CONFIRMATION DAY
TEXT: LUKE 16:19-31/1 JOHN 4:16-21/GENESIS 15:1-6
POVERTY AND RICHES BEFORE GOD:
THE GREAT REVERSAL IS GIVEN IN CHRIST!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Dear Laura, and Oliver and Elijah and Magda and Eva and Alexis and Rachel on the day of your confirmation – dear hearers of the Word made flesh;


Suffering in this groaning world is real!  It is often deep!  It may linger on and on!   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.  His poverty had endured so long that it defined him – a poor man.  His poverty was so deep that he hungered for scraps of food – what fell from the rich man’s table.  His bodily weakness was so profound – he had to be carried and set in place by others.  At his gate was laid…Lazarus.  His bodily sickness was not localized – he was covered with sores.  Suffering in this life is real!  It is often deep and lingering!  It may leave us with no strength and no hope for change.


How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  Lazarus suffered!  As you hear of his misery and of the rich man’s disregard for him - you are right to cry out “no!”  Lazarus and those who loved him – those who laid him at the gate everyday – would have rightfully wept to God and properly prayed to Him the psalm of lament in our Introit - How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever? 

Like so much in our dying world, this is not right!  The full bodily weakness of Lazarus and sores covering his body – call to mind cells that mutate as cancer in our bodies and organs that wear out and vision that blurs and blood vessels that harden and muscles that weaken and bones that break and minds that falter - and all by divine decree.  We know that suffering is not to be equated with God’s punishment, but how do we reconcile the apparent contradiction of profound suffering with the love that God has for us?  In our culture of individual choice and the assumed right to be happy and an increasing secularized view of death, this objection will be increasingly important for Christians to address.  In the face of such realities can it be true that God is love?

FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – JUNE 7, 2015
CONFIRMATION DAY
TEXT: LUKE 16:19-31/1 JOHN 4:16-21/GENESIS 15:1-6
POVERTY AND RICHES BEFORE GOD:
THE GREAT REVERSAL IS GIVEN IN CHRIST!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Dear Laura, and Oliver and Elijah and Magda and Eva and Alexis and Rachel on the day of your confirmation – dear hearers of the Word made flesh;


Suffering in this groaning world is real!  It is often deep!  It may linger on and on!   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.  His poverty had endured so long that it defined him – a poor man.  His poverty was so deep that he hungered for scraps of food – what fell from the rich man’s table.  His bodily weakness was so profound – he had to be carried and set in place by others.  At his gate was laid…Lazarus.  His bodily sickness was not localized – he was covered with sores.  Suffering in this life is real!  It is often deep and lingering!  It may leave us with no strength and no hope for change.


How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  Lazarus suffered!  As you hear of his misery and of the rich man’s disregard for him - you are right to cry out “no!”  Lazarus and those who loved him – those who laid him at the gate everyday – would have rightfully wept to God and properly prayed to Him the psalm of lament in our Introit - How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?


Like so much in our dying world, this is not right!  The full bodily weakness of Lazarus and sores covering his body – call to mind cells that mutate as cancer in our bodies and organs that wear out and vision that blurs and blood vessels that harden and muscles that weaken and bones that break and minds that falter - and all by divine decree.  We know that suffering is not to be equated with God’s punishment, but how do we reconcile the apparent contradiction of profound suffering with the love that God has for us?  In our culture of individual choice and the assumed right to be happy and an increasing secularized view of death, this objection will be increasingly important for Christians to address.  In the face of such realities can it be true that God is love?


Even our own flesh is inclined to reason that because we have the promise of eternal blessing in Christ – our life here should fully reflect that now.  Didn’t Jesus say “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) – the context of course indicating this is eternal life in the Father’s hand (John 10:28) – not health and wealth now.  The flesh reasons however that if God truly loved Lazarus his suffering on earth should be reduced or even removed. 


Contrary to that inclination, Scripture clearly reveals suffering for those whom God loves – Job and Jeremiah and Elijah and John the Baptist and Stephen and Jesus’ apostles to note a few.  As the apostles encouraged early Christians to continue in the faith, they stated it is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).  As God pulls back the curtain on suffering He reveals that He is the cause of suffering (because of sin in the world and in us).  He also reveals that against all appearance He will use suffering for our good.  He finally reveals that, in Christ, there is an end to all our suffering. 


The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades being in torment he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  What an astounding reversal!  The rich man (reflecting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and their love of money) seemed to have it all.  The things that he devoted his life to were good things but they were temporary things.  His problem was not that he was wealthy – Abraham also was very wealthy.  The problem was that he idolized his person and his place and his provisions and his pleasure and he refused to hear Moses and the Prophets.  He is comfortable with his place in life and he is poisoned against God’s word of law and gospel.  Even in hell his arrogance is pictured – commanding Lazarus to serve him.  Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to…cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.  He is a Jew who claims Abraham as his father but such is not the case.  Abraham’s offspring (are) heirs according to promise (in Christ) (Gal. 3:29)!  Nor is this man’s cry for mercy a cry of true repentance.


