Trinity I - St. Luke 16:19-31 - June 7, 2015

Order of Holy Communion Pg.15
Hymn #231 We Now Implore God the Holy Ghost
Hymn # 395 O God, Thou Faithful God
Hymn #39 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Jeremiah 9:23-24
1 John 4:16b-21
St. Luke 16:19-31

Collect

O God, the Strength of all them that put their trust in Thee, mercifully accept our prayers; and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without Thee, grant us the help of Thy grace that in keeping Thy Commandments we may please Thee both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Sermon

1)         Jesus tells us this parable to teach us faith and love. He teaches us faith when He tells of dear Lazarus. After a rather crummy life of being poor, destitute, and neglected, Lazarus dies. He is carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham, there to enjoy the splendor of paradise and the joys of live everlasting. The rich man, on the other hand, lives extravagantly. Fine clothing and fine foods. Not a care in the world. This man dies and is buried. No angels for the rich man. He simply goes to Hades where he is to endure everlasting punishment, torment, and regret over his squandered earthly life. I’m sure that some in today’s society would hear Jesus’ parable as a scathing polemic against the rich, the so-called one percent. But Jesus is not trying to foment class warfare. Our Lord is not a God of rebellion and sedition. The rich man in the parable doesn’t go to Hell to be tormented simply because He was filthy rich in this life, just as Lazarus doesn’t go to the bosom of Abraham at his death simply because He was dirt poor and destitute. The Rich man goes to Hades because He has no faith in God’s promises given in Moses and the Prophets. Any faith the rich man may have claimed for himself was dead. St. James writes in his epistle, If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17) We heard the words of St. John a moment ago. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20) The Rich man, for all his outward piety and religiousness, has neither faith nor love towards God. He does not rely upon the promises of God because he worships his wealth and looks to it for all good things in this life.

2)         We see the opposite to be true in dear Lazarus. He dies and the angels carry him to the bosom of Abraham. He does not go to the bosom of Abraham simply because he was poor and wretched during his earthly life. He is carried to heaven because of his faith in God’s promises. Someone might say, “But the text doesn’t say that!” And they would be right. Nowhere does Jesus tells us that Lazarus had faith in God’s promises. But Abraham is there. The place where Lazarus is taken is clearly heaven, paradise, the sweet and blessed country and home of God’s elect. But Jesus doesn’t call it heaven or paradise. He calls it the bosom of Abraham. Abraham is there because Abraham is often thought of as the Father of Faith. Recall how Abraham was justified in God’s sight. Moses writes in Genesis 15:6 that Abraham believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.  Abraham was declared righteous by the Lord not because of his works, merits, worthiness, or his obedience. He was declared righteous because he took the Lord at His Word. He believed the promises God made to him about being a great nation, in spite of being an elderly man married to a barren woman. Paul tells of this in the fourth chapter of Romans. Lazarus goes to the bosom of Abraham because Lazarus was a true child of Abraham because he did the works of Abraham, that is, Lazarus took God at His Word and believed the promises the Lord made to Him in Moses and the prophets. Those promises would have been his fare, his food, his drink, and his true health during his crummy life while the rich man feasted on the delicacies of this world to the neglect of God’s promises.

3)         This is how Jesus wants to teach us faith in this parable. It matters not if you are wealthy or dirt poor. It makes no difference if you barely scratch by or if you never have to worry about money. Worldly wealth or poverty does not make one difference. What makes the difference is where you put your trust. The Rich Man trusted his wealth. His riches were his god. Luther writes, A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. St. Paul tells Bishop Timothy, Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17) If we make an idol out of our wealth, or our lack of wealth, we are running in the way of the rich man. It matters not if you have wealth or not. Mammon is a terrible master to serve because with mammon enough is never enough. But there is nothing wrong with wealth, for it is a gift from God as Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes. Wealth or poverty matters not. It’s what you do with your wealth or your poverty. Do you idolize it so that you expect all good things, comfort, security, and identity from it? If you do, repent, for you see where any sort of idolatry will get you. It will get you with the rich man if you continue in it. Whether you have riches or not, be as Lazarus was, placing your trust and confidence in the promises of God found in Jesus Christ, in the promise He made you at your baptism, as the promise He gives you at His Table, and in the promise He gives you in the absolution. Faith in God’s promise made Lazarus a son of Abraham, fit for His bosom. Faith in Christ does the same for you.

