1st Sunday after Trinity + Luke 16:19-31 + June 18, 2017

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

O LORD, - || I have trusted | in | Your | mer- | cy; *
            My heart shall rejoice in Your sal- | va- | tion.
|| I will sing | to | the | Lord, | - *
            Because He has dealt bountifully | with | me. (Psalm 13:5–6)
|| How long, O Lord? Will You forget | me | for- | ev- | er? *
            How long will You hide Your face | from | me?
|| How long shall I take counsel | in | my | soul, | - *
            How long will my enemy be exalted o- | ver | me?
|| Consider and hear me, O | Lord | my | God; | - *
            Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep | of | death;
|| Lest my enemy say, “I have pre- | vailed | a- | gainst | him”; *
            Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I | am | moved. (Psalm 13:1, 2–4)
|| O Lord, I have trusted | in | Your | mer- | cy; *
            My heart shall rejoice in Your sal- | va- | tion.
|| I will sing | to | the | Lord, | - *
            Because He has dealt bountifully | with | me. (Psalm 13:5–6)

Collect for the 1st Sunday after Trinity

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. Amen. 

Luke 16:19-31 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son + of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

1)         In today’s Gospel lesson Jesus sets two men side by side for our learning. The first man is quite wealthy. He is clothed in purple. Purple dye was the most expensive in the ancient world because of the process to make it. Because of its rarity, purple was most often worn by kings. By wearing purple and fine linen, this rich man shows off his wealth and status for all to see. He dresses like royalty, so he also eats like a king. He “fared sumptuously every day.”  This man’s table is a banquet. If his taste in clothing was expensive, imagine what his taste in food and drink would have been. Opposite this certain rich man Jesus puts a poor man, Lazarus by name. Lazarus is as poor as the first man is wealthy. He is not clothed in royal purple and soft, fine linen. His body is clothed in sores. He does not recline at a banquet table, lounging luxuriously. He was laid at the rich man’s gate. He was put there by someone else, perhaps to beg from people visiting the rich man, or from the rich man himself. The rich man’s belly was full and his appetite sated by his sumptuous fare and expensive delicacies while Lazarus’s stomach ached in hunger. Lazarus would been satisfied with crumbs from the rich man’s table. Yet the only creatures to have pity on Lazarus were dogs, who probably did get the scraps from the rich man’s table. Lazarus’ only comfort and relief in this life was the dogs licking his sores.  

2)         As they were in life, so were they in death. All men must die, but upon their deaths they go different places. Lazarus dies and is carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. Lazarus is dear to God. That is why the Lord sends His angels to fetch the soul of Lazarus. Jesus also says that the angels carry Lazarus to the bosom of Abraham. This is paradise. This is heaven. This is everlasting bliss. It’s called the bosom of Abraham because all who are true children of Abraham go there. Being a child of Abraham isn’t being genetically related to Abraham, for “God is able to raise up children to Abraham from stones” (Matthew 3:9), the Baptist says. Jesus tells a group of Pharisees who try to kill him, “If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). And what did Abraham do? Moses writes that Abraham “believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Every work that Abraham did, from leaving his homeland to sacrificing his son, Isaac, was done because He trusted the Word the Lord gave Him. The children of Abraham aren’t the Jews. Mohammedeans aren’t children of Abraham. Those who believe Christ’s Word are sons of Abraham. St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:17, “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” Jesus never says that Lazarus believed the promises of God. Christ doesn’t say that Lazarus looked for the Messiah promised to Abraham. He doesn’t have to, though. Lazarus goes to the bosom of Abraham, the paradise of everlasting life where Abraham, the father of faith, abides. 

