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Trinity I, June 18, 2017 - St. Luke 16:19-31

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Posted: Sunday, June 18th, 2017 by Pastor Westgate

Last Sunday we confessed God is Trinity. He is not like the Unitarian god of Jews or Muslims who is utterly one. He is Three Persons in One God, united in a wonderful and mysterious way. This union shows itself in love. The Father loves The Son and The Spirit. The Son loves The Father and The Spirit. The Spirit loves The Father and The Son. This love is not self-serving. It’s shown in the love shown us, love revealed to us by the Apostles and Prophets.

God speaks to us through the Apostles and Prophets. He doesn’t speak any other way. He doesn’t speak directly to us. He speaks through The Sacred Scriptures. The sermon itself is merely a proclamation of what The Scriptures say. The Catechism merely teaches what The Scriptures say. The Liturgy praises God by putting Scripture on our lips. Our hymns praise God by applying Scripture to our daily lives, oftentimes informed by the time in The Church Year.

The rich man did not listen to God’s Word. He heard it all around him. He went to synagogue every week. But he didn’t listen. He only cared about himself. He liked his money. He liked his purple, his linen, and his food. What he didn’t like was being bothered every day by a sick man who got dumped outside his door every day. He figured it was enough to keep the commandment just by not doing anything bad to him. He never thought to do something good for him. He wanted people to serve him. Since Lazarus couldn’t, he was worthless.

Lazarus didn’t have much to do. He was sore all over from his ulcers. He was hungry, very hungry. It was frustrating to see the rich man eat so much sloppy, wasteful, and not offer him even a pinch of unleavened bread. And don’t think he enjoyed getting licked by dogs. These weren’t pet dogs. They were big wild dogs! He may not even have ever wanted to get dumped off by his friends at rich guy’s house every day anyway!

But he heard The Scriptures. He heard what Moses and The Prophets wrote and listened to them. He listened and believed. He confessed, “My God is Help,” after all, Lazarus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Eliezer. So when he died his soul was carried off by the holy angels to Abraham’s bosom, to paradise, to God’s nearer presence. As for the rich man? He died and was buried.

Once he’s dead, you see why the rich man is condemned. He didn’t trust God to save. He demanded God give him all his good things. He didn’t learn his lesson by getting the biggest punishment imaginable. He gets to hell and he’s up to his old tricks. He starts demanding favors just like he’d done to his servants while he was alive. He tries to boss around “father” Abraham, and is sure he’ll get what he wants. What he wanted was absolutely absurd.

He must have bossed Lazarus around while he was alive, because he tries to do it some more! He knows Lazarus is there – after all he’s not with him in hell – that must just add to the torment! So he orders Lazarus to come down to him and refresh him with a little bit of water. I suspect he wanted to force Lazarus to trade places with him. So Abraham gave him a fatherly attitude adjustment. He told him it was not going to ever happen. Once you’re in heaven, you are freed from all sorrow and torment. Once you’re in hell, you’ll never have joy and gladness again.

The rich man finally got the hint. He realized he wasn’t getting anything good anymore. The tables were forever turned on him. But he didn’t want that to happen to his brothers. That seems innocent enough. We don’t want people to go to hell, do we? The only problem is he wanted them to escape hell through a miracle. He wanted it to happen in a way God has not ordained. He wanted it to happen in a way that put the glory on somebody other than Christ. Worst of all, it seemed like a bright idea, but it wasn’t going to work anyway.

It wasn’t going to work? We all can think of a time, recent or past, where we wished something like this could happen. We’ve heard people say: “If only God did this or that I would believe.” Abraham says if they do not listen to Moses and The Prophets, to the words they wrote to compose The Old Testament, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.

He’s not kidding. Jesus raised a boy in Nain; they didn’t believe. He raised Jairus’ daughter; they still didn’t believe, even though Jairus was in charge of a synagogue! Most importantly, he did raise a Lazarus from the grave, when he’d been dead 4 days. And what did they do? They plotted to kill Jesus, and thought about putting Lazarus right back in his tomb too. And when they knew Jesus was risen from the dead, they fought His Apostles.

Faith does not come from seeing miracles. The Apostles’ miracles only confirmed the message. They themselves say faith comes by preaching, and preaching by The Word of God. The Word of God creates faith. The Holy Spirit calls you by The Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, and sanctifies and keeps you with Jesus Christ in the one true Faith with The Gospel, with the writings of Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists. He tells you about Jesus, He leads you to believe what The Scriptures teach, and He keeps bringing The Scriptures to you.

Why is this important? Because God is Love, and he that dwells in love dwells in God and God in him. What does that have to do with The Scriptures? Simply this: The Scriptures reveal His love to you. You wouldn’t know it otherwise. You don’t feel it out in creation. You might think you do, but then you get soaked by a big storm, a landslide or washout closes a road, or everything good or everything you love around you crumbles. That doesn’t show God’s love. It might seem to show His anger though.

You only can learn God loves you from His Words to you. None of us can dream up the storyline of salvation on our own. We’d only conjure up various ideas on how to earn it. We’d join the rich man in wanting to find as many favors as we can. We’d want God to give us points for each thing we did right and not penalize us for each thing we did wrong. The Law doesn’t play that game. It doubly penalizes each wrong thing and just says “you’re supposed to do that” to each right thing. You’d be thrown out of the game before it even starts.

So say to God, “Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.” You say this because Sacred Scripture has taught it to you. Those words come from the Psalms of David, that great poetic prophet through whom his Lord sang. You say them because you believe what The Scriptures tell you about Jesus. They tell you He died and rose again in order to have mercy on you. You have not seen Him, but you believe Him because His Word has persuaded you.

God loves you. He will never treat you like the rich man treated Lazarus. He has eternally turned a father’s loving heart to you. Jesus’ Cross is proof of that. He loves you so much He gave up His life for you. He never will do anything to you to condemn you. He will only work to save you. He works through His Scriptures, through the writings of Apostles and Prophets. For they tell you you are a poor, miserable sinner who is saved only by Christ Jesus and His Death and Resurrection.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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