Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our Lord’s account of the rich man and Lazarus has much to teach us. It’s a reminder to believers and nonbelievers of what is most important in this life. The rich man liked his stuff. He didn’t like to share. He watched others suffer, like the poor man who begged at the rich man’s gate for mere crumbs from the table. The rich man died and went to hell. And then there was Lazarus. We don’t know much about him, other than that he was poor. He had sores. He begged. He also died, yet he went to heaven and reclined in the bosom of father Abraham.
So do good to your neighbor, or you’ll go to hell. Amen. Good sermon, right? Those who think the Church should only be about social justice would be satisfied if we were to leave it at that. And one could make a good case for social justice out of this text, showing the need to help others less fortunate. You certainly should be good to your neighbors. After all, Jesus teaches you to love your neighbor as yourself. But that’s not the main point of what Jesus has to teach you today. What saved Lazarus, and what condemned the rich man, was trust. Lazarus trusted the Lord to provide for him, even when that meant dogs to lick his sores. The rich man trusted himself and his wealth, so much so that he wouldn’t even sacrifice the crumbs from his table.
Last week, Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” But the Kingdom of God is of the Spirit. So, as Jesus says, “Unless a person is born of Water and the Spirit, He cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus shows us what that looks like in this morning's Gospel. It isn't pretty or pleasant, is it? Life apart from Jesus isn't comfortable. Oh, it may seem pleasant enough this side of death. It seemed pleasant enough for the rich man. It seems pleasant enough for people caught up in their lives, too busy for the love of God delivered in Christ's Means of Grace, too busy to put personal hustle and bustle aside to care for others. Parents, are you too busy to bring up your children in the Ways of God? Neighbors, are you too busy to share the Word of God with those you encounter in your life? Workers, are you too concerned with your paycheck to sit at the Lord’s feet and receive the gifts He has for you? Are you too concerned with the leisure of your day off to spend one bitter hour with the Lord of life?
Dear Christian, you have enough—not in yourself, but in Christ. Don't fear poverty, or even the sacrifice of that little bit that goes to help another, to support the Gospel in your midst, to carry Christ to the nations. If all you can do is hold on to the little bit you have, as if it's all you have, you are miserable indeed. But in your poverty, learn how much God has for you in Jesus. You are baptized into the Body of Christ, which means you are clothed with something greater than the finest linen. You're clothed with Jesus. You have God’s name now—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—so your name will be remembered for eternity, recorded in the Book of Life! And you are fed His Body and His Blood, by which Christ promises to raise you up in glory. These are your riches in this life, no matter what you suffer. They are your security, so that you can let go of things that will not last.
God has given you His Son to set you at the gate of heaven. He provides you a pastor, poor dog that he is, to lick your wounds and tell you that your sins are forgiven. He gives you crumbs from His Table, and more than crumbs: the Body and the Blood of Christ who died for you and rose again, and who now begs the Father for your life, forgiveness, and salvation. He is love, and in love He is ever mindful of you, the beggar at His gate. 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.