Sermon by Rev. Zickler for November 12, 2017

20171112 Sermon Proper 27 2017
November 12, 2017
Matthew 25:1-13

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. This morning we meditate on the Gospel Lesson, previously read.
My wife and I have a show that we watch on TV about a family. In the show, the dad of the family is often gruff, although they make it very clear that he really loves his kids. In that tone of loving gruffness—I suppose you could call it—he often instructs his kids by saying, “Don’t be a moron!” As I have been reading this passage this week, that thought keeps coming back to my mind: that Jesus is saying, “Don’t be a moron!” Or, I suppose more literally, He’s saying “Don’t be moronic!” He’s saying “Don’t be moronic, be ready for my return!”

As I say that, you might be thinking this is kind of odd that I would make this connection. But you see when Jesus speaks of the wise and the foolish virgins, the word for the foolish ones that He uses is moroi, and hopefully you can hear that’s obviously where we get the word moron. These foolish virgins are moronic, and when Jesus tells us the point of this parable—which He says in the last line: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour”—He’s telling us not to be moronic, not to be foolish, but to be ready. So don’t be moronic, be ready for His return.

But of course, this isn’t easy, is it? As I say this about not being moronic this is a real challenge. It’s a challenge, because our life as Christians is so utterly opposed to the things of this world, that the world actually sees us as moronic. If you want clear proof of that look at how the topic of abortion is often treated. And I make this point because today we’ll be hosting John Hawkins from Lutherans for Life for Bible Study, which I invite you all to join us for. But when we think about how abortion is often treated in the media, what do we see? We see some people who consistently call a human person in the womb merely a mass of cells. They look at us who would like to defend even the life of the child at conception as odd at best, if not moronic. But then when it comes to those who will be born into broken homes and poverty, or to those who will be born with birth defects like Down Syndrome, to protect that life seems utterly moronic to them. Very specifically, I don’t know if you saw recently that there was some celebration that Down Syndrome had been nearly eliminated in Iceland. And how? Through abortion. If you’ve ever met someone with Down Syndrome this should be heartbreaking. But this is how many in the world view this—moronic. That being said, as an aside, as the Church we should also be making every effort to aid those who don’t have abortions and be willing to adopt children who aren’t aborted, even with Downs. Even still, this is one way the world often sees us as moronic.

Likewise the world sees us as moronic, as foolish in that we pray and go to Church. I am sure you all heard about the horribly tragic shooting in the Church in Texas last week. Perhaps you saw some of the responses as well. Of course, thankfully most of the reaction was an outpouring of sorrow and support for those affected by the tragedy. But there were those who had to get their digs in. There was someone who tweeted, “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive.” He then tried to back track, but it’s clear what his view his. Another person tweeted, “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.” And there we see it. The world thinks that we’re moronic for praying. They think religion is worthless because if God was there He would stop these things. They think that our faith is contingent upon not seeing evil in the world, or even the Church, because if God were real and really good there would be no evil in the world. And because of this the world sees us as moronic for trusting that God is good and loving, as He has shown Himself to be in Jesus.

But as we say this, we shouldn’t be surprised. We shouldn’t be surprised that the world would find us moronic, foolish. Paul himself says this is the case. He tells us the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. The message of the Gospel is moria, moronic, to those of the world who don’t believe. But Paul says “to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” To those who believe it, it’s not moronic, it’s the power of God. It’s the very working of God to bring us from the evil of this world, the evil of our sin and into His ever loving and caring arms.

And as I say that take a second to think about it. Think about how the Gospel is foolish, moronic in a purely rational sense. To our broken human brains it doesn’t make sense that God would create us, even create us as good, and then let us fall from that. It doesn’t make sense that He would let us fall into sin, fall away from Him, fall into all kinds of evil where we see suffering, death, starving people, Church shootings, people born with things like Down Syndrome. That doesn’t make sense to our brains does it? And it makes less sense that He would send His own Son to atone for the sins of this fallen mankind. It doesn’t make sense that a lowly carpenter born 2000 years ago in a tiny city in the Middle East, the He would be God in Human flesh. That He would die, that He would even rise again, then ascend into heaven and rule all things.

Again think about it in a human way. I was talking about this with my kids. I had them think of an evil person from history—they thought of Nero Caesar. Nero was terrible. If you don’t remember what he did, he killed his mother. He ruled with tyranny. Many think he started the Great Fire in Rome, maybe not himself but ordered it to happen. Then, he blamed Christians and had them killed. During his reign the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul are believed to have occurred. In fact, many in the early Church connected him with the Antichrist. He was bad. So, my kids thought of Nero, then I explained that God giving us Jesus would be akin to someone saying to me that if they could take my son then Nero could live. Now my kids are not even sinless, but if someone told me that my son would have to take the place of Nero, being punished for Nero so that Nero could live, I would be hard pressed to want that.

But yet that is what God has done. He has poured all of His wrath, all of His anger at sin out on His Son who did nothing wrong. And this Son, out of His great love for us, He willingly subjected Himself to that wrath. And through that, through raising Jesus from the dead, God promised that we will be raised too. This doesn’t make sense to human reason. To human reason it’s foolish. It’s moronic. But you see to God, whose wisdom is far beyond our understanding, our reason is moronic. And this is what Jesus is calling us to avoid. He’s telling us, “Don’t be moronic, be ready for my coming.”

Now, as I say all of this, as I often make the point of also saying, we don’t want to just point fingers at the world and become self-righteous about our own goodness. We also don’t want to become complacent about ourselves. In fact, as we look at this parable, it seems that we should apply this specifically to ourselves in the Church. While we certainly see in Scripture that what is moronic is found in the world, this parable seems to point to us avoiding it in the Church as well. We get that even more when we look at the Old Testament Lesson.

Listen to what the Lord says through Amos there: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.” As I read those words, who would the Lord be speaking to? This is the Old Testament, so He’s talking to the Israelites. He’s talking about the Jews who went through the motions of the sacrifices, but did so merely as an action. They did this without the true faith that should accompany it. They perhaps were caught up also in false worship. They were caught up in unrepentant sin. They thought that they were “good with God,” but not for the right reasons.

As I say this, in the Old Testament this usually did show itself in the form of unrepentant false worship and hedonism. But to connect this back to Jesus, He is likely pointing to the Pharisees in His parable. They looked the part, they played the role and looked good. People thought they were very pious. And by all external accounts it looked that way. But they weren’t. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They liked the adulation of men. They liked to show just how good they were.

In our day, this should strike us. You see those virgins had the lamp, they were out waiting for the bridegroom. They’re doing all the right stuff, they’re going to Church. They’re maybe even expressing joy in being saved by God. But then they’re wearied by the wait. They aren’t prepared for the wait to take this long. They fall away in thinking that maybe the world was right that a certain temptation was worth the sin, or that this God wasn’t really good, or that prayer was actually worthless. And their oil burns out. Let that be a warning to us as well. Let that be a warning to not be foolish.

Christians, don’t be moronic. Hear our Lord. Hear His promise that we won’t know the day or hour. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. And while you wait for Him, look forward to the promise. He is coming for you not because you have deserved it, but because He has rescued you from your sin. And know that, when you wrestle with sin. This isn’t who you are. You have been freed from it in Him. And hear again what Jesus said about His coming. The bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast. Christians, He wants people in that feast. He wants you, His baptized children in that feast with Him. Don’t listen to what the world says. Don’t be moronic. Be ready for His coming, because He wants to bring good to you. Amen.