Last Sunday of the Church Year
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Text: Matthew 25:1-13
THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear fellow "watchers for the Son of Man,"
On December 6th, 1941, there were enough warnings and signs for the United States to realize that an attack would soon be launched against Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. However, due to a series of mistakes and a refusal to believe that such a thing could happen, the Japanese were able to achieve complete surprise on December 7th, sinking most of one of the greatest fleets of battleships in the world, and killing thousands.
Just two years ago, our own country was attacked in New York and Washington DC; attacks that left thousands dead and caused billions of dollars of damage. Right now there are questions about whether we could have been better prepared, more watchful, more ready to accept that such deadly attacks could happen on American soil. We have learned to take seriously the warnings.
Each year, if you live along the coast of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, you will hear warnings about hurricanes. When the actual area of impact is discovered, people are warned to flee from the storm, to seek high ground, to get out of the path of destruction and death caused by the tremendous forces of the hurricanes. Those who ignore the warnings are jeopardizing their lives.
In our own part of the country we have weather warnings, too. In the summer we are warned about severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. In the winter we are warned about blizzards. Even though some of these storms do not materialize as predicted, still we dare not ignore such warnings. Each year lives are lost due to these storms. The warnings are given for a good reason.
God has put your pastor in the place of a watchman for this congregation. Each and every year at this time, and often in other seasons of the church year, it is the job of the pastor to warn you. Pastors are taught that they are to be like Ezekiel, to whom God said,
I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
This sermon is your warning.
Jesus teaches us: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." The five foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable were not ready for the wedding. They failed to prepare for the coming of the bridegroom. They ignored the need for enough oil to last until he came. So when the bridegroom did come, the foolish virgins were not ready, they failed miserably and eternally. When they came late to the wedding feast and cried out in front of the closed door: "Lord, Lord, open to us!" He answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you."
Who is this that says, "I do not know you"? It is Jesus Christ, the One who comes to judge the living and the dead. He is described as, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and who shuts and no one opens." With Jesus as Your Savior, the one in whom you trust for the forgiveness of yours sins, the door to eternal life is open and not even the power of Satan himself can shut that door. Jesus holds it open for you. But if you live in unrepented sin, if you have rejected the Savior, if you foolishly allowed the oil in your lamp to run out, if you have neglected your faith by not hearing God’s Word, by not returning to the promise of your holy Baptism, by not eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then you must know that the door will be shut for you. And once that door is shut no can open it. When Jesus shuts the door it will not open ever again.
This is a teaching that is in great disfavor today. We live in a time when no one can imagine that Jesus would be so mean as to shut the door. We are truly a foolish people. God calls to us again and again and again. We have His Word in more abundance today than any other generation in all the history of the world. We can turn on our radios and televisions at any time and we can hear the word of God. We have access to so many Bibles that the number is astounding. Think of how many Bibles you have in your home. I know that I literally have dozens. You all probably have at least one for every person in your home. But what does it matter when we fail to hear that Word?
Think of how easy it is for us to get to church today. Unless the weather is bad we are able to travel dozens of miles in the time it used to take to go a few miles. Yet the excuses pile up for why we cannot go to hear the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. How does this differ from the foolish virgins who neglected their oil? Why do we think that when we come to the shut door and say, "Lord, Lord, open to me," that Jesus will say, "oh, of course, I was expecting you, come on in"?
If you think that your pastor is being overly harsh with you today, then please consider why I warn you. Wouldn’t it have been good if someone had told the people going on those planes on 9-11, "Don’t get on! There are murderers and terrorists who will kill you and your children if you get on that plane!" Why does the National Weather Service put out storm warnings for hurricanes, tornados, and blizzards? Is it just a big joke to them? No, they do it to save lives.
Likewise, God has told pastors all over the world: "warn My people. Tell them to repent; to turn from sin, to hear My Word, to believe My Son, Jesus Christ, who has taken away all their sins." Why does God warn? Why does He send pastors with this message? Because Judgment Day is real, it is coming. And our sins are so terrible that unless God had opened the door to eternal life for us by the death of His only-begotten Son, that door would remain forever shut.
Thanks be to God for that open door. And God help us to take His warning seriously, to pay attention to our faith in Jesus Christ, to the word of God showered upon us so generously. As we cling to Jesus we may rest assured that the door to eternal life will never be shut for us. The Savior shed His blood and died so that the door would be open for you. Trust that word of promise God gives you. And continue to watch and pray, for truly we do not know the day or the hour when the Son of God will return.
O grant that in Thy holy Word