Pentecost 19, 2016

Pentecost 1916 – “Looking into Eternity.” Luke 16:19-31

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel according to St Luke, the 16th Chapter.

19[Jesus said:] “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

When I read this passage, I sometimes think of the movie Scrooge.  Have you seen that movie?  It usually receives air time during which holiday season?  The main character, properly named Scrooge, is confronted with his loveless heart and miserly greed in a series of for visitations.  The first visitation is the ghost of his former friend, Jacob Marley.  Jacob is confined by heavy chains wrapped around his body.  The chains are the evil which he did throughout his life and they weigh him down in eternity.  Jacob warns Scrooge to change his ways or he will suffer a similar fate.  Jacob also warns Scrooge of three more visitors who will show him his past present and future Christmases.  All these visitations lend to a miraculous change of heart in Scrooge as he realizes his greed has led him to an unhappy ending if he did not change for the better.

 

The Lord today, gives us a similar vantage of what is to come.  In this parable of the rich man and Lazarus we are looking into eternity.  We are shown that there are two and only two places reserved for people in eternity.  How you lived during your life on earth will be realized in eternity.  You are gathered to the presence of God, or you are sent to the place of torment and everlasting shame.

 

Jesus describes in simple words that people go to either Abraham’s side or to Hades.  At Abraham’s side there is rest and comfort.  While in Hades there is torment and great discomfort.  At Abraham’s side the thirst for righteousness is quenched.  While in Hades the thirst for righteousness is realized and unquenchable.  At Abraham’s side there is peace in the presence of God.  While in Hades there is anguish in the separation from God.

 

What is also very clear is the path by which to enter into the Kingdom of God and escape the torments of Hades. Jesus, speaking through Father Abraham in the parable, says that everything we need to know is written for us in the past.  The past we need to understand is given to us in the books of Moses and in the writings Old Testament prophets.  The rich man in Hades is given this truth when he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them concerning Hades and the Kingdom of God.

 

“They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”

 

What do you hear when the Word of God given through Moses and the Prophets is read?  Today is has become more apparent that by nature we fail to take God at His Word.  We like to lessen the impact of God’s law by seeking to remove its teeth.  We like to seek justification for wrong thinking and wrong actions.  When confronted with the Word God’s truth we will sweep it aside by saying that is your opinion.  On more than one occasion these words were spoken to me when confronting a parishioner concerning the need for repentance.  Amos is very direct when he proclaims the need for repentance.

 

“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, … O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence … [who] are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.”

 

Zion is the place of God’s glory in Jerusalem, which is the Temple of the Lord.  Joseph refers to the Holy People of God, the covenant people.  They have turned from the truth and followed the desires of their hearts.  They become complacent with the riches of the land and the fatness of the earth and forget the Word of God.  He ruin of Joseph is the fallen nature of God’s People who see no need for repentance.  Those who are the keepers of God’s Word give no warning nor any encouragement to prepare hearts and minds for the Day when God comes in judgment.

 

God warns us not become complacent about the future.  Complacency leads to a loss of a sense of urgency and a need to be vigilant over our lives and faith.  God exhorts the believer to be forward thinking.  We are to consider where our thoughts will lead us, whom our actions will affect, what good of evil our words will work and what direction our faith or lack of faith will take us.  How many of you have a Christian emblem on the back of your vehicle?  Could you be accused of theft if you were stopped by the police?

 

Two people ended up trying to occupy the same space with their vehicles.  The police officer came to the scene shortly after the accident.  One person was irate and yelling at the person in the other vehicle using some colorful language and rude hand gestures.  He handcuffed this person and put them in his squad car, then went about preparing an accident report.  He also determined that the person in his back seat had not been driving a stolen vehicle and let them go.  When asked why the officer had detained the driver he said, “When I arrived you were quite violent and disrespectful.  I noticed the fish symbol on the back of your vehicle and thought you had stolen it.”

 

What charge could be brought against you?  Would people know that you are a child of God, redeemed in the blood of Jesus Christ?  Are you complacent in matters of faith?

 

There is a great warning for God’s people to be vigilant in matters of faith.  Do not become content only in the riches of this world.  As we heard last week such things are fleeting at best and are not the true riches which will never pass away.

 

The rich man was wealthy by earthly standards, but he had no eternal currency stored up in the kingdom of God.  He was well fed on the bread of this world but he had never eaten the Bread of heaven.  His thirst for earthly drink was quenched with fine wines, but he never drank from the Water of Life.  His body was finely dressed in the robes of man’s pride and affluence, but he would never wear the robe Christ’s humility and sacrifice.  His heart was starved and his soul was dressed in rags.

 

The time of grace is now.  It is not only for you and for me, but it is a time of grace for the whole world.  The timelessness of God’s Word applies to all people of every generation until time comes to an end.  For that end of time, we must be prepared, as was Lazarus, the poor man who went to be with His God.

 

We must not think that having riches or lacking of riches makes us acceptable to God.  The name of the beggar helps us to see this truth.  Lazarus means “God has helped.”  It is not the financial condition of Lazarus, nor is it his physical appearance, or medical needs which give him entrance to the kingdom of God.  If that were the case what would never be necessary?  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ would not be necessary, nor would faith in Jesus Christ be necessary.

 

Outwardly this Lazarus led a wretched life.  Poor health and starvation were a seeming part of his existence.  He was at the gate of the rich man’s house and was forgotten.  He looked on hoping for some small morsel of food from the rich man’s table.  Such hope was not fulfilled.  Moreover, his wounds went unattended except by the dogs that licked them.  No human intervention came his way.  He was totally and completely left by his neighbor to fend for himself.  Something Lazarus was unable to do.  Therefore the mercy of God is his only rescue.

 

The mercy of God is your rescue.  How many wounds and wants fill your life?  How have you sought to heal those wounds and satisfy those wants?   Our Lord taught elsewhere in Scripture that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and all that we need, it will be added unto us.  God’s Kingdom does not come to us in in the wealth of this world but in the simple God ordained

means of grace.  The simple, yet powerful Word of God breaks down our sinful human will to lead us to repentance.  That same Word proclaims the mercy of God in the atoning life and death of Jesus Christ and gives the penitent believer strength of faith to hold fast to that mercy, no matter what may happen in the journey of life.

 

The water of Holy Baptism is a guarantee of God’s eternal cleansing yet to be consummated when we enter into His eternal Kingdom.  We are washed in heart and mind of the wounds arising from our sinfulness.  We await the renewal of our bodies when we will be fully cleansed in the Kingdom yet to come.  For now our merciful God binds our wounds and softens their sting speaking forgiveness and salvation to us and granting us the endurance of faith.

 

While we may think we are starved of earthly blessings, our merciful God reminds of the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation which He gives to nourish and strengthen repentance and faith.  Christ’s body and blood feed us with God’s heavenly food that we, like Lazarus, may bear without complaint the suffering of this world.  While are afflicted we know there is no judgment that can be brought against us, because we are true Children of God and heirs of eternal life.

 

We are blessed to know what the future holds.  God gives us a future of life and salvation, mercy and forgiveness through His son Jesus Christ.  He gives us what is needed to receive that future.  God grant we live in repentance and faith that we may be at His side in the day of His kingdom.

 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.