Holy Trinity 1
Text: Luke 16:19-31
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Amen)
Once there was a rich man – who had enough money and possessions to ensure that he could feast sumptuously everyday and wear fine linen clothes. Indeed, the Scriptures says that, “He was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold.” He was wealthy enough to equip an army of 318 men to rescue his nephew from neighboring warlords. He had more than all his contemporaries and was so wealthy that he could even negotiate his business affairs directly with kings.
And yet, this rich man, Abraham, knew that he had nothing at all. He knew that all his riches were meaningless. He did not put his trust in his riches. He knew that he brought nothing into this world and that he would take nothing out of it. And thus he knew that all men die just as poor as they were born.
So repent. For you too are rich. You feast in ways that Abraham could have never dreamed of: fresh fruits and vegetables year round, meat everyday of the week if you want it. You live in framed up houses with heat and cooling instead of goat hair tents at the mercy of wind and sun. You have closets full of clothes and shoes and spend more on entertainment in a year than most people in the world spent on food.
So, yes: we must learn to repent. For we live in a rich land and have been blessed with many material gifts. Yet, every gift of God can become a curse, and every curse can become a blessing. It all depends on how the curse or the blessing is received: namely, is it received in faith or in unbelief?
And material riches carry with them a most difficult temptation in this regard: namely they tempt you to put your trust in them, rather than in God. This was the problem with the other rich man in Jesus' parable. He looked to his wealth and possessions as his comfort and highest good in life. His money made him feel safe. That's why he didn't share with Lazarus: because to lose some of his possessions would make him feel nervous, anxious, and in danger. He put his trust in his wealth, and so he kept it close to him. And thus, the blessing of material wealth became a curse to this man for he received it in unbelief toward God. This man exchanged the true God for money. For that, as the Catechism teaches, if the real definition of what a person's God is: what one looks to for help, what one trusts in and fears more than anything else. And thus this man's riches became a millstone tied around his neck, and pulled him straight to hell.
Lazarus, on the other hand, lived a life most would call empty of blessings. He was poor, diseased, and hungry. He had no home to go to at night. He had no person to care for him in his illness. He did not even have a morsel of food. No matter how low you have been, chances are that you have never been as low as Lazarus. And yet, Lazarus is the true rich man in the parable. For he received all of these afflictions in faith – and thus they became to him blessings. We have a clue to this in the name that Jesus gives to this character in his parable: Lazarus means God is my Help. Lazarus looked to God for his safety and protection. No matter what hardship he suffered he continued to look to God as his loving Father and to suffer all his difficulties under the care of his dear Father in heaven.
Thus whether you are poor like Lazarus or rich like Abraham, look to Jesus Christ on the cross and know that if you are rich, you are poor; and if you are poor, you are rich. For that is the way of it in the kingdom of God: everything is upside down and backwards.
If you are rich, look to the cross and humble yourself and like Abraham admit and confess that you really are poor: that you brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out it. With fear and trembling, cast your trust on the Lord
And if you are like poor Lazarus – suffering from hunger, or poverty, or loneliness: then know that you are rich. Know that your Father in heaven knows your every need even before you ask him in prayer. Know that the kingdom of God is yours. For behold the cross of Christ: see how God loves you. For God himself in the flesh saw fit to bear all your hardships on the cross. For in the cross you see the grace of your Lord Jesus: for your sake, he who was rich became poor that you who are poor might become rich in Christ.
And indeed, rich and poor alike: come receive the good things of God even now. For you are his beloved child. All that He has is yours. He has put his name on you in Holy Baptism. He claims you as his own and he will never forsake you. And even today he fills you with the truest riches on earth: the body and blood of Jesus Christ. For this is an everlasting treasure. If you have Jesus, then you have all that God can give. And in the resurrection of the dead, all will be added unto you. This is the promise of your Lord. A promise accomplished on the cross, delivered in His to you in Holy Baptism, and delivered again to you today at this altar. All of Jesus. For you.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The peace of God, which passes all understanding,
guard and keep you in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.