Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
We live in a funny world. All around us, people are mad at those politicians and corporate bigwigs who make huge salaries and get huge bonuses. They live in luxury and despise all the people that are beneath them. But why do the 99 percent protest those one percent? They protest precisely because they are greedy too! They begrudge the rich because they themselves are not rich. Greed is everyone's problem. Consider yourself. We love to complain about those congressmen and how they make all that money while they tax us into oblivion. If we have it good, our employers better let us keep it; if we don't have it so good, there's always those people to complain about who have it better than we do. Yet we find it hard even to take the bit God gives us and use it for the benefit of our neighbor.
But there are greater riches with which we are stingy. Hoarding our cash or racking up our credit cards has got nothing on how we clamp shut the vaults of forgiveness. Your pastor could probably beat you over the head enough to guarantee our food pantry bin back there is full, but what could he preach to make you open up the vault of forgiveness? Everyone has at least one person in his life who suffers because we won't let go of their sins and forgive them. Your neighbor festers in the sores of what he has done, and you pass him by every day without so much as a nod. When you are at fault, you demand that everyone accept your excuse and let you off the hook. But when it's your turn to forgive, you pass by and enjoy the forgiveness you receive, and never mind the person who needs you to forgive him. And whether you are stingy with money or with forgiveness, the end result is the same: flames that can't be quenched even with a fingertip's worth of water!
Jesus tells this story to bring us to repentance, to keep us out of the rich man's new dwelling. Repent of hoarding your riches whether it's your cash or your forgiveness. What saves you? Moses and the Prophets, the Apostles and Evangelists. The Word saves you! The Word says that Jesus who was rich became poor for us. It says that He who is highest in heaven became the lowest on earth. It says that He who to whom all praise and glory belongs became despised and hated more than anyone. While the world sat at its feast wearing its fashionable clothing, Jesus was tossed outside the city, naked and nailed to a cross. The Scriptures tell us our problem: sin displayed in our horrible selfishness. But Scripture also tells us our forgiveness: God wipes out that sin and selfishness by dying for us on the tree and rising again. Where that Word is, there Christ is to drag us away from our sins and make us new people in Him, teaching us to walk in the way that glorifies Him and loves and serves others.
The Word that does this; nothing else. Some of those who crucified Jesus came to faith in Him. But it wasn't because He showed Himself to them after He rose from the dead. No; they heard it from the preaching of the Apostles. The only thing that rescues us from our sins is the Word: the Word preached, the Word heard, the Word and water splashed on the sinner, the Word and the bread and wine fed to sinners. The Lord doesn't send people back from the dead to preach. Instead He sends Apostles and pastors to His church. Jesus directs us to His Word: the Scriptures and the Sacraments. There the Holy Spirit is doing His work of forgiving our sins and giving us faith. There sinners learn to abandon their stinginess of money and of forgiveness. By the Word, the Spirit puts to death that old sinful Adam and raises the New Man to life to love and serve our neighbor. Where Christ's Word is, we are richer than we can imagine. Where Christ's Word is, there is Jesus with forgiveness and life and salvation and everlasting joy. Those are true riches—riches for us and riches for our neighbor. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.