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How Foolish!

11/20/05

"You fool," says God to the man who woke up dead even though he had riches to live longer on. "Fools," says Jesus to Pharisees who thought outer cleanliness was all God required. "Foolish," Paul calls the Galatians for starting in the Gospel and finishing in the Law. "Foolish," Jesus calls the Emmaus disciples for not believing all that was written about Him. But being a fool isn't always bad. Paul says he's a fool for Christ's sake. There is a foolishness of the Law and another of the Gospel. We don't want to be fools under the Law, but we do want to see the foolishness of the Gospel.

You know what's foolish? To think you can be ready to meet Jesus without the Spirit. That's as foolish as being one of the virgins who was to meet the groom and not taking enough oil to keep your lamp lit. Who would be so foolish? If you're going to use an oil lamp in a power outage don't you make sure it has enough oil? Don't you check it before you're going to use it? No one thinks something else will do in place of oil.

Yet, people foolishly believe they can be ready to meet Jesus without the Holy Spirit. They don't check to see whether they have the Spirit. No, they think if they have good feelings about Jesus, then they're ready. They think if their life is enough like Jesus', well then they're ready to meet Him. But what did Jesus pour out on His Church to prepare Her for the Last Days? Good works, good feelings, or good vibrations? His Spirit. His Spirit is what men, women, and children need for the Last Day.

It's foolish to think you can be ready to meet Jesus without the Spirit, but it's even more foolish to think you can borrow the Spirit from others so you can be ready. That's as foolish as thinking fellow virgins waiting for the groom could give you oil without decreasing theirs. You can't get the Spirit from another person but only from God and where He gives it.

The Spirit only comes in connection with Jesus. As a Man, Jesus received the Spirit without measure when He was baptized. He won the right to pour out this Spirit upon all flesh by keeping all the laws God required us to keep and by dying to pay for the laws we break. Then, as a Man, Jesus ascended into heaven, sat on the right hand of God the Father, and poured out the Holy Spirit on mankind. This Jesus did on Pentecost. He continues to give His Spirit in Baptism which is not just Water but Spirit; in His Word which is not just life but Spirit, and in Communion Jesus gives not just Bread and Wine like anyone could give us, but forgiveness, life and salvation which only the Spirit can give.

You don't get the Spirit by thinking about Jesus. You don't get the Spirit by trying to live like Jesus. And you sure don't get the Spirit by staying away from Church, i.e. by staying away from Jesus' Water, Words, or Supper. And you can't get the Spirit by borrowing Him from someone else. The Spirit only comes in connection with Jesus. He is in not just any water, words, bread, or wine, but in the Water, Words, Bread, and Wine that Jesus gave us and commanded us to use in His Name.

If you're not using these to prepare for Jesus' coming, you lack the Spirit, and don't foolishly think you'll be able to get Him from another on the last day. There will be no time for that. Everyone will want the Spirit then, everyone will want to be able to meet Jesus then, because, then no one will doubt. That friend from college who remains a confident skeptic; that loud uncle who brashly says he isn't afraid to die and if there is a hell, we'll he'll deal with that when he gets there; that intellectual who smugly tells you he knows too much to believe in Jesus, not one of these will doubt at all when Jesus returns. Every single one of them will want the Spirit then so they can be able to meet Jesus, and they'll foolishly try to get Him.

It will be too, too late for that, but they continue to forge their chain of foolishness further preparing themselves for hell. They foolishly think that once Jesus shuts a door it can be opened by pathetic pleading, "Lord, Lord, open to us." These once bold, proud, smug people are so broken as to beg to enter the Lamb's marriage feast. Why? Because outside is not a street or village, but gnashing of teeth, the continual burning of hell's fire, and the continual gnawing of the worms of hell.

You think we've reached the depths of foolishness, but we haven't. No the height of foolishness is to do what you're doing right now: judging the Judge. Why doesn't He let those poor, foolish virgins in? They're only minutes late. They've got oil now. Who is He to shut the door on those without the Spirit? I know some fine Mormons, Muslims, Jews, and atheists for that matter. And what about those people, kids in particular, who were raised in homes where the Spirit was not? How can He blame them for not having the Spirit when they never had a chance to get Him? Such judgments of the Judge don't come from the Spirit. So, what side of the door do you think we who make them are really on?

The Law exposes our foolishness that can only be damned. But there's another sort of foolishness going on here, do you see it? You know what's really foolish? To say that at the end of the world the kingdom of heaven is like a wedding. In the prior chapter Jesus predicts the end of the world with all of it suddenness, destruction, and judgment. The very next words out of Jesus' mouth are, "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins waiting for a wedding to start."

Now that's foolish! Isn't the end of the world like a nuclear holocaust rather than a wedding? Shouldn't we be looking for famine rather than feasting? For misery rather than merriment? Here Jesus tells us disciples that in the midst of the incineration of all things we're to be looking for a celebration. No, wonder Jesus tells us in Luke to lift up our heads in the end. Who doesn't look forward to a wedding reception?

You know what else is foolish? To say that sins don't keep a person out of Jesus' wedding feast. We know heaven is a place where holiness reigns, purity shines, innocence is everywhere, and we know we're none of these things. We sin; we're convicted of the sin; we repent only to fall again. And don't get me started with the thoughts, the lusts, and the disgusting urges. They're everywhere in my heart, soul, and mind. I'm all darkness; heaven is light. What fellowship can darkness have with light? I'm filth; heaven is purity. What fellowship can dirt have with pureness? I'm sin; heaven is holiness. What fellowship can sin have with holiness? It's utter foolishness to tell me that my sins don't keep me out of heaven.

You know this is not the only parable Jesus told about a wedding. Earlier in Matthew He told about a king giving a wedding banquet for his son. In the first parable as many as the servants could find were to be invited. The parable specifically says that they gathered all whom they found both bad and good. What's this? Thieves, murderers, tax collectors, and prostitutes in the kingdom of heaven! What could be more foolish? Only God's perfect Son dying miserably and wretchedly to pay for the sins of such sinners, so they can go to heaven

How come your sins don't keep you out of this wedding banquet? In terms of this parable, I could say, "Because you have the Spirit," but that might not be clear enough. The first parable is clearer. Both bad and good are made fit for the Son's wedding banquet by being given a wedding garment. It covers the goodness of the good which could never be good enough, and it covers the badness of the bad which could never be so bad that the wedding garment wouldn't be able to cover it.

This is what Jesus said the Spirit would do. "He will take of mine and give to you." Only the perfect go to heaven. The Spirit takes the perfect life of Jesus and puts it on you in Baptism, puts it over you in Absolution, and puts it in you in Communion. What about the sins that plague you, which you struggle against yet still give into? In the first wedding parable when the king walked about the banquet at whose table did he stop? He didn't stop at the table where the man sat who had committed adultery but fled for forgiveness to his Baptism; he didn't stop at the table where the teen sat who fought not to lust; he didn't stop at the table where the man sat ate up by worry because he couldn't love and trust God above all things. The king stopped only at the table where the man sat who had refused to wear the wedding garment the king provided.

This agrees with our parable. It appears foolish to men, but the only thing that makes it impossible for a person to get into the wedding banquet is not being known by the Lord. The Lord doesn't say to the foolish virgins you're worriers, or you committed adultery, or you're lustful and that's why I can't open this door. No, He says, "I don't know you." How do you know if Jesus knows you? Well, how do you know who's on you're side in a football game? They have the same uniform as you. Jesus recognizes those clothed in the same uniform as He is. "As many of you who've been baptized, you've put on Christ," says Paul. "As many of you who've been absolved in My Name, you stand before Me in My forgiveness," says Jesus. "Take eat; take drink this is My Body and Blood," says Jesus, and having eaten and drank, Jesus recognizes you as His own Body and Blood.

I think I misspoke earlier. The height of foolishness is not to dare to judge the Judge. No, the height of foolishness is to conclude it's too late for you right now. The Groom hasn't returned yet; the door to the wedding banquet isn't closed yet. There's still time to get the Spirit needed to meet Jesus and to go where He goes. Why do you think Jesus is preaching this parable into your ears today? How foolish it would be to conclude that Jesus wants you to think it's too late for you when in fact He wants you to conclude that this very day is the day of your salvation. Amen.

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Last Sunday of the Church Year (20051120); Matthew 25: 1-13

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