Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009 First Sunday after Trinity Luke 16:19-31
And there was a certain rich man and he habitually put on a purple garment and fine linen, celebrating himself splendidly each day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was thrown to his door, covered with sores, and desiring to be filled from the things falling from the table of the rich man; but the dogs also coming kept licking his sores. And the poor man happened to die and he was taken up by the angels into the bosom of Abraham; and the rich man also died & was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, sees Abraham from afar and Lazarus in his bosom. And he, calling out, says, "Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus in order that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in torment in this flame." Abraham said, "Child, remember that you received your good things during your life, and Lazarus likewise the bad things; now here he is being comforted, and you are being tormented. In all these things between us and you a great chasm has been established that those wanting to cross from here to you may not be able, nor may they cross over from there to us." And he said, "I ask you then father that you send him to the house of my father, for I have five brothers, that he fully testify to them in order that they themselves not come into this place of torment. And Abraham says, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them." And he said, "No, father Abraham, but if ever one from the dead goes to them, they will repent." and he said to him,"If Moses and the prophets they do not hear, not even if one from the dead arose will they be persuaded."
I was young boy who hated to clean my room. I was a chore I detested. There was no way I could be persuaded to do it. But my mother had that look to guilt me into it, especially to avoid the punishments that would await if I didn't. But such is the way of the Law. It's not persuasive. It has no promises to offer. Only guilt, shame, and despair. The Law is a really good motivator, but only as a negative, getting us to do something so that we can avoid the shame, despair or guilt we would encounter if we didn't.
The rich man in our story lived by the Law. He was a doer, and he did quite well. He became wealthy and showed off his blessings daily. He probably thought that God must love him better, since He blessed him with such riches. He also seemed to think that God must love Lazarus much less, since he was so poor and sickly. He no doubt saw Lazarus at his door each day, but never seems to take time to help him. Sadly, he thought he had kept God's Law already, and didn't need to care for Lazarus too.
Lazarus in our story lived by Grace. He was nothing but a beggar, relying on whatever kindness God would provide. When earthly mercy was lacking, Lazarus trusted in heavenly pity, and he was not disappointed. Lazarus relied on God to save him from his sad existence, and when his last hour came, God's angels took him to heaven. But the rich man didn't fare so well. Living by the Law which he failed to keep perfectly was his downfall. This wealthy man no longer had anything to celebrate in Hades.
So is Jesus' point that rich folks won't get to heaven as easy as po' folk? Not exactly, although it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get to heaven. When Lazarus goes to heaven, he goes directly to one of the richest men in the bible–Abraham. Abram is a rich man who got to heaven, yet the wealthy man in the story fails. What is the difference?...that the Word of God persuaded Abram to believe God's promises, that living by grace Abraham would live forever in heaven.
You are those blessed with the faith of Abraham, that your believing in God's promises would count as your righteousness before God. And your faith overflows to faithfulness for others. Abraham's faith overflowed to the Lazarus of his day, Eliazar. He was willing to make this poor slave be his heir! And your faith does the same, overflowing in faithfulness to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and help the needy. The faith the Spirit works in your heart flows over in the Spirit's fruit of faithfulness toward others.
But beware that you don't get all caught up in the doing of faithfulness. It's not your work, but God's. You are His workmanship, re-created in His image through Holy Baptism to walk in good works. You are made holy once again by the washing of water and word to be useful to God. You are nourished at His Supper Table with more than crumbs–with Jesus body given for you, and with His holy, precious blood. You are persuaded with the kind words of Christ's gospel to believe God's promise of your salvation.
Yes the Law is a great motivator, and it gets you to do stuff, but it cannot get you to heaven. The Gospel, however is the great persuader, because it tells you what God does for you. The promises of Moses and the Prophets, fulfilled in Christ Jesus, have persuaded you to live by grace, now and forevermore.
Hymns for today from LSB:
#726 Evening and Morning
#768 To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray
#696 Oh God, My Faithful God stanzas