There were some significant sections of this week’s sermon that were ex-tempore. But the main points are covered in the manuscript.
Immediately after finish festival season, Parable that tells us that if we do not love, we will not be saved.
Love to others – fruits of faith in God.
Now in green growing season, so makes sense to have shift to love we show to others. No parable more clear on that point than this one, so good parable to begin non-festival part of year.
Do not show love and mercy, then will wend up in hell. Good thing we do that isn’t it. Don’t have to worry, we aren’t rich man. But if considered according to standards of Jesus day, few in our country that would not be. After all, something like 80% of people living below government poverty line have TV, over half have cars. Poverty? With a car? Really? And most of us manage to be above that poverty line. We are much closer to wealthy Corinth than to poverty stricken Macedonia, which gave as St. Paul says, ” according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will,”
Wealth leads to problems – after all Jesus says, “easier for camel to go though eye of a needle than for rich man to be saved.” Paul, “love of money is root of all kinds of evil. It is a snare and trap”. So, Vice becomes virtue(greed isn’t greed, it’s being thrifty and careful. Anger isn’t anger, it’s zealousness. Pride isn’t pride, it’s being honorable and noble. In our quest to be like God, we turn sin into virtue, and discount our need for God and his word.
When Jesus speaks of the rich man – he uses food and clothing to define that wealth. The rich man has the best food, and the prettiest clothes. And when we consider ourselves according to that standard, if we are honest with ourselves, we qualify as the rich man. We have more food available to us than we can ever use. More varieties of food, more than we can ever eat. And the amount of food that goes uneaten and wasted? Enough to feed a third world country. Clothing – closet full. Yes, we may claim poverty… we don’t have large bank accounts! Maybe there is where we can claim poverty – after all we have less than the other guy. But by any standard of living in history, we have to admit that wealth.
Not wrong to have possessions, it isn’t. After all God blessed Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, he blessed David, and Solomon. It’s not what we have, but how we consider our possessions and station in life. Lazarus not in heaven because of poverty, he surely isn’t saved by his works of mercy. He just lies there and dies. Nor rich man in hell because of wealth. Patriarchs are wealthy, and we are told point blank that Abraham is in heaven waiting for Lazarus. So it isn’t that the rich man didn’t do enough that made him not saved. He was probably considered very generous. It was that he assumed he was wealthy because God was happy with him, and he looked to those generous acts to save himself. Convinced he was righteous, even as he ignored poor Lazarus dying at his gate.
Not what we are given from God, but how we handle those possessions. As soon as we hear that, we then turn it around – use to our advantage. Don’t worry about me – I’m using my possessions well. Look, after all God continues to bless me, so I must be. I can’t do as much as so and so could do with their wealth, so I’m OK. I worked hard to earn this, let them earn something if they want it. All of that boils down to the excuse “obviously I’m using it well, because I have it.”
Mercy isn’t a check written. There are a lot of really bad reasons to write a big check to charity. Mercy is love shown by actions. Mercy is Jesus and what he does for us. That is love in action. God not waiting to see how we get ourselves out of this mess we got ourselves into – but while we were yet sinners, sending Jesus to die for us. Jesus is the mercy of God to us.
And for those of us who claim the name of Jesus, we are the measure by which the world measures Jesus. When show mercy to others show Jesus to others – how others see us is how they see Jesus. Our individual actions outside of this place are how others see God. If we are kind and merciful, then Jesus is seen by the world as kind and merciful. If we are greedy, arrogant, angry, prideful, then Jesus is seen as all of those things.
Mercy is how we treat those who need help because they can not help themselves. How we treat the helpless, the forgotten ones. How we treat the poor, how we treat the sick, how we treat those in prison, how we treat the little children.
Our possessions are a gift from God. We may have worked hard to get them, but that doesn’t mean that they are ours because we worked hard. They are ours because God blessed our work. And how we respond to that mercy and love of God says a lot about what we think of God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation.
So, if you are in Poverty : Adjust and be happy to it. St. Paul (Phil 4:11) I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
If you are Rich – do not be greedy but share all good things with those who have need.
The rich man, in hell, wants Lazarus to go and preach to his brothers. They do not believe word of God – Abraham says – there are prophets to preach that word. No, they need something extraordinary. But God works through the ordinary. He sends preachers to preach Gospel. We say, some fantastic sign is needed. Jesus rose from dead, still world does not believe. Yet God keeps on sending his faithful preachers to preach his word. Preaching is valid because God sent someone to preach. Abraham didn’t send Lazarus, not everyone is sent. Those who are carry they word and promise of God. Not man that is important, but the one sending him that counts. So Baptism is valid no matter who performed it, absolution is absolution, not for the sake of the person speaking it, but because that person has been sent by God to speak those words.
Even if dead did arise and preach, we couldn’t rely on it – would cause sensation for a time, until we got used to it and moved on to the next new fad. But who is to say that the dead are preaching rightly? Those who preach God’s word are the ones who bring life, whether Peter, Paul, mega-church pastor or country parson. God’s word is still powerful, no matter what manner of man God sends to preach it.
It’s is the Word of God that brings repentance for sin. Because God promises to send his spirit to work through His Word, to bring you to know your sin, to turn away from it, to turn to Jesus as your savior. He is the one who endured the suffering for your sin. He is the one who went through hell for you. And he is the one who was raised from the dead and now gives you forgiveness and life and salvation freely, without cost.
He demands nothing, and promises everything. Jesus shows you the love God has for sinners. And in today’s parable, he shows you not only the punishment for those who would try and earn it themselves and who would live according to the pattern of this world, but he also shows how, no matter how much you may suffer in this world, God’s love and mercy is still there for you, in Jesus and in his work. And how the work of Jesus on your behalf brings forth fruits of faith – and helps us by daily returning to His word, to drown the old Adam, with all his lusts, and to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
That is why we attend to his word, why we come here on a bright beautiful morning to hear and learn his word. Because that word of Jesus brings life. It turns us from ourselves and our own wants and desires, so that, even in this world, we can show love and mercy to others.
Let us end today with the words of a preacher – Luther’s words, as he explains what Jesus was teaching us, “In this example of the rich man and poor Lazarus, we have a terrifying and earnest lesson against covetousness. It is a particularly shameful evil at work among greedy loveless people, full of great injustice, thwarting the fruits of the Gospel. The Lord rebukes this evil, therefore, for good reason, especially since it adorns itself as a virtue, refusing to be viewed as sin. If we find ourselves in it, may God help us, so that we can become free of it. Amen.”