4)         The true use of riches is to serve our neighbor, and it is in this aspect of the parable that Jesus wants to teach us love. The rich man had no faith in God’s promises so he had no love for poor Lazarus. His faith was directed toward his wealth which means that his love was directed toward himself. In all things the rich man could only look to his own belly, his own desires, and his own survival. This is why the Rich Man couldn’t even see the poor beggar Lazarus who was laid at his entrance gate. Faith in Christ and His promises, though, move the faithful to love their neighbor as they love themselves because their faith is certain that all their needs of body and soul are provided by their Lord. Lazarus had no capabilities by which he could demonstrate love for neighbor. I’m sure that he would have had he had the means to demonstrate his love. Lazarus shows us the complete passivity of faith, that it has nothing to offer God. But we need not look only to Lazarus for the command that we are our faith is to work through love. St. Paul says that very thing in Galatians 5, in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. He also praise the Thessalonians when he says your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other. (2 Thessalonians 1:3) Their love is not directed toward themselves and their own needs but toward each other. Faith looks to God in confidence, trusting His mercy in Christ while love is directed towards our neighbors, those around us in any need. Like the lawyer in Luke 10 we cannot get oru of serving our neighbor on the technicality of asking, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus points out that your neighbor is anyone with whom you come into contact that needs aid and assistance.

5)         We see this the clearest when we consider our vocations. St. Paul often speaks of the different vocations that the Lord has given us. Consider what he writes to the Colossians in Colossians 3:17-24. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  Everything we do in life is to be done in Jesus’ name, that is according to Jesus’ will and desires. Paul goes on, Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. If you are married, your spouse is your neighbor whom you are to serve according to your vocation. Children are to obey parents, according to the commandment. Fathers are not to provoke and poke at their children in order to discourage them. The husband, wife, child, and parent, these are all neighbors who are in need of aid and assistance throughout the day. It is they whom we are to love and serve. The apostle goes on, Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. If you have a master of any sort, serve them with sincerity and in the fear of God. St. Paul concludes in the way he began: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. The love the Christian has for his neighbor is to be exercised in all of his vocations, permanent and temporary vocations. This the Rich man did not do. This he could not do. The idol he served did not command it.

6)         With this parable Jesus has taught us faith and love. Our faith receives the Words of God as true and trustworthy. The Faith of Lazarus believed God’s Word about himself, that though the world saw him as a poor, destitute beggar, to God he was far more, a saint, holy, justified, and a son of Abraham who would be welcomed into Abraham’s bosom. The faith of Lazarus is the faith that Jesus wants to give us as well. Christ your Lord desires that you cling to each one of His precious words no matter what your life looks like to the eyes of human flesh. He says, “I baptize you.” Faith responds, “I am baptized.” Christ says, “I forgive you all your sins.” Faith says, “My sins are forgiven so I will carry them and their guilt with me no longer.” Christ says, “Take and eat, this is my body, take and drink, this is my blood.” Faith says, “Amen, Lord. I will eat your flesh and blood so that you will raise my flesh and blood on the Last Day. Faith receives Christ’s promises and treasures them as the most expensive and worthwhile possess we have on earth because by receiving these Words by faith we, like Lazarus, are children of Abraham, and as children, we too will be carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham, there to enjoy paradise with Christ forevermore. With this faith we love our neighbor as Christ loves us whenever we have opportunity in our vocations. By exercising this faith and love daily this is how we are children of Abraham, and even more so, baptized sons and daughters of God the Holy Trinity. Amen.
 

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