Named Before God
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord tells us of the man who is rich in this life but poor in faith, poor in compassion, poor in sensibility toward his sin of greed, selfishness, and indifference—not only to his fellow man but, more importantly, to Moses and the prophets, to the Word of God. So easily do we find comfort in wealth, in health, in things. We rush past the poor all day. They may not be sitting by our driveways, licked by dogs. Of course we would not ignore a person in that plight. I’ve witnessed your earthly charity firsthand. But there is a greater charity. There's a world of people in poverty, with no one telling them the Gospel, no one carrying them to the healing font of Holy Baptism. Our own children are left lying at the gate, because we are too lazy, too self-absorbed, too busy with this life to bring them consolation of the Gospel in our homes. Too many see themselves as too rich to think the Gospel is a gift worth receiving. They are so satisfied in their sin that they don't beg for the crumbs of the Body and the Blood of Jesus. And even we who have done so are often unwilling, unable, or scared to share that bounty.
It’s not about money. Our Lord today is not preaching that having wealth is the fast track to hell. Nor is He preaching that lacking earthly wealth or health or kindness is the fast track to heaven. But, as Luther put it on his death bed, "We are beggars. That is true." Look at Abraham. Abraham was wealthy in this life. More than just money, he possessed his wealth in faith. In view of God's promise that He would send a Son, a Savior, Abraham did not consider even his son Isaac of such value that he would not trust more in what God said. And so, when told to lay his son upon the fire heap, that rich man confessed, "The Lord will provide a lamb for sacrifice." And God did provide: in this case, He gave a ram. Isaac went free. This is a picture of all poor beggars who have no hope but that God shows mercy, sending us His Son to die in our place.
But then our Lord speaks also of Lazarus, a man who possesses nothing but sorrow in this life, with sores and a few dumb animals to lick his wounds. But he also has a name. The rich man doesn't, at least no name that God will ever mention. But the name Lazarus means, "the one whom God has helped!" He is rich: rich in the Lord's forgiveness and salvation; rich because his only hope is that the Lord has mercy in Christ Jesus. He had only God's help to sustain him. That was enough; Lazarus is gathered into Abraham's bosom, gathered into closest communion with the saints.
So who is Lazarus today, dear people? Take comfort in this: you are. You are Lazarus because Christ is! Of all the poor, none emptied Himself out more than Our Lord. None took a deeper poverty, a greater shame. Not even His own people, who boasted in their fortitude and faithfulness, would show Him any comfort or mercy. Only a few women attended His wounds when He died. In Him, we are beggars before God, but we rejoice to be satisfied with crumbs from the Master's Table, waiting for the wounds of our sins to be licked by the mangy dogs in these silly white collars whom Christ calls to comfort us with His Word of Holy Absolution.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you are wealthy. God has sent His Son who has died for you. Christ has washed you and clothed you in His robe of righteousness, more beautiful than Armani. It guarantees your names are known by God in heaven, written in the Book of Life. We should be nameless like the selfish man, but we aren't. We have Baptism, Absolution, the Holy Supper, and the preaching of Christ by Moses, the Prophets, the Evangelists and the Apostles. Because of that, we have a Name to trust above all other names. Indeed, “our help is in the Name of the Lord!" 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.