Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 – Joshua assembles the tribes at Shechem, telling them to put away the gods they worshipped beyond the Euphrates, in Iraq/Mesopotamia, where Abraham came from. Choose this day whom you shall serve… As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. The people agree. (So Joshua sets it up as a law and erects a standing stone.)
OR
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 – Wisdom is radiant and unfading… One who rises early to find her will have no difficulty.
OR
Amos 5:18-24  – Woe to those who wish for the day of the Lord. It will be dark and disastrous. I despise your festivals, religious assemblies, burnt and grain offerings, and songs. Take away your songs and instead let just roll down like mighty waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ELW 717, 710

Psalm 78:1-7 God set up a law in Israel. He commanded our ancestors to make his deeds known to their descendants, so that the next generation, children yet to be born, might know about them. They will grow up and tell their descendants about them.
OR
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 The beginning of wisdom is a sincere desire for instruction. The desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.
OR
Psalm 70 – Five verses: I am oppressed and needy. God, hasten, hurry up, and help me! Make those who say, “Aha! Aha!” be put to shame.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – We don’t want you be uninformed about those who are asleep, or to grieve as those without hope. When the Lord returns, the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will meet the Lord up in the clouds, in the air.

Matthew 25:1-13 – The parable of The Virgins. The kingdom of God is like ten virgins, five foolish, five wise, waiting for their bridegroom, with their lamps. The wise brought extra oil. The foolish have to go buy oil and don’t make it back in time for the wedding banquet. ELW 677

Prayer of the Day
O God of justice and love, you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son. Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. Keep awake | and be ready,
for you do not know on what day your | Lord is coming. Alleluia. (Matt. 24:42, 44)

Can you believe it’s only three Sundays until the end of the church year? These three Sundays we get to hear three great parables from Matthew 25:

  1. Virgins
  2. Talents
  3. Sheep and Goats
  • November 9, 2014 – Pentecost 22A: Matthew 25:1-13 – The Parable of the Virgins
  • November 16, 2014 – Pentecost 23A: Matthew 25:14-30 – The Parable of the Talents
  • November 23, 2014 – Christ the King, Last Sunday after Pentecost: Matthew 25:31-46 – The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25 is part of the last of five great discourses in Matthew’s gospel. It is sometimes called the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 23-25), so called because Jesus delivered it from the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:3). Lectionary outlines and podcasts can be found on my blog.

In the Parable of the Virgins, five foolish and five wise bridesmaids take their lamps to meet the bridegroom. When the bridegroom is delayed, it appears the wise bridesmaids have brought extra oil. The foolish have not, so they must go get some oil from the “dealers.” While they are gone the bridegrooms arrives. The banquet begins and the doors are closed. They are left out. The parable concludes with the point: “Therefore, keep awake. You know neither the day nor the hour.”

Most believe Matthew is using this story to explain to church members why the Lord has not returned as he said he would. He has been delayed. He is encouraging them to remain vigilant and faithful during the interim. This story is part of the eschatological discourse. The theme is “Watch.” Remain vigilant.

Obviously the delayed bridegroom is Jesus. The virgins are the church. But what is this oil that some run out of? Many interpreters like good works, because of what Jesus said earlier in the gospel, in the Sermon on the Mount: “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15-16)

If you think about it, however, Matthew 5 refers to the light given off by the lamp as good works. Let your light shine, so people may see…” If the light is good works, what might the oil be? What fuels good works? Luther said of course… faith. Perhaps Matthew is saying, “Keep the faith.”

Others have suggested that it is the Holy Spirit that empowers good works. Or the Word. However one interprets this, it is a good opportunity to ask people, what fills your spiritual gas tank, or oil lamp? What gives you joy, love, generosity?

Whatever it is, don’t show up without it. There is a terse message of judgment here as well. Remember the wedding guest from our gospel a few weeks ago who gets in trouble for having no wedding garment, even though it had been provided freely by the host. Likewise, five of the ten virgins get in trouble for having no oil, even though it is in plenteous enough supply for the other five virgins to fill their lamps. Matthew’s message seems to be: Don’t show up empty handed. The same message will come through next week with the talents, which are given to the slaves by the master. Don’t be caught outside grace, faith, Spirit, Word. The light of faith is a free gift. Keep your lamp trimmed and burning.