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Though One Rise from the Dead

Rev. Kurt Hering

Eighteenth S a Pentecost
Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah

View Associated File

Sun, Sep 30, 2007
Eighteenth S a Pentecost
 

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.

SERMON for the Eighteenth Sunday after PENTECOST: September 30, 2007

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Our Text today is the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in the Gospel lesson appointed for this Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost and translated by the Rev. Dr. Arthur Just Jr., dean of graduate studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne :

"And a certain man was rich, and he used to clothe himself in purple and fine linen, making merry every day sumptuously. And a certain poor man by the name of Lazarus had been laid at his gate, being covered with sores and longing to be satisfied with that which falls from the table of the rich man. But even the dogs, coming, used to lick his sores. And it happened that the poor man died and

was carried by the angels into the bosom of Abraham; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades, lifting his eyes, being in torture, he saw Abraham from afar and Lazarus at his bosom. And he, calling out, said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus in order that he might dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am suffering torment in these flames.'

"And Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you received in full your good things in your life, and Lazarus likewise bad things. But now he is comforted here, but you are suffering torment. And in all these things, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those desiring to go across from here to you may not be able, nor may they cross over from there to us.'

"And he said, 'I beg you, therefore, father, in order that you might send him to the house of my father, for I have five brothers, in order that he might bear witness to them, in order 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

Sometimes, indeed most times, confessions are tough.

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 and Lazarus 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 him to the house of my father, for I have five brothers, in order that he might bear witness to them, in order 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 and 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.

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.

What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people; but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home etc.

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:

"Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.

"You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you." (NKJ)

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, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you."

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.

Luther continues:

"Devout believers, therefore, need to cling to the truth of God's Word as proclaimed in the church by faithful pastors. Were Paul, Peter, yes, Christ himself, to proclaim the Word, it would be to no avail if meanwhile we despised it. If we love and believe the Word, whether preached by Paul or Peter,, Christ or John the Baptist, pastor or chaplain, it does not make any difference who the person is, for it is the Word that counts. If we base our baptism's worth on the fact that it was performed by [a famous church personality], the pope [himself, or even John the Baptist] , then we are grounding it upon the person and not on baptism itself. It will not then endure. If we, however, esteem our baptism highly because it is God's sacrament, ordained and commanded by Him, then we stand on sure and firm ground. The person of the man does not make baptism better, whether done by the pope [or some parish pastor, John the Baptist or even a midwife in time of emergency.] Similarly, the Word preached by a parish preacher is not better than that of a chaplain. In short, it's a matter of the Word, not of the person.

"...This is a strong testimony against the fantastic spirits. We see here that Lazarus was not to preach, but remain in Abraham's bosom; also the rich man was not to preach, but remain in hell.... If I want to hear preaching, I want to hear it from where God has ordained for it to be. Where? In the ministry of the Word, through the mouth of the parish preacher in the church, or of the fathers, mothers, masters, mistresses of the house. Whoever hears them, hears God. Whoever will not hear them, let him listen to the devil through the mouths of the dead and the fantastic spirits. Indeed, it is the devil when they claim to hear someone from the dead, for God has not ordained that the dead should preach, but has directed us rather to the living to whom He has commanded his Word."

Each of us here knows someone for whom what 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 - not just here in Layton, Utah - but throughout the United States and indeed the entire globe. 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 Jn 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. Amen



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.



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