Friday, June 12, 2015

Sermon for 6/7/15: First Sunday After Trinity

Still trying to install the audio software on my computer. Sorry.

In Abraham's Bosom

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

What is it that saves Lazarus? Why does he end up in the bosom of Abraham? To be in the bosom of Abraham means to receive God's promises. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. St. Paul later writes that all who believe in Christ are sons of Abraham and heirs of the promise. We don't have to save ourselves from sin and death. God Himself will do it by sending His own Son in the flesh. To be in the bosom of Abraham means nothing other than to be in Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, do you hate your neighbor? Do you hate your brothers and sisters in Christ? The simple fact is that if you see them in need and do nothing for them, you hate them. St. John tells us that in his epistle. Maybe the Rich Man prayed for Lazarus. Maybe you pray for your neighbors and others in the church who need help. That's good. But if you see a brother in need and you don't help, then you are no neighbor. There's no reason to believe the Rich Man was anything other than a religious man. He probably went to synagogue and maybe even gave lots of money. Like the Pharisees, he probably made it very clear how much he believed in God and how hard he worked to obey the law. And all the while Lazarus is having his sores licked by dogs out at the gate. What about us? Do we actually love others with our words and actions, or do we just talk like we do? Abraham's rebuke of the rich man is a strong one: "You had your good things in life, but now you are tormented."
But here's the real kicker! We all have enough to repent of when we fail to serve others. But when we do good works, then do we suppose that God is pleased with us? What if we take the things God has given us and do some good with them and then suppose that we're pretty good Christians? This is what the Pharisees did: they took God's Word as a guide to how they should live, and when they lived that way, they were proud of themselves. Then they could claim that if a man was poor, it was his own fault for not following God's Law the right way. Just like the TV preachers today who tell you that if you think happy thoughts and try to be good, God will bless you and give you all kinds of goodies. There is no end to our ability to take what good comes to us as an indication of how good we are. You know the saying: "God helps those who help themselves." But the Lord most certainly does not work that way.
Brothers and sisters, we must learn to be as Lazarus, having no faith in anything of this world, confessing that we have no claim on God. Lazarus had nothing in this world going for himself. All he had was the Lord. And that certainly didn't get him anything in this life, did it? But it brings him to eternal life. We have nothing but what the Lord gives us. Whether it's our material goods or forgiveness and eternal life, everything is His gift to us. We must again confess that even if we have nothing in this life, we have His water and His word, we have His Gospel, we have His absolution, we have Jesus' body and blood. Poor Lazarus begged for scraps from the rich man, but here, in Christ's church, you have a feast laid before you, a feast that is your confidence and certainty against all suffering and misery in this life. 
It's easy to take the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus as some kind of moral lesson about how being rich is bad and being poor makes you somehow more blessed in God's sight. Instead, we learn repentance for taking anything God gives us and turning it into something that is only good for us, a false god and idol. We learn the repentance of despising God's Word and learn to trust that Word which gives us Jesus. But we also learn that being in Christ means we are so free that we may spend what is given to us for the good of others. And being free in Christ means most of all that you are safe in the bosom of Abraham: now and forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all human understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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