09 November 2014

Wake, Awake, the Bridegroom Is Here

Be on the alert.  Watch and pray.  Be ready for the coming of the Bridegroom.

This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  It is to this that you have been called: To watch and to wait for the Bridegroom, and then to enter with Him into the Wedding Feast.

By what wisdom, then, shall you prepare to meet Him?

It comes down to this, whether you have oil for your lamp or not.

You don’t know how long the wait will be.  You don’t know on what day or at what hour the Bridegroom will come.  Be prepared, therefore, both day and night, both awake and asleep.

You will grow drowsy and sleep, to be sure, not unlike the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.  All of the virgins do, both the wise and the foolish alike.  For your mortal flesh will perish, and you shall be laid to rest in the dust of the earth.  But there is a great difference between falling asleep in Jesus, at peace and at rest in Him by faith in His Gospel, and falling asleep in foolish unbelief, in the drowsiness of despair or the stupor of sin.

The difference is in the Oil for your lamp: In the anointing of Christ Jesus, the outpouring of His Holy Spirit.  With that Oil, you are prepared and enter in.  Without it, you are left out in the dark.

You know that Christ Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His Baptism in the Jordan River, anointed for His Cross and for the Resurrection, for the sake of your salvation.  In that same Holy Spirit, from the waters of His Baptism into the desert wilderness, He met and resisted the devil’s temptations on your behalf, as your great Champion and Savior.

So, too, when His Baptism brought Him to its goal and purpose in His Passion unto death, He was ready, watching and waiting in prayer, alert, and prepared to commend Himself to His Father.

Now His Baptism, His Cross and Resurrection have become yours in your Holy Baptism, in which He has poured out His Holy Spirit generously upon you.  By that Oil of gladness, your lamp is fueled and burns brightly.  You are made ready, because you are in Christ.  His readiness is yours.

So does your light also shine before your neighbors in the world, who see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  In fact, your light is a reflection of His own, because His Word is a Lamp unto your feet and a Light upon your path.

It is by His Word of the Law that His Spirit guides you in the way that you should go, according to His Will, that is, in the way of justice and righteousness, in the way of peace and love.

But it is by His Word of the Gospel, specifically His spoken Word of Holy Absolution — by the free and full forgiveness of all your sins in His Name — that the Lord Jesus breathes His life-giving Holy Spirit into you.  Indeed, He gives the Spirit into your ears, and into your heart, into your whole body and life, and He thereby fills up your lamp with the Oil of gladness.

So, get yourself to the dealers, to the stewards of the Mysteries of God, to the ministers of the Word and Sacraments of Christ, to be replenished and prepared by the Oil of His grace, mercy, and peace. Keep listening to His voice of the Gospel, which is the voice of your Bridegroom, who is calling you to Himself and to His Feast.  And keep receiving the gifts that He freely gives to you.

He has already come down from the Father in heaven to seek you out, to woo you to Himself in love, to make of you a member of His holy Bride by grace, and to prepare you for the Wedding Feast by His perfect righteousness and holiness.  It is for this very reason that He went to His Cross and Passion, and that God the Father raised Him from the dead: That He should cleanse you by the washing of the water with His Word, and clothe you in the glory of His Gospel; and that you should thus be adorned as a beautiful Bride for your heavenly Bridegroom.

By the Will of His God and Father, and by the Holy Spirit, He was ready and waiting when His Day and Hour came.  And by His readiness, He has made all things ready for you and your salvation.

He submitted Himself to the somber sleep of death, in order to raise you up from death to life.

It is from His riven side, from the fruitful Tree of His Sacrifice, that His own dear Eve, His Holy Bride, has been taken and fashioned for Him by His own dear Father.  And it is from His riven side, not only in His death upon the Cross, but now also in His Resurrection from the dead, that He pours out the Water, Blood, and Spirit through the Ministry of His Gospel.  These gifts of Christ the Crucified are the Oil that you need for your lamp.  Likewise, the Spiritual Food and Drink with which He fills His Table and His Cup for you, that you might feast on Him, and be filled with Him, and live in Him, and He in you, now and forever after.

Beloved of the Lord, behold, here at His Altar, the Bridegroom of the Church in heaven and on earth.  He is your Bridegroom, as surely as He has died and is risen for you, and as surely as He preaches the Gospel to you here and now.  He is at hand.  Come up to meet Him.  For He is here for you, in this great Wedding Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.  All things are made ready: His House, His Table, His Supper.  And you also, His Bride, are made ready to meet Him by faith in His Gospel.  Awake, O sleeper, rise from death.  Eat, drink, and live!

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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