Take a Survey

Help support this site:

Sermon List

Login or Register

Luther Sayings

Terms of Use


Newsletter Articles or other writings

BOC readings - 3 year

BOC readings - 1 year

Bible in One Year

Bible in Two Years

5 mins with Luther


Sermon List       Other sermons by Rev Hering       Notify me when Rev Hering posts sermons
      RSS feed for Rev Hering       RSS feed for all sermons

The One Whom God Helps

Luke 16:19-31

Rev. Kurt Hering

Pentecost 19, Proper 21, series C
Christ Lutheran-Elkhart, and Faith Lutheran-Hugoton  

right-click to download MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Sep 25, 2016 

Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.

The rich man--who remains unnamed for he will never again hear the Lord call on his name though he beseeches the Lord for eternity--is condemned to an eternity of suffering without relief precisely because he did not listen to God's Word as proclaimed to Him by Moses and the Prophets, God's precious Word of Law and Gospel.

What Jesus is saying in this story is the rich man despised preaching and His Word.

To hear the entire sermon as it was preached to the saints at Christ Lutheran-Elkhart, KS for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, "The One Whom God Helps," click on the audio link provided above. The sermon begins at 12:40.

Artwork: "The Rich Man and Lazarus," church icon.

For those of you who prefer to read or read along while listening, the preaching manuscript the preaching manuscript follows below. .

Nota Bene: Sermons are meant to be heard. Bullet points in the manuscript are explained and filled out during the preaching, so you will need to listen to the audio file to get the full message.

Dear People of God,

Sometimes, indeed most times, confessions are tough. We do not like to admit our faults, mistakes, misdeeds, let alone our sins. It has ever been thus since the first sin.

This is true also of our Lutheran Confessions. In Smalcald VIII.10 we agree that, "we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil."

These are strong words, reminiscent of the words of our Lord to Peter, "Get behind me Satan!" when the disciple and dear friend of our Lord tried to prevent Him from His appointed task.

The parable of the Rich Man [the one how helps himself] and Lazarus ["the one whom God helps"]--in our Text contains a similarly strong message that is indeed tough for us to swallow, let alone confess and live. Not only does it speak of the reality of hell for unbelievers, it condemns spiritual experiences that do not proceed from and are not connected to the Word of God.

Suppose you were to ask the suffering rich man of our parable, "You don't have to go to church to be saved, do you?" Or imagine someone telling him, "All that matters is what I feel in my heart. God is everywhere, so he can talk to me in the garden and I can pray to Him there just as well as if I were in Church. After all, God just wants me to be happy and successful."

Dear people of God, make no mistake about it, the rich man is "suffering torment in these flames [of hell]," for precisely this kind of thinking or feeling. Wishing to help his family learn from the evil ways of his faulty thinking and mistaken feelings, "he said, 'I beg you, therefore, father, in order that you might send [Lazarus] to the house of my father, . . . that they also do not come to into this place of torture.'

"But Abraham says, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'

"And he said, 'No father Abraham, but if someone from the dead should journey to them, they will repent.'

"But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, not even if someone were to rise out of the dead will they be persuaded." (Luke 6:19-31, Just)

A stunningly cold answer to a seemingly loving and well meaning request, don't you think? This text presents a real problem for those who think that hell has no place in the church's proclamation and teaching of the Gospel, as well as those that separate God's saving work in Christ from the church that He has established.

What Jesus is telling us by way of this story is: regardless of what you may think or feel in your heart about God; no matter if you are successful and happy in this life; if you hope to avoid the torments of eternal damnation you must hear His Word--the Word of Moses and the Law that condemns you as a sinner, as wellas the Word of the Prophets and the Promise of the Savior that delivers you from that condemnation. And make no mistake about it, pursuit of happiness in recreation and leisure activities--even with family--that keeps away from the place where God pours out His Spirit and proclaims His salvation is no more holy and no less sinful than the pursuit of riches and earthly success.

