The Rich Man and Lazarus

19th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture St Luke 16:19-31
There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted in luxury everyday. Purple, the color of the robe, was for the high priest and were very costly.The word used for feasting, is a word that is used for a glutton, and he feasted in exotic foods everyday.

In doing so, he did not practice the 4th commandment:“6 days you shall labor, but the 7th day is a Sabbath, a day of rest. It is a day of praising the Lord”Not only did he not obey the Sabbath, but he did not let his servants do it either.

Now in a country where the common people were fortunate if they ate meat once in an entire week, we see this rich man's actions as a figure of self indulgence and selfishness in addition to gluttony. At that time, people did not have silverware, knifes, forks, spoons, or napkins. Food was eaten using one's fingers, which were cleaned off with huge pieces of bread that were then thrown on the floor. It was that bread that Lazarus was waiting for. The rich man is a picture of wealth and luxury.

The second man was named Lazarus. It is strange that only Lazarus is given a name. Lazarus means “God is my helper.” Lazarus is pictured as a beggar covered with ulcerated sores all over his body. He was so helpless that he could not even ward off the street dogs, unclean animals that pestered him constantly. Lazarus is the picture of helplessness and object poverty. Such is the scene in this world that abruptly changes to the next world. There Lazarus is in glory and the rich man is in torment.

What was the sin of the rich man? He had not ordered Lazarus off his property, nor sought even to remove him from his gate, and he had no objections to Lazarus eating from his floor around his table.Nor did he kick him each time he passed by him. He accepted Lazarus as part of the landscape. He thought it was a perfectly natural event that Lazarus should lie in his pain, hungry while he wallowed in his luxury.

Someone once said, “It is not what the rich man did that got him into hell, only that as he looked at Lazarus he did not see a suffering human who was in need of medical care and food. He did nothing to help him.”

As he looked up from the fires of hell, seeing Lazarus in the arms of Abraham, he pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to his warn his brothers. Abraham refused, saying, “During your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Yet the rich man pleaded to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his brothers. Abraham said they had Moses and the prophets, and if they wouldn’t listen to them, they will listen to no one. The rich man continues to plead to Abraham that if someone from the dead speaks to them they will respond. Once again Abraham replied that neither will they believe or be convinced if someone were to rise from the dead.

The challenge for all of us, not only the rich, is to see the needs of others regardless of what situation and respond according to our God given abilities. Jesus made a strong statement regarding wealth and possessions. Wealth and possession demand our loyalty and they can replace the Lord in our lives.

In this life Lazarus laid in the street outside the home of the rich man. When he awoke from death, he was in the arms of Abraham in heaven. The rich man lived in luxury and when he awoke from death, he was in eternal torment in the fires of hell.

In our great nation, the wealthiest in the world, 14.5 % of the population, 49 million people, struggle to put food on their tables. 15.9% of those 49 million are hungry children. (These statistics are from the Bread for the World organization.) I know we help in our community to help feed the hungry, yet I don’t think we really understand the scope of the hunger problem.

May our Lord shed new light on the needs of our neighbors, so that each of us might give just a little more to fight hunger in our community, our nation, and around the world.

Let us pray!

A Shrewd Manager

18 Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 16:1-13

Luke enlightens us about a rich man and his shrewd manager. The rich man learned that his manager was skimming off some of the profits for himself. He called him in.

Here's something to think about: What is this I learned about your actions? I want an account of your actions and I give you two weeks to prepare for an audit.What is clear that neither the owner nor the steward are rosy in their actions with one another. Both are rascals!

We find in our world today such people. If only the Christians of today were as eager and genuine in their labors for the living Lord as they are in an attempt to obtain goodness and to gain riches for themselves. What a difference our actions would be in sharing the love of God to everyone.

A rabbi once said, “The rich help the poor in their world, but the poor help the rich for the world to come.”

Timothy 2:1-7 shares that the church prays for certain things for those in authority. She prays for a life that has tranquility and understanding. She likewise prays for a time of peace and freedom from war and human rebellion from God, as well as freedom from all things that disturb the peace of God’s realm. Yet she prays for so much more. She prays for a life that expresses goodness and reverence for all the children of God.

Gentleness is a great word that describes an attitude of mind, which respects mankind and honors god. This gentleness has a grace and divinity not sent by humans, but from the love of God for all of us. This is what you and I ought to covet, not the things of this world.

Here is our downfall, for we live in a heathen world that seems to override our understanding of gods desire for all of us. Gnostics produce their theories of 2 gods who are hostile toward one another.

God the Father created all of us. Jesus the Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit are 3, not 2. God is our creator. Jesus is our mediator, the one between our sins and our salvation. The Holy Spirit is God's living presence in our lives.

