Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday we confessed our faith in the words of the longest creed of the church's creeds, the Athanasian Creed. There are other creeds, for example, the Apostolic Creed and the Nicene Creed. And in our reading of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6: 4-13), we find the creed of the people of Israel. When someone asks you, Where are the creeds in the Bible ?, here is one. Even today, it is the custom of the Jews to repeat this creed four times a day, each time they pray.
“Hear, Israel: Jehovah our God, Jehovah is one: And you shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words that I am commanding you today will be on your heart: And you will repeat them to your children, and you will speak of them when you are in your house, and walking along the road, and when you lie down, and when you get up: And you will tie them by a sign in your hand, and they will be on the frontlets between your eyes: And you will write them on the posts of your house, and on your gates. ”
Such is the creed of the Jews. We use a part of it every Sunday in our confession of sins. We have not loved you with all our hearts. Because our Lord Jesus Christ also quoted these words in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (Matthew 22: 34-40; Mark 12: 28-31), when they asked him what is the most important commandment? But, the Lord did not separate the love of God from the love of neighbor. "This is the first and great commandment. And the second is similar to this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." This is a quote from Leviticus 19:18. So, the Old Testament says that the fulfillment of God's will for our lives is to love God and love our neighbor. God's Law is not for our condemnation, but for blessing. So that your days may be long, says Deuteronomy 6: 2.
Also in our epistle (1 John 4: 16-21), Saint John does not separate the love of God from the love of neighbor. “And we have known and believed in the love that God has for us. God is love; and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. In this love is perfected in us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; for as He is, so are we in this world. In love there is no fear; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear carries punishment. And the one who fears has not been perfected in love. We love Him, because He first loved us. If anyone says: I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And we have this commandment from Him: Whoever loves God, also loves his brother. ”
Why do we love God and our neighbor too? Because God first loved us and showed His love in this way: He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die in our places. In this love there is no fear. Neither fear of the wrath of God in the final judgment, nor fear that we will not have enough for us if we share our goods with the afflicted and needy. Because we trust God for eternal life and for the needs of this earthly life.
Well, we have come to our gospel for today, the story of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus. "There was a rich man, who was dressed in purple and fine linen, and feasted splendidly every day. There was also a beggar named Lazarus, who was lying at his door, full of sores, and waited to be satisfied with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, and even the dogs came and licked his sores. " This comparison is the extreme; the rich man was on top the socioeconomic ladder, while Lázaro had no job, money or family and his only friends were the street dogs.
However, this earthly life does not last forever. "And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus within his bosom."
The problem was not the quantity of the rich man's assets, but his trust in them for his happiness and his lack of recognition of God as the source of all good things. He did not recognize everything is by the grace of God.
Our psalm (Psalm 33: 12-22) says thus: “The king is not saved by the multitude of his army: The mighty man does not escape by great force. The horse is a vain hope for safety; it will not deliver by the greatness of its strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his mercy. ”
This is also what Deuteronomy says: “And it will be, when Jehovah your God has brought you to the land that he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that he would give you; in great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of everything good, that you did not fill, and deep cisterns, that you did not dig, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant; after that you will eat and you will be satisfied. ”
None of us deserves something good from the hands of God. We have received all the good things for the love of God has for us. And the most precious gift from God is the promise of eternal life. But, those who trust in their own merits and do not thank God for their blessings, will not receive the grace of God in the life to come, no matter their status in this life. Because God does not judge us according to external circumstances, but searches the heart for faith and love.
The rich man did not yet understand it in Hades, the place of torment. He still thought Lazarus was his inferior. "And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried out, saying, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to wet the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, because I am tormented in this flame. "
This life is the time of grace. Now we have the opportunity to repent of our sins and by faith that the Holy Spirit does not give, we will receive the grace of God. But, the hour of judgment will come at last and then there is no other opportunity. Then, Father Abraham, speaking for God, said to him, “Son, remember that you received your good things in your life, and Lazarus also bad things; but now this one is consoled, and you tormented. And in addition to all this, a great chasm is placed between us and you, so that those who want to pass from here to you, cannot pass from here to there. "
The rich man still did not understand. "I beg you, therefore, father, to send him to my father's house, because I have five brothers, so that he may testify to them, so that they too do not come to this place of torment. And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; hear them. He then said: No, father Abraham; but if anyone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. But Abraham said to him, If you do not hear Moses and the prophets, you will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead."
The rich man had no compassion for his brothers, but wanted to justify himself. He complained that he did not have the opportunity to hear the Word of God and repent of his sins. However, the themes of the law and the gospel are found throughout the Scriptures, the Old Testament equal to the New Testament. Also, in the New Testament, we have the testimony of someone who rose from the dead, Jesus Christ. But, like those who rejected Old Testament prophecies, those who reject the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ are going to miss their chance to receive God's mercy and receive God's justice.
Love for God and our neighbor does not come from within us, but through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Word and the sacraments. The Spirit keeps us in faith and perfects us in love that will bear fruit in the works of neighborly love. In this way, we confess faith not only in the creed, but also in our actions.
May the peace that passes all understanding be with you. Amen.
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