When Christians Are Reckless With The Word And Sacraments

Text: Matthew 25:1-13

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

You can see it on people’s faces.  It is in their eyes.  We call it many things.  For example, we say,

 “His head is in the clouds.” 

Or we say,

“They are really distracted or daydreaming today.” 

And perhaps a bit more crass way of saying it,

“They are an airhead.  They are out to lunch.”

Now, what I am describing is mindlessness – becoming unconscious to reality.  What I am describing is how we can become ignorant, dull, dense, careless, and unmindful to the bigger picture of life. 

What happens is that we have this tendency to slip into auto-pilot or cruise control in life.  The grind of life has a way of working on us - pulling us into droning mindlessness.  Work, consuming goods, and the day-to-day affairs of life can suck us into a monotony where we don’t realize the master plan that we are part of. 

This mindlessness doesn’t always necessarily mean that we walk around looking dazed and confused – paralyzed from life.  It can also look like us being carried along in life by meaningless entertainment and things.  You know what I am talking about, this mindlessness is when we tune everything else out and are pulled along by movies, video games, hunting, social clubs, projects, and sports.  It happens when we jump from thing to thing to thing – looking for the next fun event or project without realizing reality around us. 

We hear about this mindlessness in a story from Jesus in today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew. 

In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us a story (parable) of some virgins getting ready for a wedding banquet.  (Think of these virgins as bridesmaids).  Now, here is the point that we must specifically notice.  Five of the bridesmaids were aware and mindful.  They were thoughtful and present in the moment.  They had plenty of oil for their lamps and were ready for the wedding banquet.  However, the other five bridesmaids?  Well, the other five other bridesmaids were blockheaded, dull, stupid, and foolish.  They had no oil for their lamps and therefore were not prepared for the wedding banquet. 

And so, tragically and as can be expected, when the time came to go to the wedding banquet, the five mindless bridesmaids were not ready and were shut out of the wedding banquet.

Now, it would be very easy for us – as Christians – to point the finger away from ourselves and apply this parable to everyone outside of the walls of the church.  It would be easy to say,

“Look at those mindless pagans!  They are functioning just like those five bridesmaids without oil!” 

But dear friends, these five bridesmaids do not represent people outside of the church but people attached to the church.  Keep in mind with respect to this parable that there were no outward differences between the ten bridesmaids. All ten of them were ready with their lamps. They were all dressed for the party with decorations and ornaments. They all knew that the Groom would come for the bride and the bridesmaids to take them to the great banquet. Yes, according to all outward appearances, these bridesmaids were all the same; they dressed the same and looked the same. They all appeared to be ready for the great banquet; however, as we heard, five of them did not make it to the great wedding banquet because they did not have any oil.

Why did they not have oil though?  It is quite simple; they were blockheaded, dull, stupid, foolish, and mindless – they failed to realize that their lamps were empty. 

And so, the meaning of the parable is quite clear.  The oil for the lamps is the Lord’s Word and Sacraments, for where you find the Word and Sacraments, you find the Holy Spirit.  And where you find the Holy Spirit, you find the Word and Sacraments – oil for your lamps. 

Furthermore, the meaning of the parable is that not everyone who attaches themselves to the church has oil for their lamps, just like those five foolish bridesmaids.  You see, many who are attached to the church hear God’s Word but do not hear.  Many get bored with the Word and Sacraments.  Many shrug their shoulders and flippantly go through the emotions with the church, but deep down have no use for the Word and Sacraments.  Many come to church and sit in the pews week after week after week but do so with dull, mindless, and dense hearts.  

Dear friends, “Christ is returning for His Church.  But not everyone who is attached outwardly to Christ’s Church is really a member of her.  The foolish belong to the Church, but they don’t.  They are baptized.  Baptism saves.  But they aren’t saved.  They hear the absolution.  The absolution gives them forgiveness of their sins.  But they don’t have forgiveness of their sins.  They eat, and they drink the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper.  This body and blood give the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation...  But they don’t have forgiveness, life, or salvation. [They are surrounded by these precious gifts but are unsaved. But why?]  How can this be?”[1]  The answer, they are like those foolish-mindless-bridesmaids.  The Word goes in one ear and out of the other ear.  There is no faith to receive God’s gifts, but God’s Word and Sacraments are met with blockheaded, dull, and mindless unbelief. 

Dear friends, the danger that you and I face as Christians is mindless unbelief.  Mindless unbelief has a way of putting our heads in the clouds, not realizing the master plan – the main thing.  And what is the master plan, the main thing? It is this, you are being prepared for death in Christ’s Church.  Yes, dear friends, the main job of your pastor is not to be a friend, a comedian, a guide, an entertainer, or a spiritual inspiration, but to prepare you for death.  Furthermore, the purpose of Christ’s Church is not to entertain you, be a service club, be a modern monastery, or be a place where the who’s who of society hang out to socialize, but instead, be the place where the Lord keeps you safe until your death. Simply stated, Christ snatched you from the devil and places you into the ark of the church until you fall asleep in Jesus and are tucked into your grave for the resurrection. 

However, as you know, there is so much religious foolishness in the American Church that can occupy our minds that it is no wonder why it is so easy to drift into mindless unbelief.  The church is so often pressured into ministry programs, marketing promotions, capital improvement campaigns, committee projects, mission statement, vision statements, purpose statements, core value statements, yada, yada, yada, that we can get sucked into mindless religious foolishness resulting in us forgetting to receive oil for our lamps.  

Dear friends, the point of Jesus’ parable is rather simple.  Wake up!  Do not drift into mindless-blockheaded-dull-foolish-unbelief like the five bridesmaids. Be in the moment.  Understand that ‘now’ is the time to hear the Gospel.  ‘Now’ is the time to remember your baptisms.  ‘Now’ is the time to hear the absolution of your sins.  ‘Now’ is the time to receive the body and blood of Jesus in His Holy Sacrament.  ‘Now’ is the time to have your lamps filled with oil – the Word and Sacraments. 

Repent of your mindlessness, and hear the Gospel – your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. 

Repent of your blockheadedness, and remember your Baptisms – you are baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Repent of your unbelief, and receive the Supper – take and eat, take and drink for the forgiveness of your sins! 

Baptized Saints, it only becomes complicated when we as Christians and as a Church fail to keep the main thing the main thing, or when we get pulled into worthless monotonous things – silly myths and chatter that have nothing to do with Christ and Him crucified.

We do not know the last day of our life when we will be tucked into our graves.  And we do not know the last day when Jesus will return to us to take us home.  But we do know that oil – the Word and Sacraments – are here for us today.  And they will be here for us tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.

As Christ’s Church, this is a place where we are given oil – the Word and Sacraments – week after week after week.  May God protect us from not caring to hear his voice.  May God protect us from drifting into unbelief, like those foolish five bridesmaids.  May God preserve us and keep us full of His forgiveness, until that day when He awakes us and takes us to that great wedding banquet. 
In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

[1] Rolf D. Preus, A Year of Law & Gospel Preaching: Postil of Sermons on the One-Year Lectionary (Cheyenne, Wyoming; Steadfast Lutherans, 2019), 215.

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