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This Burning Light–Last Sunday of the Church Year Sermon


 

Jesu Juva

Last Sunday of the Church Year

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 25:1-13

November 25, 2012

“This Burning Light”
In the Holy Name of Jesus.

 

“Receive this burning light to show you have received Christ, who is the light of the world.  Live always in the light of Christ, and be ever watchful for His coming, that you may meet Him with joy and enter with Him into the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, which has no end.”

The pastor hands to your sponsor the little baptismal candle which has been set on fire by the flame from the Paschal candle, the large candle by the baptismal font. 

 

That large candle symbolizes the light and life of Jesus Christ, which burst forth from the tomb for us on Easter.  The flood of death and sin has been dried up by the consuming fire of the love of God.  “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea.”  (Revelation 21:1)

 

That fire burned a bush in the wilderness but did not consume it, and drew Moses to its flame and sent him to tell Pharaoh to let the Lord’s people go.  Then it went as a pillar leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the desert.  It fell on Mount Sinai and set it on fire, and the people heard God’s voice thundering, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.  You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…”  The Lord God is love; and He is a consuming fire.
That fire was hidden in the body of Jesus, who is the Lord God of Israel.  It appeared only as light to men, but it did not burn them.  But when the lamp of Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb and descended into hell, it burned death to ashes and set Satan on fire forever.  When He rose and ascended to the Father, the fire of the Lord transfigured His body the way earthly fire transfigures metal and makes it glow red or white.  That same fire burns within the members of His body.  It began to burn in Your body when the pastor splashed water on you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit—our God, the consuming fire.

 

So they handed your sponsor your little candle lit from the fire of the Easter candle, but that was only a symbol. 

 

The water they poured on You, joined with the Lord’s command and name, was not just a symbol.  It was reality.  Before that you were the offspring of adulterers—not physical adulterers, but worse—spiritual adulterers who had gone whoring from the Lord.  You were born with the stain of their adultery and with the same adulterous, faithless heart. 

 

But then you were dipped in the water joined with the Holy Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  You were immersed in the fire, born again into Jesus as He died bearing Adam and Eve’s impurities which had to be burned up before the holy face of the Lord.  With Him you were doused in the flood of death.  But with Him you leaped out of death, leaving Satan burning in eternal fire and death scorched to ashes. 
You arose with Jesus.  No longer an adulterer or an adulteress; but a virgin going to meet the bridegroom.  You were made pure and holy, unspotted, unstained.  You were born again in Christ.  And though the unclean flesh of Adam and Eve remained, inside burned consuming fire: the Holy Spirit—giving light to the world through you, but burning away the uncleanness of sin from within. 

 

Outside you wore virgin’s clothes marking you as belonging to the wedding party of the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  You wore the clothes because Jesus was Your purity; His suffering and death and His blood shed in payment for Your sin washed away all uncleanness and covered you with righteousness.  Over your innocent skin was the garment of Jesus’ perfect obedience to the law of God.  He dressed you and called you a virgin—pure, untouched, reserved.

You were not afraid to meet the bridegroom. You were in the wedding party.  You ran out into the darkness with joy, your lamp burning.  There was nothing to fear.  The bridegroom was coming to bring you to His wedding banquet.

 

How wonderful that wedding feast will be, for which all of Jesus’ wise virgins have waited so long!  It will be in a city with 12 foundations, and each foundation will be made of precious stones.  To get into the city we will have to pass through gates each made of one massive, costly pearl.  And all the people at this feast will be like Jesus; they will be transfigured by the consuming fire of God’s love like metal glowing red or white with earthly fire.  All of them will have all evil burned away, and so there will be no one to insult, or injure, or defile, or shame us.  The consuming fire of God’s love will not burn us.  Nothing evil will be able to come near us.  Words fail to describe the glory that will be revealed there.

 

Of one pearl each shining portal, where joining with the choir immortal, we gather round Thy radiant throne.  No eye has seen the light; no ear has heard the might of Thy glory.  Therefore will we eternally sing songs of praise and joy to Thee.

 

We were perfectly ready to meet the bridegroom when we were baptized.  When did that change?
So soon after that momentous day you lost your first love. My two year old godchild likes to run around the house and pull everything he can off shelves onto the floor.  But at bedtime he wants his mom to sing “Jesus songs.”  That’s not hypocrisy; that’s the fire of the Holy Spirit burning within the jar of clay.
Just a few years older than that and you already had other priorities that made you less eager to run out and meet the bridegroom.  It was more conscious then.  The bridegroom has taken a long time to come bring us to the wedding.  We fall asleep.
Looking and waiting for Jesus to come doesn’t mean going out to the edge of town and standing with a candle.  It means letting your light shine before men so that they see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5).  We go out to meet Jesus by faith, believing that He has made us ready for His coming.  By faith we follow Him into the place where He has called us and we meet Him there in our neighbor.  People see Christ, the light of the world, whom you have received, in you, as you go about your tasks.  As a hearer of the word your light shines when you gladly receive Scripture and faithful preaching not as the word of men, but as the word of God, and you joyfully support the preaching of the Word with your offerings and prayers and by showing love and honor to the office Jesus set up for the proclamation of the Gospel.

