Sermon: “The Bridegroom Will Come”             

LSB Series A; Proper 27

23rd Sunday after Pentecost; November 8, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

          Mom gets off the phone and announces to the kids: “Grandpa and grandma are coming!” Immediately, the kids get all excited, start jumping up and down and race to the front window, determined to wait and watch until they get here. Time goes by, and no grandparents arrive. So the kids ask their mom, “When are grandpa and grandma coming?” Mom replies: “I don’t know.” “You don’t know?!” the kids shout back.” “No,” mom says, “I just said they were coming, I didn’t say ‘when’ they were coming.” “What?!” the kids exclaim.

          Who are you waiting for? Whose coming gets you to the window? Whose coming gets you excited?

          As Christians, we are all waiting for Jesus to return, and we don’t know the day or the time. In fact, Scripture even tells us that not even the Son knows, only the Father. It’s one of those divine mysteries of the Trinity that boggles our minds. How can the Father know something that the Son doesn’t, and yet the Trinity is three persons in one? Some things are beyond our human reason. A lot of things, really. This includes when Jesus will return.

          In today’s text, Jesus tells a parable of ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. It tells us that five of them were foolish and five of them were wise. The number of the virgins is insignificant, as is the number of those prepared and not prepared. What matters is the fact that the bridegroom is coming. Though we don’t know the day or the hour, we need to be prepared…or as the text says we need to “Watch” because the bridegroom will come.

          In the Old Testament, for a wedding, the groom and his attendants would make their way to the bride’s house. This could happen during the day or night. The bride would be anxiously waiting for her bridegroom to come at her family’s home. She would be surrounded by bridesmaids that would keep her company and keep her awake and watching for her bridegroom’s arrival. 

          Once the bridegroom arrived, the wedding would take place and they would make their way back to the groom’s family home where the festivities and celebration would continue, sometimes for as many as seven to fourteen days. 

It was common that processions from the bride’s house to the groom’s house would take place at night. So, those that were waiting to join the procession needed to be ready and waiting with their lamps burning to light the way back to the groom’s home. They would then follow the bridal party and join in the excitement. 

That is, unless, those waiting weren’t present and prepared to be watching for the coming of the bridegroom leading his bride into his home. In the case of the foolish virgins in the parable, they had allowed themselves to become distracted in their excitement, and so they forgot to bring what was most needed for the procession, extra oil for their lamps. So, off they went running into the night, as if a merchant selling oil would even be available in the middle of the night, and they missed the procession. And the only response awaiting them at the door of the bridegroom’s house was, “I don’t know you.”

          This Sunday, and the next two Sundays present a harsh reality for us to accept. The end will come…and when it does, there will be those who are saved and those who are not. But no matter how hard it is for us to accept, the day is yet coming. The bridegroom is coming. And for those that are not ready, the door will be shut, and the bridegroom will say the most frightening words ever heard, “I do not know you.”

          This text is certainly a wake-up call to unbelievers, but it is also a wake-up call to all of us not to let ourselves slip into foolishness and forget to watch and wait for the bridegroom to come. Foolishness is living without God in the picture, and it can be so easy in this world of sin to start to fall away from Him. So, we are called to keep watching ‘until death do we part’ from this earth.

          We need to be like those grandkids at the window waiting and watching for grandpa and grandma to come. And even though we don’t know when He is coming, we still need to keep our eyes glued to the glass of that window, because He is coming, and Scripture says He is coming soon.

          But watching and waiting are hard. We know this with the most recent election, and we certainly know this as we await Christ’s return. We are an impatient people, and we get bored easily. We often think we have better things to do with our time than simply wait. So, it can be very easy to slip into this apathetic laziness, and even fatigue, in regards to waiting for the coming of Christ. And, if we aren’t careful, we can slide down a slippery slope that would lead us to be like those foolish virgins who weren’t prepared when the bridegroom came.

          Just think about it. No one plans to fall away from their faith. But then life gets busy, and before you know it a Sunday here and there is missed. Then, the next time Sunday rolls around, the alarm goes off, and bed just feels so warm, so you roll over thinking, “I’ll just go next week.” But then next week comes, and it’s more of the same. Until it’s not long and the only days you might go would be Christmas and Easter, attending with extended family. Like I said, no one plans it, but falling away from the faith is a real deal.

          But apathetic laziness rears its ugly head in other ways as well. It can be simply an attitude one has toward the Word of God and the Sacraments. Where we are taught in the third commandment to “gladly hear and learn God’s Word,” sometimes we can slip into a mode of obligation instead of reverence and awe before God’s holy gifts given in Word and Sacraments. We just go through the motions with little care for what God’s gifts truly bring to our lives. And when this happens, abandonment from the holy things of God can be soon to follow.

          This often happens after a course of events or series of events that doesn’t go our way. A diagnosis here, a death there, some struggles and suffering along the way, and before we know it, we begin to wonder if God has abandoned us. So we turn our back on Him and walk away. 

          In a time like we are living in these days, it could be really tempting to walk away. We are overwhelmed by a barrage of negative messages and media (political, racial, division, or otherwise), and it has become so easy to get downhearted and discouraged. So it can get to be quite easy to think that there is no hope in this world, and the bridegroom is never coming back. We have only been left with doom and gloom.

          And that is what we would have been left with had it not been for the Bridegroom’s first coming. Had he left His bride, the Church, where He should have, we would all be doomed to die eternally. But lovingly, He gave Himself up for His bride on the cross to sanctify her and cleanse her with the washing of water and the Word, so that He might present His bride to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).

          You see, that is why the message of the bridegroom coming is no message of doom and gloom for us. We are the Church made holy by the bridegroom. We are the wise virgins in this parable whose lamps burn bright with ample oil to spare. Though the clouds of judgment gather around us, it is a day that you and I need not fear.

          As it says in the book of Isaiah: “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will hold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

          The Bridegroom coming on the Last Day comes to you and me today to deliver to us all that we need to be ready as we watch and wait. He comes in His Word, which is a lamp to our feet and light to our path. And with that light, He gladly leads us to the feast. There, He sets before us a meal of rich food and well-aged wine…His body and blood, given and shed for us, forgiving us of our sins.

          As we taste and see that the Lord is good, our body is awakened from its apathy, laziness, and fatigue, and we are renewed and refreshed for yet another week of watching and waiting for the Bridegroom to come. And come He will. 

He will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and the sound of the trumpet of God. The door will be opened, and He will call us each by name, and we will always be with the Lord.

We will always be with the Lord. That is what we are watching and waiting for. Like those kids waiting for grandpa and grandma to come, we do so with joyful and eager anticipation. Like those wise virgins, we do so encouraged and readied for whenever that time comes. He won’t let us down. He never has before, nor will he ever. 

Trusting in His faithfulness, we watch and we wait, fixing our eyes upon the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Come, Lord Jesus, and come quickly! Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.