The Sunday of the Rich Man and Lazarus 2012

10. June 2012
The First Sunday after Trinity – Baptism of Vincent Nowaczyk
Luke 16:19-31

Every single person who walks through those sanctuary doors has the wrong idea. Every single one, every single week. You came this morning with wrong ideas about life. You have the wrong ideas about death. You think wrongly about faith and church. Your mind is confused by the many whisperings of worldly liars. Your heart is torn from its true love to instead lust after guilty pleasures and false idols.

Perhaps you think I’m harsh. Jesus begs to differ. He says, “there is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Ecc. 7:20). He also says, “All men are liars” (Ps 116:11). This knowledge is absolutely necessary. Without believing in this real defect, the magnitude of Christ’s grace cannot be understood. “Those who are well have no need of a physician”(Mt 9:12; Mk 2:17). “All the righteousness of man is mere hypocrisy before God unless we acknowledge that of itself the heart is lacking in love, fear, and trust in God” (Ap II 33).

Jesus has some harsh words for you. Yet, just as loving Father disciplines those whom He heals, so Jesus doesn’t leave in the pit, in the Sheol of despair. You cry out “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” That’s not the wrong idea. That’s precisely the right idea of faith. That’s why you’re here. To have God’s Word wreck, destroy, and utterly demolish your wrong ideas about life, death, church, God, love, and stuff.

“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? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” And God, by the way, it seems like its taking an terribly long time. Life sucks. Death stinks. The church is full of hypocrites. I don’t much understand you. I have so little to love. And stuff, well, I ain’t got any.

Wrong. Wrong ideas. The lies of sinful men. The idolatry of yourself. Stop listening to your rotten soul. Stop grieving all the day for the treasures that moth and rust can destroy. Call upon the Lord in the day of trouble. Let Him lighten your heart, to consider and answer you. Let Him light up your eyes with the truth, lest your enemy Sin overtake you, lest Death prevails over you, lest the Devil rejoice that you are shaken. “O Lord, I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” Turn to the Lord and live.

So it goes in our Lord’s parable. There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linens and who feasted sumptuously every day. In other words, the 1%. He’s got it all, not a care in the world. Every luxury provided for. Health–good. Wealth–plenty. Prosperity–abundant. But he is a beggar, utterly poor in the things of God. He does not call on God in a time of need, for he has none. He does not need the Great Physician since he’s seems healthy. He needs not be dressed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. His purple and fine linen of his own making are comfortable and stylish.

This man is rich in the things of this world and yet poor in the things of God. Who needs to pray for daily bread with the perfect capitalistic market society gives him everything he wants? He trusts in doctors and not in God’s providential and protective hand working through them. And really, when you look as good as he does, why should he even fear what God sees? He’s a beggar without even knowing it.

At his gate was a 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.Here’s the 99%, the suffering majority. Poor in body and spirit. Suffering in his body. Needing even a small bite what the 1% greedily is enjoying in his banquet hall unto gluttony. Poor, miserable, pitiable. He is even despised by men, cared for only by dogs. They are this man’s only friend. Truly a beggar but as history will show, rich all the same.

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. This poor worm of man was carried by angels to rest in the loving embrace of his patriarch Abraham. Where is his father Abraham but seated at the eternal feast, with rich heavenly food and a cup overflowing with divine grace. This man who was poor in this life and yet received a wedding garment washed in the Lamb’s own blood. His body was covered with sores for a time and yet received a resurrected body for eternal life. His mouth longed to be filled with the crumbs from the rich man’s table but this hunger was forever satisfied with the crumbs that fall from our dear Lord’s table.

The rich man also died and was buried. His resurrection was unto Hades, and being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. Why? While He feasted sumptuously, clothed himself like a GQ model, and set himself up for a life of luxury he neglected the truth. He was actually a beggar. A rotten sinner. A liar. A hater of God. When it comes to His standing before the judgment seat, he looks little different than the sore-infested beggar laying at his gate.

You and I all come from radically different backgrounds. Some are given much. Some have little. Some have never been sick in their life. Others can’t seem to shake the last sickness before the next one strikes. Some come dressed in fine suits and others with barely the polo shirt to their name. And yet, we do well to heed Luther’s final words: we are all beggars, this is true.

Not one of us has anything to contribute to salvation. Not a good work, an act of charity, a loving embrace, or even a faithful prayer. Not one of us has decided for Jesus, chosen to follow Jesus, or even accepted Jesus into our hearts. We are all beggars, this is true. “How long, O LORD?” is the cry of poor Lazarus. “How long, O LORD?” is the cry of every beggar.

There is not one righteous (Romans 6:3). Everyone of us is a liar. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sinners. Yet, even sinners are not without good things. Good things? Like what? Clothing? Shoes? House? Home? Nope. Jesus did not build your hotrod. Jesus does not give you your perfect life now. Jesus gives you truly good things—your perfect life into eternity.

Abraham said [to the rich man in Hades], “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.” Trust not in princes, they are but mortal. Trust not in wealth which is here today and gone tomorrow. Trust not in health for all men die. Trust not in clothing for it rots just like the flesh. We are all beggars, this is true. Trust in what, then? How are we to know that God loves us?

All you who are unrighteous in thought, word, and deed—liars and haters of God—why are you here? You have heard the Word of God and want to live. You don’t want the just punishment for your sins, the suffering you deserve, nor the death of the wicked. You desire God—His love, His salvation, His grace, and His mercy. You are hear for you know you are beggars; this is true. “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God, light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.”

You know there a great chasm fixed between Abraham, Lazarus, and the whole heavenly host—and the rich now poor man and the whole host of the damned in torment of Hades. You know and fear this righteous judgment. For truly we are all beggars, deserving nothing but the same sort of death and punishment.

Unlike the “rich” man, we know that true joy, true happiness, indeed true love and salvation are in the riches of heaven. There is no amount of health, wealth, or good things in this life that prepares for the life to come. Only the riches of God’s grace given only in Jesus Christ’s shed blood can take even you, poor Lazarus, unto Abraham’s bosom. Only God’s own salvation given can take you into heaven.

All the wrong ideas, the lies, and the idols are confiscated at the font, forgotten by the voice of Christ, exorcised from the pulpit, and healed through the medicine of Christ’s own body and blood. Only by these means of grace, daily and richly received are you rich for heaven. The light of Christ illuminates your heart with the bright radiance of His glory, glory of the only-begotten of God, crucified, dead, risen and ascended for you!

Receive the heavenly riches just as little Vincent. We are all beggars, this is true. Receive the robe of Christ’s righteousness in your baptismal waters. Receive healing of body and soul in the resurrection of the dead. Receive life everlasting in heaven. Receive the rich food of your salvation. Receive, trust, rejoice, and sing!

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana