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Lindemann on Trinity 27/Last Sunday

by revalkorn ~ November 15th, 2010

THE TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

The Epistle and the holy Gospel are the same in The Lutheran Hymnal and the Common Service Book. The former has the rubric: “The Introit and Collect for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity shall be used on the last Sunday after Trinity in each year.” The latter offers a complete set of Propers, the Collect being that for the Twenty-third Sunday, and the rubric directs: “The Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, and Gospel here following, shall be used the Last Sun-day after Trinity of each year.”

The Introit. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil. Then shall ye call upon Me and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you; and I will turn your captivity and gather you from all nations and from all places. Lord, Thou hast been favorable unto Thy land; Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.”

This is the Introit appointed for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, and comment on it is found under that Sunday. The Common Service Book has the following Introit: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them; and they shall be His peo-ple, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in.”

The Collect. “Absolve, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy people from their offenses that from the bonds of our sins which by reason of our frailty we have brought upon us we may be delivered by Thy bountiful goodness.”

This is the Collect for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity and appointed by both The Lutheran Hymnal and the Common Service Book for use on the Last Sunday.

The Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. At the end of the year, the Church brings anxious warnings and lessons. She is terribly earnest in her desire to bring home to every heart the wonder of the one, great, last opportunity. The Epistle warns to keep awake and be sober, to put on the armor not of offense but of readiness. Then something sweetly peaceful reaches the heart, that dispels the awe filling the heart at the thought of the Last Day. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we might live with Him. “Therefore encourage one another, and build one another up.”

The Gradual. “The King’s daughter shall be brought unto the King; the virgins, her companions that follow her, shall be brought unto Thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the King’s palace. Alleluia! Alleluia! I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Alleluia!”

Another Gradual is offered in the Common Service Book: “I am the Light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Spirit and the bride say, Come, and let him that heareth say Come. And let him that is athirst come. Alleluia! Alleluia! Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Alleluia!”

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! O Lord, deal with Thy servant according unto Thy mercy, and teach me Thy statutes. I am Thy servant, give me understanding that I may know Thy testimonies. Alleluia! ”

Or: “Alleluia! Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers; praise Him and highly exalt Him forever. Alleluia!”

The Gospel, St. Matthew 25:1-13. This is a parable of warning. It pictures readiness against unreadiness, preparedness against unpreparedness, watchfulness against sleep. All ten maidens seem to be of the company-to-be, all go to the wedding, all go to meet the bridegroom, yet five of them were wise and five foolish. “Those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.” This note of finality is new. The door is not opened again. Be ready!

The Proper Preface. “Who with Thine only-begotten Son and the Holy Ghost art one God, one Lord. And in the confession of the only true God we worship the Trinity in Person and the Unity in Substance, of Majesty coequal.”

SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

The desire to discover and ferret out what God has left hidden from man is characteristic of perverse human nature. Instead of being content with what is revealed in the works of creation and God’s Word, men delight in occupying themselves with unnecessary and useless questions. Speculation regarding the future holds particular attraction. It is not surprising, therefore, that the end of the world is a frequent subject of investigation. Even while our Lord was still on earth, His disciples wished to know exactly when He would return. A few decades after His ascension, people in Thessalonica believed that the Last Day was imminent and therefore neglected their daily work. Of them St. Paul wrote: “We hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.” To this day, enthusiasts undertake to set the time of the Last Day and mislead and frighten many.

