the beginning of the New. And in the words of St. John, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:18. And so, Watch!
How is this done?
We are doing it now!
Notice how St. Paul addresses his hearers in today’s epistle as Brothers. “But you, Brothers, are not in darkness.” The word “brothers” in Scripture is not a collegial term for an association of like-minded individuals. But a specifically Eucharistic expression for one’s fellow communicants. Brothers of the same Christ by baptism, and sons of the same Heavenly Father.
And so it is here, in the Eucharistic feast, that we watch. That we keep our eye on Jesus. Not the imaginary Jesus who exists only within the confines of our minds, and emotions. But the Glorified Lord whose own voice we hear in the holy Gospel; and whose body and blood we “taste and see” (Psalm 34) at the altar today. For this is not simply bread and wine, or a symbol, reminder or parallel of Jesus. But “it is the Lord!” (John 21:7) in the Flesh, delivering his good and perfect gifts to you today! That is to say, giving himself to you to be your Savior, Shepherd and Shield!
It is here, in the church, in the Eucharistic assembly of the baptized, that we stay focused on the real Jesus. Here that we are ever reminded by the Creed that he who came once to die, and comes to us from the Altar, will “come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead!” Because this Eucharist, and the Lord’s Second Coming, are the same thing. The only difference is not in kind, but only in degree. Today, as on the Last Day, he comes with both judgment and salvation.
Today, at the altar, he renders judgment in your favor against sin, death and Satan. He frees you from their greedy grasp; even as he cleanses, heals and revives you with the Bread of his Flesh, the Wine of his Blood, and the Oil of his Spirit.
At his Final Coming he will do the same thing, but only on a universal scale! At that time “the sea will give up her dead.” (Revelation 20:13) And, “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29).
You, O Wise Virgins, are the former because “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” in this assembly today. Amen.