What Jesus is giving us in this little story is a lesson on the Third Commandment and the Holy Christian Church, His body on earth. What is the Third Commandment? Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

What is His church? As Luther tells us in his Small Catechism explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed: “It is where the Holy Spirit calls me and all believers by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith. It is where God the Holy Spirit daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” Or again as Luther simply puts it in the Smalcald articles: “thank God, [to-day] a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd.” [Part III, Article XII. Of the Church]

The rich man--who remains unnamed for he will never again hear the Lord call on his name though he beseeches the Lord for eternity--is condemned to an eternity of suffering without relief precisely because he did not listen to God's Word as proclaimed to Him by Moses and the Prophets, God's precious Word of Law and Gospel.

What Jesus is saying in this story is the rich man despised preaching and His Word. He did not hold God's Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Instead his life was spent “cloth[ing] himself in purple and fine linen, making merry every day sumptuously."

Now God does not deny us clothing or food, and even gives us six days to labor after such things. What is more He even commands and invites us to pray for them in the Fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread, which “includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home etc.” all of which are counted among the riches of the world.

But as Jesus so forcefully reminds us when the devil tempts Him to turn stone into bread, "man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD." This He quotes from Deut 8:1-10, which both the rich man and Lazarus would have known well.

Lazarus, however, resides in heaven with Abraham and all who have heard and believed Moses and the Prophets--God's Word of the condemnation of the Law and the promise of the Gospel. He and all who are humbled, tested, and chastened by the Lord in this life yet gladly hear and subsist on God's Word above all receive every good thing when they come into God's eternal kingdom of heaven--"a good land, . . . in which you will lack nothing; . . .” [Deuteronomy 8:7]

Luther writes of our Gospel text:

"If they refuse to listen to Moses and the Prophets, that is, if they are going to deny the Word of God, even knowing that it is the Word of God, then they won't be swayed by someone rising from the dead either. This is the way it still is today....

"People engage in pretense and say, 'Sermons are old hat; but if someone rose from the dead, then people would believe.’ In the same vein, if the gospel were proclaimed by the high and mighty, like princes, kings or rulers of the world, or by angels from heaven, then people would believe. How can we believe if the people who do the preaching are nothing but lowly, despised fishermen? That is easily said, but basically it is of no count, for it is not the person of the preacher that makes the difference in bringing a man to faith, but the Word of God...."

Or put another way, it is not the packaging and its appeal to the emotions and senses by or through which the holy Spirit works faith, but by Moses and the Prophets--the Law to convict us of the our own personal sinfulness by which we deserve to be cursed with separation from the benefits of God like the rich man of our parable; and the Gospel to deliver the forgiveness of sin won by Christ, the Son of God, who became sin for us, taking it's curse of separation from God the Father upon himself, and nailed it to the tree.

Each of us here knows someone for whom this Good News is given by God through His church isn't good enough. Baptism, the preached Word, and Holy Communion--each for the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting--simply isn't exciting, or fantastic, or rewarding enough.

We live in a pagan world—yes, even here in Hugoton/Elkhart, KS and in these United States of America. This pagan world is full of people who would rather "clothe [themselves] in purple and fine linen, making merry every day sumptuously" than to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD and to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. If we are honest with ourselves, we will even be led to admit that we are among them and be driven to confess that, we too, often despise preaching and his Word and would rather make merry and pursue happiness than hear God's plain, yet indispensable, unchangeable and fully satisfying Word.

But, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." [I John 1:9 NKJ]

And we, and all those who confess and are forgiven with us--who with and like Lazarus are "the ones whom God helps"--are carried by the angels into the bosom of Abraham:

 where we are comforted by the Lord our God, who "clothes [us] in purple and fine linen" of His only begotten Son's righteousness

 and where we eternally "make merry every day sumptuously" in the name of--and even in the very presence of - the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.

Send Rev. Kurt Hering an email.

Unique Visitors: