June 12, 2016

                 June is by far the most popular month for weddings.  I did a bit of research as to why this came to be.  In doing so I came across several different possibilities ranging from how the ancient Romans chose to honor Juno, the ancient Roman goddess of marriage by having their wedding in June, to how back in the day couples often chose to marry in accordance to their peak harvest time. Having a June wedding meant that a possible Summer pregnancy would still be early enough in the season that a wife could help out with manual work during that year's harvest period. It also meant that after a Spring birth, the recovered bride would be in good enough health to assist in the next year's harvest.  But the one I liked the best had to do with the "annual bath.  Apparently a long time ago, regular bathing wasn't exactly considered a necessity and was therefore reserved as a once-a-year event that most of the population observed during the last part of May or beginning of June. As expected, right after their "annual bath", many couples decided to tie the knot since each person was probably their most presentable (and least stinky) during this time compared to the upcoming twelve months.  And that last one fits in perfectly with today's message!

          We are Christ's bride and the time of the wedding is fast approaching.  A great wedding feast is being prepared in heaven (as we heard in our Epistle reading, Revelation 19:6-9).  Are we ready to meet the bridegroom?  How do we get ready?  We do not want to be like the five bridesmaids in our Gospel reading (Matthew 25:1-13) who never got to become a bride because they weren't ready when the time came. 

          I know most brides-to-be spend months and months looking for just the right dress.  Once they find it, it has to be tailored to fit perfectly.  While the rest of the preparations are also important, the dress is the central concern, for it is what will clothe her on the day she turns from a miss to a Mrs.  No amount of time and no cost is too much to make sure that the wedding dress will present her at her absolute very best.

          Now I know it might seem difficult for the men here to relate to being a bride.  So how about we use the metaphor of your first day at a new job working for a very prestigious company.  Your application was viewed favorably, you passed the initial interview, were sent for training, and now you are ready to begin in your new position.  Will you show up wearing a pair of ratty old jeans and a Budweiser T-shirt? Not if you don't want to get the door slammed in your face!  The phrase "dress for success" is popular for a reason.

          So, how do we 'dress' for Christ?  First we need that "annual bath".  We must start off clean.  You wouldn't put a pure white wedding dress on after you were all sweaty from working out at the gym.  Or you wouldn't put on a suit and tie after you just came in from going mudding.  And to get ready for the heavenly wedding we need to first be washed clean of our sins through repentance and accepting the Lord Jesus as our Savior and Lord.  

          Picture the day He proposed... Jesus is down on one knee, asking you to give up your life of living for self, and to marry Him.  If you accept, He promises that He will never leave you, He will love you forever, and He will build a beautiful mansion for you to live in with Him.  But you have to be willing to give up your swinging single lifestyle and be faithful to Him alone, staying true to Him no matter where your life together might lead, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, 'til death brings you even closer together forever.  If you accept His proposal, then the excitement begins as you prepare for the wedding...

          According to our Epistle reading the wedding dress should be made of the finest pure white linen because it represents the good deeds of God's holy people.  So we are to clothe ourselves with good deeds.  Five of the bridesmaids in our Gospel reading ran out of oil for their lamps.  Their light that they were supposed to shine in the darkness went out.  There are so many verses in the Bible that emphasize that while we are saved by grace through faith, and it is not our good works that save us (Ephesians 2:8-9); we also remember that faith without works is dead.  And a dead faith is the same as no faith at all.  Here is how James puts it in chapter 2, verses 14 through 26: "What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, 'Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well' but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.  Now someone may argue, 'Some people have faith; others have good deeds.' But I say, 'How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.'  You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless?  Don't you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: 'Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith'.  He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works"

          So we have preparations to make!  We can't put it off, thinking the wedding isn't for years, and there is plenty of time to get ready.  For we do not know the day or hour that the bridegroom will come for us.  Jesus said, "For this reason, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him"  I want to be ready, and I pray you do, too.  Amen.