The Jewish world once said it is the angels who are our mediators, but this is not the Jewish thought today, for mankind has a direct line to God, Jesus Christ His only Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. Jesus is our envoy. He speaks for us and represents us before the Heavenly Father. Jesus is the key for eternal life in the fullness of the heavenly kingdom. It is through Jesus teachings and our personal confessions that we are given assurance of eternal life.

We cannot earn it. It is a gift from God through the spilled blood of Jesus, His Son, on the cross.

One final question for this sermon: Are you on an iceberg that is slowly melting from the eternal fire of death and damnation, or do we stand firm on the Solid Rock, Jesus the Christ, to manage our lives?

The Lost Sheep

17th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 15:1-10

There is no other scripture in the Bible that speaks of the love of the Lord and the depth of His love for the lost sheep.

We find in 1 Timothy 1:12-17 that we have been saved by our Lord to not only serve Him but to also seek the lost sheep of His Flock. Have you ever thought or considered that you have gifts and graces that the Lord has given to you that only you can use to call the lost sheep back into the flock of the redeemed? What special gift do you have to offer Him?

At the bus stop in front of the church sits an old man, waiting for his ride down to the library, where he will spend yet another day searching for a friend in the loneliness of the day.

In the corner of the coffee shop, perhaps a Starbucks, a single mother sips her non-fat mocha latte until closing time. She glances up every time the door opens for someone to come in, to see if hope has walked in and spotted her.

Hidden in a group of friends, walking the corridors of the mall, a teenager waits for this parents to call. It’s the call that will let him know that his parents really care for him.

You have 100 places to be and a million things to do, but are you willing to step up to the plate and search for these people, simply smile, and say “I love you and the Lord loves you.”?

Now we can begin to grasp the true message in the parable of the lost sheep as we sit comfortably, cuddly warm, and safe with the 99 who did not stray.

Do you identify with the old man sitting on the bench waiting on the bus? Did you know his wife of 50 years has recently died? All of his family is miles away. They never send cards or letters or call him on the phone. He longs for a relationship, even with a stranger. Will you respond to his need?

Do you identify with the single woman sitting at Starbucks who longs for conversation?

Do you identify with the teenager, lost in the crowd?

Yes, I know we have hundreds of places to go and millions of things to do before the end of day, but can’t we let these things wait for an hour or two and allow the Lord to use us in making others aware that someone cares about them? We are the hands and heart of God in this vast world in which we live. Do you feel a sense of urgency to reach out and touch someone with the love of God today?

I sense that is why the Lord placed so many churches across this great land. Each and every one of us has something special, a gift, to carry the message of the Lord to the lost sheep. Once we find the lost sheep, let us offer them the most precious gift possible, the Lord Jesus Christ!

I didn’t grow up in an active church. I was lost and wandering in the wilderness of sin and spiritual death. Over many years, many offered me a glimpse of the presence of the Lord, but until I became open to feel the Lord’s presence in my life and His personal invitation to be His servant I was lost in the wilderness. Each time we offer the Lord’s love and blessings to someone, He rejoices. Have you felt those blessings in your life as you talk to friends and strangers sharing your personal journey with them?

If you sense the feeling of the Lord as part of the 99, that is wonderful. But it is nothing compared to the joy you will receive when you offer someone who is wandering in the wilderness of sin, the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


