Waiting for Jesus: Living Expectantly
Topic: Biblical Verse: Matthew 25:1–13
The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
November 8, 2020
“Waiting for Jesus: Living Expectantly”
As a nation, we have been living in anxious expectation for what took place this past week on Election Day. And now that this day has come and gone, it is time for us to move on, whether our candidate of choice was elected or not. There has been a sense of fear and foreboding about what could happen after Election Day. Thanks be to God, these scenarios did not come about, but this does not mean that we can now sit back and relax. There is a tremendous amount of work before us as a nation – and not just for elected leaders, but for all of us. We can choose to be bitter, angry, and resentful because our candidate lost. Or we can choose to be smug, self-assured, and condescending because our candidate won. Will any of this serve us well? Can we find ways to move beyond a climate of suspicion, mistrust and division into something that is more productive and life-giving? Can we see beyond our neighbor’s political affiliation to discover what it is that unites us rather than what divides us? Can we work together to bind up the wounds of our nation for the sake of our life together? Can we see Jesus at work in the midst of it all? These are the real-life challenges that are before us. If we were living expectantly pre-Election Day, we are likely continuing to live expectantly post-Election Day as we wait and watch for the future to unfold. For the child of God, that future remains secure, not because of who has been elected to office, but because of our risen, reigning, and returning Savior Jesus Christ. Based on today’s Gospel lesson, the theme for today’s message is entitled: “Waiting for Jesus: Living Expectantly.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
In this month of November, the church year is winding down and closes with the Festival of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year, on Sunday, November 22. Over the next three weeks, the Gospel lessons all come from Matthew 25, each one picking up where the previous one left off. Today, we focus on Matthew 25:1-13 and Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins under the theme, “Waiting for Jesus: Living Expectantly.” Next Sunday, November 15, we focus on Matthew 25:14-30 and Jesus’ parable of the three servants entrusted with their master’s talents under the theme, “Waiting for Jesus: Living Responsibly.” In two weeks on Sunday, November 22 (the Festival of Christ the King), we focus on Matthew 25:31-46 and Jesus’ words about the final judgement under the theme: “Waiting for Jesus: Living Compassionately.” Our waiting for the Savior’s promised coming is to be expectant, responsible, and compassionate.
Weddings often do not start on time, and that is what’s going on in today’s Gospel lesson. The setting of Jesus’ parable is the groom’s house. Ten bridesmaids or attendants (παρθéνοις, “virgins”) are there waiting for the groom to return from the home of the bride’s father. The groom has gone there to bring his bride to his own house, but before he can do that the marriage contract has to be determined and signed. The contract was between the groom and the father of the bride, and centered on how much money or goods the groom would pay the bride’s father to marry his daughter, as well as what goods the bride would bring to the marriage. Things could get a little sticky as the terms of the marriage contract were negotiated, so it was a very real possibility that the groom would be delayed in bringing his bride home with him. In weddings of Jesus’ day, the focus was not so much on the bride as it was on the bridegroom. It was the groom who footed the bill for the wedding. As the father of four daughters, I think that’s a very good idea! Finally, the marriage contract was agreed upon, and the groom was free to take his bride in procession to his home so that the wedding feast could begin. No one knew for sure how long all of this was going to take. And we all know how it is when we’re waiting: time just drags by. All of a sudden at midnight the cry goes up: “Look! Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” The bridesmaids scurry to get ready; some are ready and prepared, and some are not.
This parable is really about us as we wait and watch for the coming of our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Living expectantly means that we are called to be ready not just for the coming of the Lord, but that we are also ready for the delay of his coming. “The unfaithful ones in the parable were ready for a ‘coming’ but not for a delay, and for those unfaithful ones, there was no coming at all, no visitation. The door was shut. ‘I do not know you’” (Edward A. Steimle, as quoted in For All the Saints: A Prayerbook For and By the Church, Vol. III. Delhi, NY: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 1995; p. 88). Most of us do not do well with waiting. We see this as wasted time. We become impatient. We lose interest and get caught up in other things. Our lamps are not trimmed and ready; we have run out of oil. Here is a call for the endurance and perseverance of the saints! You are here today, whether in person or on-line, in order to replenish your supply of oil. You are here so that your lamp of faith may be trimmed and ready for the coming of our Bridegroom. Through this time of worship, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ that comes to us in Word and Sacrament, our oil is once again refilled and our lamps are at the ready to welcome the Lord whenever he shall come. The saving work of Jesus – his life of servanthood and obedience to the Father’s will, his suffering and death upon the cross for our sins, his glorious resurrection from the dead – all this comes to us through his Word and Sacraments giving to us the fruit of Jesus’ redeeming work that we may be strengthened and sustained in our time of waiting. Far from wasted time, this is holy time for us to be ready and prepared for the day of his coming. That is living expectantly as we wait for Jesus.
Today’s Epistle lesson is a call to watchful and hopeful waiting with what Paul the apostle writes. These words are often read at funerals and at the graveside: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). That’s our calling: to encourage one another with these words; to build one another up in faith toward God and in love toward one another.
We do not know the day or hour of our Bridegroom’s coming, but we do know and believe that he is coming. We do know and believe that in holy Baptism God has washed us clean, uniting us with Jesus’ own death and resurrection, claiming us as his beloved sons and daughters. We do know and believe that Jesus our Bridegroom has loved us with an everlasting love and shed his blood to make us his own. Therefore, let us encourage one another with these words as we live expectantly waiting for Jesus. Amen.