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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Practice Makes Perfect: Thoughts on Trinity 27

Practice makes perfect. That's what we tell ourselves when trying to master something new or difficult. Practice make perfect. Practice prepares our hearts, minds, and bodies to react in a certain way in uncertain and unforeseen situations. And if we believe that it's worth it, we'll invest our time and resources so that they can be mastered. This is why we have fire drills. This is why doctors and nurses undergo internships and residency, why our military, police, and firefighters train as often and in the ways that they do. They're preparing to face without hesitation the unknown by practicing everything they already know to be true and everything that could possibly go wrong.

This is what distinguishes the five wise virgins from the five foolish virgins. Even though both of them fall asleep on the job as they watch for the Bridegroom to come so that the Wedding Feast can begin, the wise are prepared. The foolish are not. They are prepared because they had practice.

The five wise virgins brought extra oil. They did this because they knew the Scriptures. They heard the promises. They had practiced this wait every Lord's Day--singing hymns, hearing the preaching of the Word, confessing their sins, receiving the Sacrament of our Lord's Body and Blood, that foretaste of the Wedding Feast to come, that appetizer and hors d'oeuvre which staves off hunger while at the same time whets the appetite for what is to come. They are prepared because they have practiced for this event their whole lives. They've been prepared by the gifts that create faith, the gifts that sustain faith--Christ's Spirit-filled Word and Sacraments.

And since they've been waiting their whole lives, since they'd heard from the Bridegroom's own mouth that no one, not even He, knows the day or the hour when the end will come, they took Him at His Word as they were trained to do. And they did it unhesitatingly. They knew all they needed to know: That the Bridegroom is coming, and No one knows when. So they practiced waiting for Him. And in that practice, where the Lord gives to them what He has accomplished through what He says, He is perfecting them for that time when He will come again to take them from this vail of tears and waiting, to Himself in heaven.

The Divine Service is the practice that makes us perfect. It gives to us what Christ won on the cross through His Words, HIs Sacraments. It teaches us and prepares us to wait. It gives us what we need for our waiting and for when we fall asleep. And it perfects us for that time when our Bridegroom comes to bring into His Wedding Feast, not some nameless virgin, but us, His very own, holy, immaculate, and beloved Bride.