Christians are to beware of such speculations. St. Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica: “We beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way.” Not only does he warn against paying attention to speculations as to the time of our Lord’s return, but he is also deeply concerned that the Christians be in con-stant readiness for the Last Day, not become secure but expect it any and every day. Of this continual readiness he speaks in the Epistle appointed for this Sun-day. We speak, then, of

The Right and Constant Readiness for the Last Day

A. Why Constant Readiness Is Necessary. “As to the time and the sea-sons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you.” The Apostle refers to what he wrote at the end of the previous chapter, the Epistle for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, where he described the resurrection of the dead and the events of the Last Day. Now he speaks of the time and hour when what he has described will take place. He declares there is no need to write any-thing regarding the time, “for you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” You know well that no man, no apostle, no angel, can say when the end will come, for it will come unexpectedly, suddenly, and without special foregoing signs. A thief does not announce his coming in advance, but comes unexpected, unnoticed, noiseless, under cover of darkness. So will be our Lord’s coming. No one can know when the Last Day is coming, but like lightning out of a clear sky, like a snare, it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth (Luke 21:34,35), and even the faithful will receive no special warning. A snare is laid secretly. So God has prepared the Last Judgment without revealing the time to the world, to any living soul, to any angel, or to any creature. The great and terrible Day is near, but no one can foretell the hour and moment of its coming. Our Lord said to His disciples: “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son [in His state of humiliation], but the Father only.” Again: “The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

If, then, we know, know well that the Day of the Lord will come, and come suddenly and unexpectedly, this knowledge is to keep us in constant readiness. Because no man knows the time, all men are to be in a state of readiness at all times, every day and hour. Woe to him who says, “My master is delayed.” He is like that wicked servant, and “the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Matt. 24:48-51). If we knew that thieves are in our neighborhood, it would be culpable negligence not to be constantly on guard, with eyes and cars open. Though we do not know the day and hour when the Lord will come, we know that He is coming; certain signs proclaim that He is near; we know that He may come at any moment. It would be inexcusable if we were not in a constant state of readiness. In the text the Apostle gives us definite signs by which we know that the Day of the Lord is near and may come at any time. “When people say, There is peace and security,” the Thessalonians were to know that the end is near. When we hear people speak so today and the feeling of security becomes more pronounced, we are to know that the Day of judgment is near. Our Lord described the time immediately preceding the end. “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot — they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and brimstone rained from heaven and destroyed them all — so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).

When we see our times against the background of our Lord’s picture, we must conclude that everything points to the nearness of the Judgment, that we may expect it to come at any moment. Therefore we are to be ready always. With every year the world sinks deeper into security. Never did the conception of a Day of judgment seem so ridiculous to the world as now. Evidently this is the time of which our Lord spoke. It is close to the world’s midnight, and the alarm bell is ringing. The signs of our times clearly indicate that God is about to put the burning torch to the structure of this world and set it to burning in the fire of His wrath. The archangel has put the trumpet of judgment to his lips and is awaiting the signal. Intently our times call to us: “Make ready!” All we read in the news-papers, all we hear by radio, every day cries to the Christian: “The Day of the Lord is coming! The Lord is near!”

The world is oblivious to it all. It lies in deep sleep with eyes and ears shut tight. Natural man lies in spiritual sleep and sees not the approaching end, hears not the footsteps of doom. He is steeped in deepest darkness of night and senses not the danger threatening him. He sees not the bright light of the Gospel that illumines the world with a brightness greater than that of the sun. “But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that Day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all the sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.” We have been roused from sleep. The Word of God, like a loud voice from heaven, has entered our cars and driven spiritual sleep from our soul, awakened us to a new life. We must now prove ourselves to be children of light and of the day. How we are to do this, St. Paul tells us in the following.

B. Wherein Constant Readiness Consists. “So, then, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.” Sleep is for the night and not for the day, when everybody is alert and has his eyes open. So Christians, as children of the day and of the light, must not sleep, for in sleep we are powerless and at the mercy of our enemy. But when we are awake and watchful, no one can surprise us or take us unawares. The sentry who knows the enemy near does not permit sleep to dull his senses but keeps a sharp lookout. So the Christian must be alert and watchful.

