Thursday, November 20, 2014

Exporting Oil to Spain

Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, November 9th, Year of Our + Lord 2014
Our Savior Lutheran Church, Hutchinson, Minnesota
Exporting Oil to Spain

This morning I’m here to speak with you about exporting oil to Spain.

    I’m David Warner, formerly a member of Concordia Lutheran Church in Forsyth, MT, which explains my connection to your Pastor Oster, who served my family there, before coming to serve you here, in Hutchinson.  More recently, for the last ten years to be precise, I served as pastor of Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches of Sidney and Fairview, Montana, two congregations nestled in the western end of the Bakken Oil Shale region.  Through our decade in Sidney, my wife Shelee and I experienced life in an oil boom, a life filled with change, challenges and opportunity. 

     In June I accepted a call from the Board for Intl. Mission to be a Church Planter in Seville, Spain.  Pastoral calls are often a bit mysterious, and I have not always immediately had an answer for those who asked why I received this call to go to Spain.  But now, having heard this morning’s Gospel reading, I think perhaps I get it.  The mission board decided it made sense to call me, a pastor from the oil patch, in order to export oil to Spain.     

     You see, Jesus tells us the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom, five foolish virgins, who took no oil with them, and five wise, who carried flasks of oil along with their lamps.  Jesus is teaching about the End, about the Last Day, the Day when He will return in glory to usher in the new heavens and the new earth.  Jesus is the Bridegroom, and the Virgins are us, Christians, or at least outward members of the Church.  The key point is that for us to be truly ready for the kingdom of heaven, to be truly ready for the return of our Bridegroom, it is not enough to look like a Christian.  As we consider the wise and foolish virgins, we learn that to be ready, we must always have oil for our lamps.  And, when Christ our heavenly Bridegroom returns, there will no longer be time or opportunity to get the oil you need for your lamp.   

     The oil which the virgins need in their lamps is the pure Word of God.  The oil is God’s Word of Truth, the truth about human sin, which requires God’s just punishment, and the truth of God’s grace and mercy, which led Him to make a way for us sinners to be freed from the punishment we deserve, and instead be welcomed into the wedding feast.  The Word of Life, the oil we need, is the goods news that through the life, death and resurrection of the Bridegroom, Jesus, we receive forgiveness, life and salvation.  The oil in the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is the pure Word of God, by which the Holy Spirit creates and sustains a living faith. 

     Now, maybe you’ve asked a question about this parable.  When the cry rang out, “Wake, awake, the Bridegroom approaches,” the foolish virgins ask the wise to share their oil.  But the wise say no, they can’t, there won’t be enough.  Does that seem harsh?  If the oil in this parable is the pure Word of God, shouldn’t the wise virgins have shared?  Were the wise virgins being selfish? 

     The wise virgins were not being selfish, there simply was no time.  Remember, this parable is about being ready at the End, on the Last Day.  Elsewhere, Jesus tells His disciples to work while it is day, before the night comes, and no one can work.  When the End comes, when the Father sends the Son to bring this age to its close, the time for work will be over.  The Wise Virgins were not being selfish, there was simply no way, no time.  In the end, none of us can believe for another.  Each of us needs to hear the Word, each of us needs to be brought to repentance daily, each of us needs God’s gift of faith for ourselves.   This parable is about being ready for the Day when the time for being filled with the oil of God’s Word will be over.  When the foolish virgins asked the wise for oil, there was no time left.    

     But there is still time today.  There is still time for us to share the oil we have.  And we are living in oil boom country, spiritual oil boom country.  Despite all the problems we see around us, despite the struggles faced by every congregation and every Christian, we still live in a place overflowing with the oil of God’s pure and precious Word.  The night is coming, when no one can work.  But today, we can gather whenever we want to fill our flasks.  Sundays, Wednesdays, school chapel, Bible studies, God has raised up many opportunities here at Our Savior for you to be filled up.  And you can supplement the gatherings here on your own, reading, praying and meditating on Holy Scripture in your own devotions.  We are truly blessed to live in spiritual oil boom country, with gushing opportunities to hear the Good News of God’s gift to us in Christ. 

     We enjoy gushing opportunities to be filled up with God’s Law and Gospel, and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?  We need the Good News, desperately.  Because it’s embarrassing, shameful really, how you and I sin.  You don’t know my sins.  I don’t know your sins.  But we both know how, like the Apostle Paul, we far too often commit the sin we hate, and fail to do the good we would so much like to do.  We cannot free ourselves from sin.  But from the pure oil of God’s Word a light shines, the light that teaches us to confess our sins, knowing that God’s response to our repentant confession is always the same:  I forgive you. 

     And if that isn’t enough, God gives more.  We can also confess our faith, and then kneel at this altar to receive the true Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of all our sins.  Jesus our heavenly Bridegroom is busy every day, delivering to us the one thing we need most of all.  And so yes indeed, there is time today, time to be filled up with the oil of God’s pure Word, time to see the light of faith shine, time to rejoice in anticipation of the return of Jesus. 

     There is time for you and me to be filled with the oil of God’s Word.  And, there is also time for Spain.  Indeed, there is a new time in Spain, today.  Five centuries ago, the good news of the rediscovery of the pure Word of God by Martin Luther and his companions made it to Spain.  In the 16th century, God’s pure Word began to do in Spain what it always does; it began to bear fruit.  The fire of faith in Christ alone began to burn in Spain. 

