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18th Sunday After Pentecost PDF Print E-mail

Text: Luke 16:19-31
Vicar Christopher Stout

Grace, mercy and peace to you, brothers and sisters, whose promised eternal place is at Abraham’s side.

It’s been said that the safest place for a baby to be is on the mothers’ or fathers’ bosom. This spot on the chest is where they feel the closest, safest, and the most connected.  We can picture in our minds a child gone missing, found again and pressed against their mother’s or father’s bosom – held tight and safe.  “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side”, literally, Abraham’s bosom as we just sang in our hymn. It’s an “I feel safe here” word, but in the ancient Middle East it’s also a reclining at the table, feasting word.  The Gospel of John records that in the upper room, right before the Last Supper, the disciple whom Jesus loved was reclining on Jesus’ bosom.  In this text, it emphasizes that this poor, hungry, and low beggar was now rich, filled with the greatest food, and comforted by a close and intimate presence of God with his fellow believer Abraham.  These are comforts for us as we suffer here on earth and as we hear these words from the Son of God this morning.  

 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.  Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.”  That’s all the information we get about these two individuals before they both die.

What does this tell us?  A lot, actually.  He was rich, which is fine. But how did this rich man use his money? He feasted, sumptuously, every day.  This word indicates a huge feast, a celebration.  It’s the type of celebration the Father of the Prodigal Son threw after the son was lost and then found, dead and then alive.  That’s certainly deserves a celebration.  But this man says “kill the fattened calf we’ve been saving for years, hire the band, and do it every day.  Why?  Because I can.  Because I’m rich.”  It’s the wedding reception thrown that needed to be saved up for decades, it just happens every day for this man. 

What an idiot!  How foolish can one man be!  Scripture tells us to the great gain in godliness with contentment.  How much further away can he be?  Yet, our reading from the Epistle tells us to be content as long as we have food and clothing.  Does that satisfy us?  Don’t we crave more; more gadgets, more books, more food and clothing than we ever would need, more….  Why?  Because we can.  Are we content?  In the eyes of a holy God, how much better are we than this obviously materialistic man?

Meanwhile, the rich man ignores the starving, sore filled body of the man that lies outside his gates.  He can’t claim, “I didn’t see him, I didn’t know”, he passes him every day as he goes in and out of his palace, and we even find out later, that he knew Lazarus’ name all along.  He avoids him, just like the two religious leaders avoided the man who was beat up and left for dead in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The gifts that the Lord provides for Him, he squanders and he wastes, just like the Prodigal Son. 

His attitude towards God is revealed somewhat in that. “You’re not teaching anything new Jesus, you’ve made these points.  We’ve heard the parable of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.” It’s later in the text, however, that his attitude is revealed much more.  “And then I beg you, father, to send Lazarus to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also some into this place of torment.”  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  He says “No, God’s Word is not enough for them to repent.  They don’t care about such things.  It won’t convince them, it didn’t me.  God’s wrong when he says that, He needs to do more.” 

These two men die. The man who received many earthly treasures from God but denied the more wonderful heavenly treasures given in the Word of Moses and the prophets, get Hades for his unbelief. Lazarus, gets heaven, at Abraham’s bosom, as a fellow heir of the promise given to Abraham and fulfilled in the Son of God who tells this story.  He received very little and suffered much in life, but received in his hearing of Moses and the Prophets the very thing needed to secure his place at Abraham’s bosom and eternal comfort.

What words of comfort can be drawn from such words of Jesus?  We hear the threats of hell, the horrible anguish in flames, a great chasm between God and those in the eternal holding place.  The rich man seems to acknowledge that he deserves it, though he certainly seems convinced that it has to with his sumptuous living.  That’s not why.  It’s because he did and still denies the adequacy of God’s Word of Moses and the prophets to create true repentance for himself and now, for his still living brothers

How have we received God’s good gifts?  Not just money, though it’s certainly telling how we view it, use it, or lust after that which we don’t have, for “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”  What about God’s good gift of marriage?  How do those married think and act toward their spouse on a daily basis?  How do those both inside and outside of marriage view members of the opposite sex?  Is it done with pure intents, or lustful desire, especially when viewing in the privacy of their own home on a computer screen?  How have we received God’s good gifts?  Do we even acknowledge what they are?   

Most importantly, how do we view the gifts of His Word and of His Sacrament, the very gift of himself?  Do we acknowledge that they convict of our sins, even when those sins don’t seem like such a big deal? Are they enough for us in this life, especially in the times needed most? Are they enough for us when our sins accuse us, when anxiety and stress plague us, or when life is overwhelming? Are they enough?  Is God doing enough? Or do we think, “No God, you need to do more than your doing.”  Are you better than this rich man, or are you sins less than his? Woe to us, when we feel secure in our life and in our sins. 

Dear Christians, we beggars deserve to be outside the gates of the Kingdom of heaven.   This broken world, with its stresses, business, greed, and the sins of others humbles us.  Our sin of abusing God’s gifts that He gives us to benefit others and of neglecting God’s gifts of Himself calls us to repentance.  Lord, have mercy on us.   

But as for you, men and women of God, remember what our rich God has done for you.  Trust not in the certainty of yourself but in the certainty of God.  Rest in the bosom of Jesus when you have been accused and burdened.  Be comforted in the one who was King of Kings and Lord of Lords but became poor for us beggars.  He desired to be fed while in temptation, but survived not by bread, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.  Unlike Lazarus, the dogs did not lick his soars while he hung on a cross, but they did encompass him, as did a company of evildoers encircle him, as they pierced his hands and feet.  As he was suffering the pains and anguish of hell fire that we deserved, he desired a drop of water to cool his tongue, he cried out “I thirst”.  No one crossed the great chasm from heaven and hell to give him a drink.  But it was in that separation, that chasm between the Father and the Son there, that the gates of hell were defeated for us deserving residents.  He made the good confession before Pontius Pilate and before God the Father that he was guilty of our sin, and that we were unstained and free from reproach.  This was the man; Christ Jesus, that Moses and Prophets and all of scripture testify to: the God-man who suffered and died for our sins so that we may receive comfort, both in this life and in the life to come.

Hearing this, spoken by the one who did rise from the dead, is indeed enough to bring us to repentance as we acknowledge our sin, trust in Christ’s promise that He bore that sin for us.  He says “your sins are forgiven.  Those sins of our lack of contentment, neglecting our neighbor, those sins of doubting and avoiding Me and My gifts, are wiped away by my blood.” In your hearing of Moses and the prophets you are brought comfort because you are brought to Jesus.  In this hearing you will be brought to Abraham’s bosom on the last day.  And through this hearing you are brought today to Jesus’ bosom, carried by God’s holy angels and archangels, reclining at His table to rest in the bosom of Jesus, to be comforted in safety and by the very intimate presence of God as you receive from Him His very best gift: Himself.  It is enough.  In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.     


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