To be watchful, the believer must be sober and avoid everything that might make him listless or may befuddle or intoxicate his senses. In this mid-night hour it is required that he be free from the spirit of this world, that his heart and mind be in no way distracted, hindered, or burdened. The world is carousing and reveling according to its maxim “Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we are dead.” Shameless and brazen sin has become the vogue, as though there were no God and no judgment to be feared. A dissolute intoxication has gripped most people so that they no longer see, hear, or understand what God speaks to them by Word and signs. Of this senseless revelry we are to beware.

That is not enough, however. We should also be prepared at all times. St. Paul writes: “Since we belong to the day, let us be sober and put on the breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” He pictures the equipment of those whom the Last Day will not surprise. They have put on the spiritual armor of defense, not of offense. “The breastplate of faith and love.” The breastplate was the chief part of the Roman legionary’s equipment. It protected against the enemy’s thrust or blow. The spiritual breastplate consists of faith and love. In the Christian’s heart there is a living faith. This faith is not a mere outward pose he has assumed, but a living fire that breaks forth in works of love. Only when composed of these two, faith and love, is this armor a protection against the attacks of Satan, only then will it deflect all the fiery darts of the Evil One. God alone can supply this equipment. A self-made armor, be it yet so bright and shining, cannot keep a man fit to stand before the Son of Man. A Christian never puts off this armor even for a moment, but stands and walks and lives in it, lest his Lord come on a day when he does not expect Him.

What is it that keeps the Christian awake and watchful and ready? It is hope. “Put on . . . for a helmet the hope of salvation.” The confident expectation of the eternal inheritance on the day of his Lord’s return makes it possible for him to look forward joyfully, hour after hour, to the day of deliverance and salvation, knowing that this hope will never make him ashamed. Like the soldier who is on guard at a dangerous post, who knows that help is not far away and that he may be relieved at any moment, the believer waits hopefully and confidently, for God’s Spirit has given him the assurance that he will stand before the throne of God and inherit eternal salvation.

“For God has not destined us for wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, whether we wake or sleep [that is, whether the Day of the Lord comes by day or at night], we might live with Him.” The joyous certainty of his election from eternity, and that his salvation is secure in God’s hands, imbues the Christian with ever new courage and strength. He does not grow weary and sleepy, but remains awake and patiently courageous, waiting every day and hour for the coming of his Lord in glory and power.

It is not enough, however, that each Christian be wakeful and watchful for and by himself and himself put on the armor and helmet, but the Christians are to keep one another awake and alert. St. Paul writes at the close of the Epistle: “Therefore encourage one another, and build one another up, just as you are doing.” In this hour, when the hands of the world’s clock are approaching twelve, when the children of this world are sleeping in darkness, we must be concerned not only about ourselves. We dare not fill to prove our faith by love of the brethren. We must perform the service of love by showing deep concern for the brethren. Throughout the Church Year we have had it impressed upon us that we cannot love God without loving our brethren. Sentries call to one another to keep one another awake. When the fighting becomes desperate, soldiers draw closer to one another. Every Christian congregation is a band of soldiers on guard duty who must be wakeful and alert. How welcome and inspiring is every word of encouragement! Every Christian congregation is a group of soldiers defending themselves against the attacks of the common enemy. When one of us appears to be growing weary, sleepy, less watchful, we all are to help and en-courage him. A Christian congregation is what it should and must be only when every member is concerned not only about his own salvation but also about the salvation of each fellow member. in the previous chapter St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the resurrection of the dead and the judgment, and he con-cluded: “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” We are to talk about these things with one another, to watch over and admonish and encourage one another, to pray for one another. The smaller the band of the truly faithful be-comes as the end draws nearer, the closer we are to draw to one another. Would to God that St. Paul could say also of us: “Just as you are doing.” God grant that this become true of us more and more. Then we may look forward to the Day of judgment confidently and joyously.

NOTES ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

With this Sunday we have reached the end of another Church Year. At the end of the year the merchant takes stock and balances his books to deter-mine the state of his business. If he finds it unsatisfactory, he will plan improvements. If he discovers mistakes, he will resolve to avoid them in the future. The holy Gospel calls upon us to take stock of ourselves at the end of another year of grace whether we have true and saving faith. The end of the Church Year re-minds us of the end of the world and the return of our Lord to take His believers home. Will He find in us the faith with which alone we can stand before Him? Are we ready and prepared to meet Him? The Epistle calls to us: “Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” The holy Gospel brings a parable of our Lord that ends with the warning “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

We are here dealing with a parable. In applying it we must first determine the point of comparison. All parables are embellished with details which serve merely to heighten the interest and enliven the story but contribute nothing of importance to the teaching and truth presented. Also the parable of the Ten Maid-ens dare not be interpreted in detailed allegorical fashion. It has only one point of comparison.

In the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel our Lord speaks of the signs that will precede the end of the world. “Then the Kingdom of Heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.” Then, in the last days before the end, the Church of God here on earth will be like ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bride-groom. According to old Jewish custom, the bride awaited the groom in her home, surrounded by youthful companions. The groom came in company of his friends to meet her here and to lead her in procession to the wedding. As he approached, the maidens went to meet him. Then the joyful procession wended its way through the streets to the place where the marriage feast was prepared. The maidens entered the hall of feasting with the rest of the bridal company. Weddings were celebrated in the evening; therefore the maidens carried lamps to light their way in the darkness.

So it will be in the Church when the Bridegroom comes to take His bride to the heavenly marriage feast. Ten maidens will wait for His coming, with lamps in their hands, to meet the Bridegroom and to join the bridal procession. All will appear to be ready, apparently all will be adorned with festive decorations and ornaments, all will carry lamps. Outwardly there will be no difference. All in the communion of the Church will profess faith in the Lord, all will know that the Bridegroom is coming to take His bride to the eternal home. All will act like Christians, talk like Christians, and imagine themselves to be ready for the Bridegroom and fit to enter the marriage hall. All will be waiting to meet the Bridegroom and to be present at the wedding feast. All will appear to be Christians, all will have lamps and the same dress and ornaments.

But there will be a difference, although this will become apparent only later. Our Lord points out the difference. “Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.” The folly of the five consisted in this, that they took their lamps but no oil. The wisdom of the other five consisted in this, that they took a supply of oil in flasks. At this point it is to be noted that the parable does not speak of the bride. Our Lord impresses upon us that there is a distinct difference and division in the Church on earth at His coming. Among those who wait for His appearance some are foolish. They have the outward earmarks of a Christian, they carry the symbol of watchfulness, the lamp, but they have no oil. They are without true, heartfelt faith. They are not equipped for watchful waiting. They lack the one quality that will make them acceptable as wedding guests at the marriage of the Lamb. They shut their hearts against the constant supply of the Holy Spirit. They fail to put on “the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation,” as the Epistle puts it.

The others are wiser. While there was yet time, earlier in the day, they acquired a supply of oil, real faith. They permitted the Holy Spirit to perform His work in them, to have His way with them, to direct and rule their conduct and life. They put on the breastplate of faith and love, the helmet of hope. They had not only the outward appearance of Christians but believed in fact, in their innermost heart.

The difference between the maidens became apparent in due time. “The bridegroom was delayed.” The maidens waited and waited. The parable does not state whether their lamps were burning throughout the period of waiting and therefore the oil in the lamps of the foolish maidens consumed. More important is that all the maidens fell asleep. All ten slept. We must remember that our Lord is presenting a picture of the Church in the last days before the end. Even true Christians, even the faithful, fall asleep while waiting for the Bridegroom. In the days of the early Church, the Christians waited eagerly and longingly for His coming. In Thessalonica some discontinued working for their livelihood and idly awaited the Lord’s immediate appearance. Modern Christendom occupies itself far less with thoughts of Christ’s return. Concern for the things of this world is generally closer to our hearts than seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The faith of many has grown weak and their love cold. In the atmosphere of the last days even true believers find wakefulness and watchfulness most difficult.