3)         While Lazarus goes to paradise, the rich man dies and goes to Hell, “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). In Hell the rich man is tormented beyond human imagination. His torment is outward and inward. During his earthly life he fared sumptuously on the finest foods and wines man could produce. In Hell he doesn’t even have a drop of water to cool his tongue. This is a picture of his outward torment, when he complains, “I am tormented in this flame.” He is tormented inwardly because he is able to see Abraham’s bosom. He can see everlasting bliss but cannot attain it because of his many sins. In Hell the soul is tormented and accused by its sins because there is no hope for forgiveness. This man who once had it all, who now has nothing except a worm that does not die and a fire that is not quenched (Isaiah 66:24). He shows this inward agony when he wants Abraham to send Lazarus back to life to warn his five brothers to repent. At the end, with no hope of salvation and only the assurance of an eternity of wrath and torment, does the man realize that he lacked repentance. “If one goes to them from the dead, they will repent,” he says of his brothers. But Abraham drops the hammer on this formerly rich man. “If they do not hear Moses and prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” 

4)         Faith in God’s promises made in Moses and the prophets is what saved poor Lazarus. The rich man despised Moses and the prophets and all God’s words therein, and that is why he was taken to everlasting punishment. He doesn’t go to Hell simply because he was rich. Wealth is a gift from God. Abraham himself was quite wealthy. So was Isaac and Jacob, as was Joseph who became the leader of Egypt. David was wealthy and there is no disputing that Solomon was one of the richest men in history. St. Paul tells Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10). Wealth is not the root of all kinds of evil. Loving your wealth more than anything else in life is the root of all kinds of evil. Worshiping mammon, whether you think you have lots of it or not, is the root of all kinds of evil. The rich man in Jesus’ parable loved his wealth and made it his god because a god is that to which a person looks for every good thing. He abused his wealth by glorying in it. He idolized his wealth and trusted it to care for him. This idolatry in his heart caused him to despise Moses and the prophets and treat them underfoot like dust on the path. Moses and the prophets wrote many things about trusting the Lord, repenting of one’s sins, and giving to the poor as one has opportunity. He says to the prophet Jeremiah (9:23), “Let not the rich man glory in his riches.” But let the rich and poor alike glory in their knowledge of God that He gives in Moses and the prophets. God delights in those who fear Him, repent of their sins, believe His promises, and love their neighbors. 

5)         It is very possible for a Christian to be wealthy and not love his riche and possessions. Paul tells 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. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). He does not command the rich to stop being rich. He says that if you have riches and wealth, give thanks to God for those blessings and enjoy them, for that is why God gives us the things of this world. But also strive to be rich in good works, he says, ready to give to those in need as you have opportunity. Whether you think you have great wealth or not, St. Paul says in Galatians 6:6, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” The Lord gives wealth to His saints so that they can provide for the ministry so it continues among them. No matter how much you have been given, whatever amount is given to you is a trust from the Lord. Do not abuse the gifts of God and the things of this world, but use the things God has given you for the sake of your neighbor. All this is summarized by St. John, who writes in the Epistle lesson: “This commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21), and “We love Him because He first loved us.” 

6)         Jesus spoke this parable to warn us of the great and everlasting punishment that awaits those who trust in their riches and make idols out of the good gifts of God. All those who love the things of this world more than the Word of God will be tormented in eternity in a flame of fire. Those who do not believe the Gospel and treasure the promises that Christ gives will meet the same end as the rich man, whether they have riches or not. All who cast aside Moses and the prophets to live as they want to live without regard for God’s Word will experience the eternal torment of Hell, of which there is no end. With this warning we should always be on guard against thinking as the Church at Laodicea did in Revelation 3:17, for she said: “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” when in reality she was actually “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Too many in this world are blinded by their love of wealth and pile up judgment for themselves by refusing to repent and believe the Gospel of Christ. May the Lord preserve us from such a fate! 

7)         Jesus warns us with the rich man so that we repent of trusting in our riches and the things of this world. He then consoles us with the example of poor Lazarus, who, though he had nothing in this life, had eternal riches because he held to the promises of God in faith. Whether we have riches and wealth or not, our most precious treasure is to be Moses and the Prophets, the Gospels and the apostolic writings in Holy Scripture, because the Scriptures contain the promise of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ. Lazarus trusted in God’s mercy and believed God’s promises just as his father Abraham did, and that faith justified him in God’s sight so that upon death he entered the heavenly paradise, the bosom of Abraham. So it is for all who treasure God’s promises and believe them with confidence, no matter what happens in this life or what they lack. “Only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham,” St. Paul says (Galatians 3:17). You, and all who believe God’s promises given and fulfilled in Christ Jesus, are sons of God by that faith, and because of faith in Christ, you will rest in the bosom of Abraham in heavenly comfort for all eternity, just as it is written in Moses and the prophets.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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