How You Will Be Ready
Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 25, 2018
One year ago we began this Church Year with the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. We begin the Church Year every year with the account of Palm Sunday and yet it always seems a little out of place. The Church Year is different than the calendar year and the seasons we go through and the various holidays we observe in our nation. In seeing Jesus enter Jerusalem, the Church Year thrusts you right into why Jesus came. Jesus entered this world to go to the cross.
The night before He was affixed to the cross He paused to observe a meal with His disciples. The Last Supper is the meal where Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples. This wasn’t nostalgia. Jesus was taking God’s institution of the Passover and instituting something new. His Meal. His Supper. Not giving His disciples simply bread and wine but in and with them His body and blood, the very body He would offer the following day on the cross, the very blood He would shed on that cross.
Is there something communicated here in how we begin the Church Year, for how we live our life? The seasons and holidays of our lives give order and meaning to our lives. The Church Year orders our days and our deeds in His peace. It takes us through the life of Christ, bringing us from our own fallen life into the life of the one who came to earth in the flesh, who suffered on the cross in the flesh, and who rose from the grave in the flesh. That all happened in history. What He does now is come to us in the flesh, in the very same body and blood that was conceived and born, that lived and died, that rose and ascended. He is seated at the right hand of God but comes to us in His Holy Sacrament, at His Holy Altar.
No less than twenty times throughout the Church Year are we met with an event centered around a meal, or a description of the Eternal Feast of our Lord, or specific reference to the Lord’s Supper itself. From beginning to end, sprinkled throughout, as we go through the Church Year, there is a steady diet of the significant place our Lord’s Meal has in the life of the Christian Church.
If at the beginning of this Church Year we were met with Jesus entering Jerusalem to give His body and blood in His new Meal and hours later give the very same body and blood on the cross, here one year later on the Last Sunday of the Church Year we are brought to the fulfillment of this Meal and this sacrifice on the cross—the Wedding Feast of the Bridegroom.
In the Gospel reading today there is much emphasis on the ten maidens. Five are foolish, five are wise. The wise maidens are ready when the Bridegroom comes. The foolish, they’re left out in the cold. The wise maidens are welcomed into the Wedding Feast of the Bridegroom. The foolish ones are forever separated from Him.
They’re all going out to meet Him. They’re all excited about celebrating the Wedding Feast. They all bring their lamps. But the foolish do not prepare. They’re along for the ride. The wise prepare. They not only have their lamps, they bring oil in case they need it later on. In case things don’t go as planned. For them it’s all about the Bridegroom. They don’t want to miss Him. They are ready so that whatever might happen, they won’t miss out.
And the Bridegroom is delayed. They get tired as they are waiting. They fall asleep and their lamps go out. In the middle of the night He finally comes! They wake up and trim their lamps. They add the oil they had brought. They go out to meet Him and He brings them into the eternal celebration that is His Marriage Feast. The ones who didn’t see it necessary to prepare are left out in the cold and the dark. After buying oil they get to the house and knock on the door. “Lord, Lord, open to us!” But He answers them, “Truly, I tell you, I do not know you.”
We have gone through the Church Year. It has brought us Christ at every turn. It has brought us to see that our lives are not our own, that we are in Christ. Our life is bound up in His. We will go through it again, much in the same way we go through each calendar year again and again. The seasons continue and we celebrate holidays over and over. We will continue to go through the Church Year each year so that we may see that we are not just along for the ride. We need to be prepared. We need to be ready. We do not know when our Lord will come again. It will be at an hour we do not expect. How are we to prepare? Can we be ready as the five wise maidens were?
If the Church Year is any guide, it is by participating in the Meal our Lord has given us until He comes again in glory. If we learn anything by going through the life of Christ here in God’s House, we will see our life is bound up in His life. We are welcomed to His Table, He gives us Himself, He offers us His body and blood. He gave Himself, delivering over His body on the cross, pouring out His blood on the cross for our salvation. The apostle Paul makes the point clear in the Epistle reading: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, having died for us that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.”
We are looking to the day when our Lord welcomes us into His eternal Wedding Feast. This is where He wants us, in His eternal celebration. But according to Paul we already live with our Lord because of His suffering and death and resurrection. According to our Lord we are given our Lord Himself into our mouth for the forgiveness of our sins, for the strengthening of our faith, for the communion we participate in with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. Jesus gave us His body and blood for us as often as we eat and drink it that we are brought into this Holy Communion, which is a Foretaste of the Feast to come.
The ten maidens were the same in their waiting. They wanted to meet the Bridegroom. They had their lamps. They all got tired. They all fell asleep. The difference is that some of them were prepared. From the outset of creation God has given His people food. In the Garden of Eden every tree was available to Adam and Eve except for one. Throughout history God has fed His people in body and soul. Whether it is vegetables you eat or meat or both, every meal we eat is the product of sacrifice. A plant or an animal has been killed in order for you to eat. Their life for yours. You cannot survive without food. Therefore, you cannot live unless another being has lost its life.
The remarkable act of God is that when He feeds you for your soul the sacrifice is His own self. Jesus’ life for yours. You are fed and sustained because Jesus gave His life and gives you His life here in this holy and heavenly Meal. So much of what sustains you and keeps you going in life is what you do day in and day out. You need the sustenance of daily bread. You need also to be fed by your Lord for your soul. This is how you will be ready. As you feed on the Heavenly Food of the flesh and blood of your Lord you will be sustained and you will be ready on the Last Day when He will bring you into His eternal Wedding Feast. Amen.
Rev. Paul L. Willweber
Lutheran Service Book Lectionary: One-Year, Gospel
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, San Diego, California