Remember Your Goal
Text: Matt. 25:1-13
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The constant reminder to keep your eyes fixed on the goal is often repeated to the point of becoming a cliché, but it’s actually important. The athlete who takes his eye off the ball will miss it. The student who distracts herself while studying for the exam will fail. The hiker who gets sidetracked on the trail will end up hiking the last miles in the dark, with an entirely different set of hazards.
As Christians, whose eyes are ever turned toward eternity, we would do well to remember this. Too often we get so entangled in the pursuits and trappings of this world that we forget the ultimate goal: the new heavens and the new earth. We get so focused on the things here and now that we forget all the wonders and blessings that are waiting there. Now, this is not to say that we should ignore what happens in this world. Of course not. We’re not to withdraw from it, as monks and nuns are instructed to do, or as end-of-the-world cults retreat every so often. We are certainly called to care for our neighbors—those around us here and now. We’re to rejoice in what God gives us in this world. But we are to always keep it crystal clear in our minds and hearts that we have a different, better goal. Something that will enfold and surpass all of these blessings is still coming.
To help us understand this, Jesus gives us the parable of the foolish and wise virgins. In this parable, we have ten virgin bridesmaids. They are the bridal party. Their one job is to attend to the bride before the wedding and then, when the bridegroom arrives, escort him to the wedding hall, where the ceremony will take place and the marriage will begin. At that time, before the age of rapid transport and communication, the bridegroom was often coming from far away and could arrive at any time of day or night. The bridesmaids were to be ready at any moment to lead the groom to his bride. But in our parable, these maidens were not all cut from the same cloth. Five were wise; five were foolish. The foolish brought no extra oil with them, but the wise did. As they all were waiting, they got drowsy and all ten fell asleep. But at midnight the groom arrived and all ten bridesmaids were startled awake by the watchman’s announcing cry. The wise put themselves together, trimmed the lamps’ wicks, and added their extra oil so they could find their way to the gate and lead the groom with plenty of light. But the foolish, seeing that their lamps had burned out, couldn’t get theirs to light. There wasn’t enough oil in the reserves of what the wise maidens brought—they needed enough to get to the gate, then from the gate to the wedding hall. If the lamps burned out at any point before getting the groom to the bride because they divided their oil in half by giving some to the foolish, they would all fail at their one task. So they instructed the foolish to go out and buy oil, if at all possible at that hour. But as the foolish ones fumbled in the dark, the wise found the waiting groom and the joyous festivities of the wedding feast began. When the foolish ones arrived in the dark, there was no way to see them and confirm their identity, so the groom told them, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” Jesus concludes the parable by telling us to remember the most important thing; remember the ultimate goal. “Watch, therefore,” He says, “for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
No more chilling words could be uttered by our Lord than those we hear spoken to the foolish virgins in the parable: “I do not know you.” And yet, these words are a warning to us. For who of us hasn’t grown weary and drowsed as we’ve waited for the Lord to return? We’ve all been distracted, drawn in by the concerns of the world. We’ve wandered toward the idols of this age: money, comfort, prestige, fame, approval. We’ve all been lulled and hypnotized by what’s offered in this corrupted age. And in so doing, we use up our energy. We get tired. We forget the whole point: that Jesus, the Bridegroom, is returning, and He’s coming with everything restored and perfected. We burn through all our oil, using up the time, the light; hoping in things that grow dim and trusting in those things that fade at the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world.
Notice an important detail in the parable: it’s not only the foolish bridesmaids who fall asleep. It’s all of them, all ten virgins, foolish and wise. That’s because we all become drowsy. We all become tired—the strong Christian, the wavering one, the well-trained lifelong believer, and the one new to the faith. We all fall asleep as we forget our goal and purpose. So how do we become wise? By remembering who you are. The wise virgins remembered their job every step of the way. They remembered who they were, what their purpose was, when they brought extra oil to last through the night. They remembered what they were supposed to be doing when the watchman’s shout woke them up and they got right back to their goal. They remembered that they had to not only get halfway through their one task, getting to the gate to greet the bridegroom; they also had to get him to the bride, so they refused to set themselves up to fail by splitting the oil into even smaller portions.
Remember who you are. Remember who you have been made to be in Baptism. You’ve had reminders of it, every time you see a baptism here, every time those words are echoed in the service to call you to the Lord’s wedding feast. You’ve been reminded to always live by the light of Christ, to be ever watchful for His coming so that you can greet Him with joy. Remember the One who has called you. Take this time now to fill your lamp, while it’s still day, while you’re still waiting for Jesus’ return. Keep the wick of your lamp trimmed and clean. Store up oil, light, joy, life. And how do you do that? By hearing the Word, at all times, in season and out. Store up the words of Scripture in your heart. Think about them. Meditate on them. Fill yourself with the light of His Word, with the light of His life, with His body and blood given and shed to fill you with life everlasting. Receive forgiveness for your weariness when it comes to watching for His arrival. Receive His pardon for forgetting that He is your goal, for thinking that there could be anything else that rivals what He’s bringing for you.
Store up the good lasting things of God now, while it is day, before the night comes and no man can work. Remember the One who is coming to redeem you. Remember His promise. He never fails in what He’s promised to do. Awake, the Bridegroom is coming. Let us rise to meet Him. In the name of Jesus, who comes to save us. Amen.