There is a big move these days for people to be prepared, believe it or not, for the “zombie apocalypse”. It is not that they really believe in zombies, but they are preparing themselves to live in a world devoid of electricity, government assistance, and general modern convenience.
They call these people “preppers”. They are prepared, prepped, for a dark and unknown future. They have a year’s supply of canned food and bottled water in their basement and enough guns and ammunition to defend their home indefinitely.
That is a little bit to the extreme, but we are a society of people who like to be prepared. How many of you have been prepared for the next great stock market crash since the 1940’s? How many have a little nest egg saved up for the next dust bowl?
I’m not judging you. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact I hope you are prepared for the proverbial rainy day, that like Joseph in Egypt you have stored up during the plentiful years to make your way through the lean years.
You might be preparing for retirement, or to open a business, or build a house. You might be preparing to have a baby, or go on a trip, or to go off to college, or to find your first real job. Preparation is a good thing.
Jesus even warns his disciples to be prepared for His second coming with the parable of the 10 virgins. I know the final verse says that they should “watch”. But it is just as acceptable to translate this word as “be prepared”.
You see, the problem with the 5 foolish virgins was not that they fell asleep. In fact, all ten slept. The difference between them was that the 5 wise young women were prepared for the long night. They carried extra oil in their lamps. The foolish ones were not prepared, and so they miss the coming of the bridegroom and they miss out on the party entirely.
The message to us is the same: be prepared for the coming of the Christ, for you do not know the day or the hour. Keep oil in your lamps. If you must sleep between now and His certain coming, then sleep in preparedness. Sleep in the comfort that all will be well because your heart is prepared to see Him.
Trust me, you do not want to miss out on this wedding feast. When I was a kid, and even up through my time in college, I did not really give much thought to what comes after death. I just assumed it would be sort of boring. I figured we died, got our halo and our harp and our wings, lost our feet, and floated around the golden streets in the clouds singing “Kumbaya”.
But the feast that is to come at the return of Jesus is nothing like that. It will be the party of the millennium, and more. The entire universe will celebrate the victory of God over evil. There will be food and music and dancing and resurrection. New heavens, new earth, new bodies. There will be bliss, and joy, and ecstasy as we have never imagined could exist. So be prepared for when the bridegroom returns. It is going to be great!
To be prepared, we must keep our lamps burning indefinitely with extra oil. But what does that mean? What is this oil of which we speak?
The light of the lamp is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, His death and Resurrection. And the fuel that this faith runs upon is the Word of God: the Gospel, Baptism, and Communion.
Apart from Christ there is no light, no oil, no hope. Those who have not the flame of faith cannot hope to ignite even the tiniest spark of trust that God will recognize. We need Jesus to give oil in our lamps, to keep the flame burning, to make our hearts prepared.
To be prepared for the return of Christ is to keep the flame of faith alive by storing up the Word of God in our hearts. It means that we are constantly and consistently on the receiving end of His grace and mercy in the fellowship of the Church.
The danger with skipping worship services is not that God will be angry with you, but that your oil will run low and your faith will burn out. And then, Christ will not recognize you.
The light of faith is God’s gift to us so that on the day of Christ’s return we would be fully visible to Him. Jesus will see us, not as creatures of the night, but as His chosen ones who have been eagerly awaiting His arrival.
Here in the divine service we receive the oil of the Gospel. Our sins are absolved. The Scriptures enlighten our minds. The sacraments bring Christ to us. God blesses us. Our lamp runneth over. And because of that the flame of faith will burn all the brighter.
For your unpreparedness, for your lack of enthusiasm about the gifts of God, His oil for your lamp, repent. Throw your sin on the funeral pyre. And rejoice that Jesus has bled, died, and risen for sinners just like you.
Jesus died to clean out the muck of sin that was clogging up our lamps. He rose to fill us with the oil of His grace, His word, His righteousness. And He sent His Spirit to keep that flame well fueled and burning bright.
Here, in this Christian Church, that same Spirit daily and richly forgives your sins and the sins of all believers in Christ. That is how Jesus keeps you prepared. He fills you here with His Word and Spirit, and the fire rages on.
When Christ returns there will be a party, a feast like the universe has never seen. And the Christ who has invited us will also welcome us. He will open the door, more than that, He will lead us through. He will be the chief celebrator. Jesus will be dancing as King David before the Ark of the Covenant. And we will follow suit.
Jesus Christ has invited you to partake of His wedding banquet. He ignites your flame of faith. In this Christian Church He keeps you prepared to receive Him. The bridegroom is coming soon to open the door and get this party started.