“At midnight there was a cry, Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” When all were asleep, when all the world lay in the slumber of security, when preoccupation with sinful indulgence was at its height, the bridegroom came unexpectedly and suddenly. At the cry all the maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. Were the lamps of all ten merely smoldering by this time, and did the fresh supply of oil revive the flame of the wise maidens’ lamps, while the lack of oil caused the lamps of the foolish maidens to go out? Be that as it may, the foolish found that their lamps were going out. When they attempted to trim the wick, they discovered that they had no oil in their lamps. Their lamps were going out at the very time they were to serve their purpose. They had no oil to replen-ish the lamps. How foolish not to have provided oil! They could not go to meet the bridegroom without lamps. In their dilemma they turned to the wise maidens and said: “Give us some of your oil!” These refused, since the supply would not reach. So the foolish maidens rushed out to buy oil from some dealer. This was hopeless, for at this time of night all shops and markets were closed. While they vainly tried to acquire oil, the bridegroom arrived at the home of the bride. The wise maidens met him when he approached, with their lamps burning brightly. “Those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.” Later the foolish maidens came, after a vain search for oil, and pleaded: “Lord, lord, open to us!” But the bridegroom answered from within, without opening the door: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”

The parable teaches important truths. One is that it is not enough that we are outwardly members of a church and identify ourselves with God’s people. Oil is essential, an absolute necessity. There must be true, inward faith. Without oil the foolish maidens could not face the bridegroom. Again, no man can believe for another. No man can be saved by another’s faith. All must have their own oil, have oil in their own flasks and lamps, and must see to it that their flasks contain oil before the advent of the Bridegroom. Again, when the Bridegroom comes, it is too late to acquire faith. The time of grace has come to an end. Again, when the Bridegroom has come and led His bride to the marriage feast, the door is shut, never to be opened again in all eternity. Again, the Bridegroom says to the maidens who had no oil, “I do not know you.” The Bridegroom knows only His own, who are united with Him by true faith. Unbelievers, faithless pretenders, have no claim on Him when He comes.

Our Lord applies His parable: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” The Bridegroom will come, but we do not know when. There-fore we are to watch at all times, always be ready to meet Him. This is the great lesson the parable teaches, and the preacher ought not to stress unduly the particular details of the story. Possible outlines are suggested.

True Christian Watchfulness. 1. Wherein it consists. Not in confessing Christ outwardly, nor in giving the appearance of godliness, like the foolish maid-ens, but in having the oil of true faith by God’s grace and in persevering to the end. 2. How necessary it is. a. We do not know when the Bridegroom will come. b. While He is delayed, we are in danger of relaxing. c. At His coming it be too late to make ready. 3. Its gracious reward. a. The terrible fate of the excluded. b. The joy of the faithful at the marriage of the Lamb.

Be Prepared for the Revelation of the Bridegroom! 1. Many who wait are not prepared. 2. Also true Christians are in danger of becoming sleepy. 3. On that day it is too late to prepare. 4. Life and salvation is at stake.

The Five Wise Maidens. 1. Their wisdom. a. They see to it that they have oil. b. Therefore they are prepared to meet the Bridegroom. 2. Their gracious reward. a. The foolish maidens are excluded. b. The wise go with the Bridegroom to the marriage.

The Solemn Warning of the End of the Church Year. 1. The Bridegroom will come, but we do not know when. 2. Always be ready to meet Him in faith that you may not be excluded from the heavenly marriage feast.

1 Response to Lindemann on Trinity 27/Last Sunday

  1. Charles Wiese

    "If we knew that thieves are in our neighborhood, it would be culpable negligence not to be constantly on guard, with eyes and cars open."
    "The Word of God, like a loud voice from heaven, has entered our cars and driven spiritual sleep from our soul, awakened us to a new life."
    This article is very helpful but I think these sentences are supposed to read "ears" instead of "cars"?

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