     But that fire was quenched.  The Spanish Church and the Spanish Crown moved swiftly to oppose the Lutheran Reformation in Spain.  In a truly dark episode in Church history, around 40 evangelically minded Spaniards were burned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition in the 1540s and 1550s.  Hundreds more reformation minded Spaniards fled their homeland.  With support from the king, the Good News of the Lutheran Reformation was violently crushed in Spain, by the very church officials who were supposed to be caring for God’s people.  And so, for centuries, it was illegal to proclaim the full and free forgiveness of sins in Spain. 

     But there is a new day in Spain.  In the 1980s, religious freedom came to Spain, and in the year 2000, the Lutheran Church of Argentina, with support from our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, began mission work there.  The work has been difficult.  Due in large part to their history, many Spaniards want nothing to do with anything churchly.  The Lutheran mission in Spain is still very small.  But the pure oil of the Gospel is being proclaimed, and there is a small but growing group of Lutherans in Spain.  I have accepted a call to join this mission.  My wife Shelee and I are preparing to go to Spain, to bring more of the good oil of God’s pure grace to a land desperately short on reserves. 

     Outwardly, Spain appears to be a Christian country.  Christianity has a long, long history in Spain, all the way back to the first century A.+D.  But for centuries the Gospel has been severely clouded there.  From the brutality of the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries, to a heavy influence on praying to Mary and other saints today, in Spain the central message of Christianity has been set aside. 

     The main point of the Christian message is God’s gift of salvation, won completely on the Cross by Jesus, and distributed freely to sinners through the Word and Sacraments today.  The forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake should always be the main focus of all we do in the Church.  But this main point is rarely heard and even less often believed in Spain.  Despite the outward veneer of Christianity in Spain, the message proclaimed in the Church there is very deformed.  Like putting dirt and water in fuel oil, the false teachings that abound in Spain make it very hard for a flame to burn, very hard for faith to survive.  Without any Good News, the exodus from the Church in Spain by young people in the last three decades has been enormous.  And most of those who still claim to be in the Church hardly ever gather to hear God’s Word.    

     And so, why should we do mission in Spain?  Because Spain needs the pure Word of God.  Why do mission in Spain?  Because we can.  Why do Lutheran mission in Spain?  Because they asked.  It was a handful of Spaniards, who discovered Lutheran teaching on their own, who first asked for a mission to be started there.  Ultimately, there is a simple reason for doing mission work in Spain: Christ died and rose for the people of Spain.  We can seek to do mission work in any land, because Christ has taken the sins of the whole world to His Cross. 

     The Bridegroom has done it all.  Jesus has paid the Bride Price, that is, He has earned His place as the Bridegroom, by living the life of good works that God desires, perfectly fulfilling for us the command to love God and neighbor.    And Jesus has also paid the Dowry.  He has paid what we owed, the debt of suffering our sin deserves, paying for all our sins with His innocent death.  All that God requires for you to be His beloved child is completed in the Son, Jesus Christ.  Now, the Wedding Banquet is prepared.  The Son of God could not be held by death, for He is the Author of Life.  Jesus the Crucified is now Resurrected.  Jesus, alive forevermore, is now Ascended on high, awaiting the call to open the banquet doors. 

     And so, while there is still time, let us share the oil of God’s pure Word, with each other, and with the world.  I am bold to ask you this morning to come alongside the Lutheran Mission in Spain.  Help me export oil, the oil of the Gospel, to Spain.  I even have a simple, three point plan for you to be involved in God’s Mission to Spain. 

     First, fill your flask.  To share the pure Word of God with others, first you must have the pure Word of God yourself.  Be filled up with the Gospel.  Be greedy for God’s Word.  Gather to confess your sins and receive the Absolution.  Hunger and thirst for the Sacrament.  Fill up your flask, for this is what we all need, the rich and daily forgiveness and strength of God, delivered by His Word.  Be filled with the Gospel, for in the Gospel of Christ is your true and everlasting peace.  Be filled with the Gospel, and by this Jesus will prepare you to be of use in His Mission.  Fill up your flask with God’s Gospel oil. 

     Second, make sure your oil pumping station here in Hutchinson is running well.  Pastor Oster has been given to you to lead the way in freely distributing in this place the most precious thing in the world.  Your first mission concern, the proper first mission concern of every Christian, is your home congregation. 

     Third, consider Spain.  You can start by being connected.  Sign up for our newsletter, on one of the clipboards in the narthex, or by sending me an e-mail.  Check out our website,  Be informed and encouraged about the work God is doing, and learn how you can pray specifically for the Mission in Spain.  Be connected, pray for Spain, and pray about supporting Spain financially.  My call is to go there and freely distribute the pure oil of God’s Law and Gospel.  Simple enough.  I am eager to be about the work, to join the devoted people who are already there working.  You can help that happen.  You can be a part of exporting the oil of the Gospel, which so enriches our lives, today and forever.  You can be a part of exporting the oil of the Gospel to Spain, as a congregation, and as individuals, by supporting us financially.  I ask you to prayerfully consider becoming an oil exporter to Spain.   

     Jesus says: Watch therefore, for you do not know the day nor the hour of His return.  This is a serious message.  We are all called to be watchful.  But remember, you watch with your ears, and your mouth.  God makes you ready for Christ’s return, not by demanding you do this or that, but by reminding you what He has done, for you.  Watch and be ready by listening, listening to His
Word, which tells you how Jesus loves you, that He has loved you, to death, and to new life.  Listen to His voice that says, “Take eat, take drink, my Body and Blood, given for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”  Listen, and receive, and you will see that your greatest treasure is the oil in your lamp, the truth of God’s forgiving love, which makes you ready for His return,

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