 

As a father and mother your light shines when you gladly meet Christ in your children, provide for them, and train them in the Lord’s teaching. 
As a child your light shines when you meet Jesus in your parents and honor and obey them as gifts which He has given to you.
As husband Christ’s light shines in you when you love your wife and lay down your life for her, when you do it gladly because Christ did not come and condemn you for your sins and weakness but washed you with the water by the Word after carrying your sins on the cross.  As a wife Christ’s light shines when you gladly honor your husband as your head out of love for Jesus whose love, a consuming fire, caused Him to leave His own comfort and pleasure and take death and shame for you. 

 

As an employee your light shines when you work for your employer not only when their eye is on you, but you serve him or her gladly, knowing that it is really Jesus you are serving.

 

We go out to meet Jesus by faith that when He comes He will take us to His wedding.  Faith shows itself in the daily tasks to which Jesus has called us. 

 

To serve gladly and sacrificially in those daily tasks, always looking for Jesus and not looking to enjoy ourselves in this world requires a steady source of oil to keep our lamps burning.  The oil is the Holy Spirit.

When you were baptized, you were given a little flame from the consuming fire that is the life and love of God, which has burned up death.  Your lamp was lit from the fire of life that burned gloriously in the body of Jesus.

 

This little flame is so precious that nothing in the world can compare to it.  Our greatest concern in life is to not let that light burning in us—which is God Himself, the Holy Spirit—go out. 

 

Keep your lamp burning and be dressed for service like a man waiting for His master to come home.  It will be well for the servant who the master finds doing so when He returns.  He will gird Himself for service and wait on them.  And He is almost here!  That is why we light the candles on the Advent wreath in the days ahead.  Our greatest joy is nearly here.  Whatever else we are occupied with, nothing can compare with the joy of meeting Jesus the bridegroom when He comes and entering His eternal feast.

 

Yet we do.  We fall asleep.  We forget about our calling to meet Jesus in our neighbor.  We forget about the wedding feast.  We wander from Christ and our lamps grow dim or they go out.

 

But some day soon we will be startled awake.  “The bridegroom is here; come and meet him!”  It may be the day of your death.  It may be the moment of Christ’s return.  At that time your only concern will be to have your lamp lit and be ready to meet the bridegroom.

 

It’s not a good thing to fall asleep when we should be watching for Christ to come.  On your wedding day, you want your bridesmaids to share in your joy.  If the maid of honor rolls out of bed and just barely gets to the church on time, you would be grateful that she made it, but not exactly pleased that she didn’t take more care to be ready for one of the biggest days of your life.

But if she doesn’t show up on time because she has to run out to the store to get makeup or something for her hair, you’d be furious.  Of course, we all make mistakes.  But your wedding is too big a day for your guests to be foolish and unprepared. 

 

That’s how it will be on the day when Jesus returns for many who were baptized.  There will be no baptized Christians who will be able to say that they never fell asleep looking for Jesus the bridegroom to come. 

 

But those who are wise will have oil with them.  “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you,” Jesus said.  Now is the time to ask, seek, and knock—not the day of death.  He says, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, though you are evil, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  (Luke 11).  Today is the day to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”  “The Kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father grants us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His Holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” 

We pray daily for the Holy Spirit, so that we may lead godly lives, awake, looking for Jesus’ return, with clear consciences, letting the light of Jesus shine in us through love toward our neighbor in our callings. 
If you find yourself neglecting your calling and serving yourself; if you frequently forget about Jesus’ return and find your heart set on the world, whether by falling into sin or simply by neglecting His Word and prayer, now is the time to ask and seek and knock, that God give you His Holy Spirit, so that you believe the gospel and lead a godly life, looking for Jesus’ return.

 

We pray for the Holy Spirit, and seek the gift of the Holy Spirit where the Lord promises to give Him.  That is in Scripture, in faithful preaching and teaching, in absolution, in the Lord’s Supper.  In that way we carry extra oil with us so that we are prepared.
We also do it because it is in hearing the word and serving in the callings He has given us that we are with Him and are prepared for Him. 

 

The joys of eternal life are great and no one is able to speak about them properly.  But one thing is certain.  Those who dislike Christ’s word now and who find no pleasure in serving their neighbor in love would not like eternal life either. 
No one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return, and so trying to predict the day is sinful—then you could postpone repentance until the last minute.  Instead, Christians live as if every day is the day of Jesus’ return.  And they do it not out of fear only, but out of joy, because Christ’s return is the joy of their hearts.
We have divided hearts.  Our flesh wishes that Jesus would never come back so that we can go on serving ourselves.  In Christians the flesh which does not want Jesus to return is still very much present.  That is why daily we need the Holy Spirit.  We pray for Him in the Lord’s prayer.  And the Lord has promised to give Him to us.  As often as you see your flesh not wanting to hear the Word of God, not wanting to serve your neighbor, not wanting Jesus to return, that is the sign that you still need to knock and ask for the Holy Spirit, and seek His Word, praying, “Lord, let me not be among the foolish virgins who say, ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do the will of Your Father in heaven and so do not enter the Kingdom of God.”
If you have been ill prepared, begin to pray this way now, but also rejoice.  Whether your faith is weak or strong, you have received Christ, the light of the world.  His light shines upon you and lifts up your eyes to the cross, where the darkness of sin died, and to His resurrection, where eternal life and righteousness dawned for you.  The Sun rose upon you in your baptism.  And now the bridegroom comes to give you a taste of His wedding feast in His body and blood, which cleanse you inwardly, make you holy, and pour out the oil of His spirit on the flickering lamp of your faith in Him, so that you may go forward with joy and confidence to meet Him when He comes again.

 

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.
SDG

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