This is seen as Jesus reveals that the great reversal is unchangeable!  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.  And 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.’  Our eyes tell us one thing about human suffering and success but only our ears tell us the eternal truth!  Dear catechumens, if you see only with your eyes in this life – you will be deceived!  Dr. Luther wrote the Catechism to be a prayer book and a handbook for life.  Your parents’ work with you and prayer with you form the Catechism is meant to help you see with your ears from God’s Word.  Instruction from your pastor is meant to support that teaching – to help you listen to the Word that God speaks to you in the Word made flesh.


That Word the rich man had not believed!  The apparent concern he expresses for his brothers is, in actuality, an attack against the Word of God.  It is his way of saying – “you didn’t do enough to warn me.”  He is doggedly protesting that the Word of God is insufficient.  I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Six brothers – perhaps loyal to one another and enjoying together the feasting fun of family but blind to God’s ways and deaf to God’s Word.


But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  Moses and the prophets is shorthand for the Old Testament.  The prophets bore witness to the coming Christ and to eternal life.  Moses bore witness to the coming Christ and to the faith of Abraham.  Father Abraham believed the promise of God concerning His seed – His offspring – who is Christ (Galatians 3:16). And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 


Dear Christians, nothing can save those whom God’s Word does not save.  Our heart constantly wants it to be different – looking for signs – trusting in feelings – finding comfort in following the crowd.  Yet, outside the word of God there is nothing on which we can firmly rely.  The rich man is not in hell because he possessed wealth.  Lazarus is not in heaven because he was in poverty and need.  This is not some imaginary thing called karma.  This is the result of sin and its wages – temporal and eternal punishment – because of unbelief.  


The problem is idolizing earthly things whether one is rich or poor.  Had a beggar like Lazarus pined away with class envy – envy that is prized and promoted in our day – had he idolized self-pity and greed for gain – it would have been eternal anguish for him and not Abraham’s side.  Had one as wealthy as the rich man not been possessed by his possessions – but viewed them as God’s gift and used them in faith in Christ he would have received eternal comfort. 


‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  Moses and the prophets testify to Christ and to the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name (Luke 24).  The eternal existence of the rich man and Lazarus are so very different because of faith in God’s Word and unbelief in God’s Word.  So repent for you and I are as guilty as the rich man! 


In the Name of Jesus, stop pining after those who have more stuff than you have.  Stop laying up treasures for yourself on earth - where moth and rust destroy.  Stop withholding love from your brother – from the Lazarus at your gate – for whoever does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  Stop hungering for more proof of God’s love – for some extra sign that God is love.  This is how we know what love is – that Christ laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).  Stop finding fault with how God orders eternity – for that is your own heart and mind playing God. 


Beloved God knows what He is doing for this lost world and for you for God is love!  Jesus did not shed His blood for you in vain.  In His flesh the fullness of the Deity suffered and died and rose for you!  By this is love perfected with us, so that we have confidence for the day of judgment because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is peace for your conscience – the great exchange Christ made by standing under the judgment for the sin of the world.  It is He who worked the bestowal of this great reversal on you in your baptism! 


The first of the weighty questions in the rite of confirmation acknowledges that truth.  Do you this day…acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism?  It is a proper question for each of us every day of life - The name Lazarus means “one whom the Lord helps” and God continues to help you through the burial and resurrection water of your baptism.  The gifts that God gives you in Baptism are forgiveness of sins, salvation, being clothed by Christ and being born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Every believer is a true Lazarus.   The completion of your baptism is being carried through death’s dark valley to the joy of Abraham’s side.


In the meantime the chief good things God gives to you flow from His word to you.  When the suffering is intense and the suffering lingers, you don’t need earthly answers – you need Jesus!  How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?  Impossible – for God is love! This recognition – this faith in Christ – the Holy Spirit has given you and now mightily fights for in you!  Like Lazarus you poverty has endured so long (since your conception) that it defines you.  You are a poor miserable sinner – a beggar.  Yet, Blessed are the poor in spirit (the beggars) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Like Lazarus, your poverty is so deep it causes you to hunger for food from the Master’s table.  This heavenly food doesn’t just fall by accident but the Master himself invites you to eat His body and to drink His blood.  Indeed, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Like Lazarus was so weak as to be carried by others so through the weakness of your mortal nature you can do no good thing yet, it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  His good pleasure is to love you forever in Christ – for God is love! 


O Lord, I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a