A Devastation is Planned

16th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Jeremiah 18:1-12
As we take up Jeremiah’s text today, we see that God is planning a devastation. The information we have is an excellent 3-point sermon.
1. The pottery shows the presence of God as the divine Potter. He may turn at any moment and change the circumstances of our lives if we repent from our evil ways.
2. The clay represents mankind being made as the potter has desired. He will remake mankind when we fall by the wayside. He created us in His own image, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Mankind is the clay, which is warped as we stray from His love and grace. Still, He is willing to remold us and make us able to walk in the fullness of His love and grace. I sense that mankind has strayed very far from God’s presence today. God desires to remold and make us as the potter did the clay when it was not perfectly formed.
Jeremiah’s mission was to call the stray ones back to the fold of God’s care.
We must repent of our sinful ways and return to our Lord, Jesus the Christ. No matter how far one has strayed, nor how far the depth of that straying, Father God has the power and the will to lift us up from the miry clay of our sinful acts.
In the story of the prodigal son, our Lord is the Father in the depth of the Father’s love for us. We all know the story, but have we really grasped the depth of God in the earthly father’s actions of love for his fallen son? There’s nothing that compares to the love of Christ the way the love of that father does. He yields the return of his fallen son, and when he sees him coming down the road (a sight no parent wishes to see their offsprings in), he doesn’t hesitate. Rather, he runs to meet him, throws his arms around his neck, and hugs him. I imagine there are tears of joy streaming down his face.
He calls one of his servants, saying, “Bring a robe for his body and a ring for his finger. Kill the fatted calf. We’re going to have a celebration.”
The scripture states, “There is more joy over one sinner who repents than for 99 who do not stray from the fold.” One of the greatest sins in the world today is that we do not celebrate the returning sinner coming home as the scripture tells us to.
Many of us in the fold think we are really good because we did not stray. We have completely lost sight of the depth of our own sinfulness before the Lord touched our own lives and made us whole in His loving grace. The Christian churches today are full of retired Christians. They believe they are right with God and that they have nothing more to do for the assurance of their spot in the kingdom of God in heaven.
They are equipped by the Lord, but they have strayed from the path of righteousness because there’s no retirement for the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We don’t sing out in our lives and our souls, “Savior, like a shepherd, take my hand and lead me that I may be a faithful worker in your vineyard today.”
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Tomorrow we will celebrate Labor Day, thanking the Lord for all the joys and riches we have obtained with the different gifts God has equipped us with in labor. Still, when was the last day you prayed and asked the Lord to give you wisdom and strength to labor for His faithful kingdom? We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
May we pray that the love and actions of our lives will be offered in God’s laboring, drawing others from the wilderness of sin and death that He has drawn us from. We should pray that they may glimpse the blessed love of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

Israel Forsakes God

15th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Jeremiah 2:4-13

Jeremiah was a young priest who God sent to His fallen children, the Israelites, seeking to draw then back into His fold.

They had strayed far, far from His presence and He longed to have them back.

Jeremiah’s whole ministry was a challenge and an opportunity to draw them back into a covenant relationship with God. God promised them, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.”

Throughout Israel’s long history, time and time again they strayed from God’s loving presence. Still, God always kept a remnant of them, offering them chance after chance to be redeemed. He offered them the promise land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Praise God! He is slow to anger and full of patience with them, as well as with you and me yet today.

I believe that God allows us to stray not because He wants us to, but because He created us with free will. And because of that free will, we want to do our thing, our desires and not the will of God; however, there will be a day of judgment for our behavior.

I’m going to take a big step here and ask this:

Are we so busy today with the world so full of noise that we don’t hear the voice of God speaking to us?

Paul was so bent to destroy the Christian movement that he was seeking Christians to take back to Rome to be crucified. As he was traveling, God struck him down on the road to Damascus. Paul’s words were, “Who are you, Lord?”

I sense with all my heart that we are a special chosen vessel of the Lord today, intended to share His message of love and forgiveness to the whole world. He has planted us in his promised land. But like the chosen people of Israel, we have forsaken God’s desire for our own. We have raped our land of its rich minerals for the sake of a profit while not doing God’s will. We have allowed society to cripple the church’s witness and time with God for one or two hours of time a week in our lives. Look at the church’s services today compared to what it was 50 years ago.

Commerce today is 24/7 today. The church has no control or voice in our world. If someone goes to the corner of our streets, crying out the love of God, they are labeled a religious freak or fanatic.

Yes, I know the Lord is slow to anger and patient, but let us wake up to the potential to see the judgment that I spoke of. It is more than 2000 years closer to us than when Christ walked among us on the earth.

Let us pray!

Not Peace, but Division

13th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 12:49-59

We all love a gentle Jesus. Recall these images of our Lord:
· A soft, glowing headshot
· A man holding a lamb on His shoulders
· Jesus sitting among the little children, holding one on His lap
· A tiny baby cuddling in His mother’s arms

Yet there are also the images of Jesus being crucified and suffering and dying on a cross. We don’t often envision Him as an angry, irate, and temperamental one, but there is the image of Him chasing the money chargers from the temple with a raised whip in His hands. He used a raise voice to call the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers.”

And we gloss over these words of our Savior: “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I tell you, but rather division.

We don’t care for a Jesus who stirs up divisions and irritates us, yet He speaks truth to the power of this world, both political and religious, and to all others. For there will be a final judgment for all our human actions.

Life can be a terrible experience through one must pass, a life full of decisions until we pass through and emerge triumphantly from them, until we climb the golden stairs to the heavenly kingdom.
Jesus had the cross ever before His eyes and mind.

Oh yes, there will be divisions between mankind, even members of our family and members of the world’s family.

The story of the vineyard in Isaiah 5 comes to mind. Even when the vinekeeper does everything right, the outcome might not be a harvest one hopes for.

A man built a vineyard on a fertile hillside and removed the stones from it, dug in the soil, and planted choice vines. He hoped for a harvest and built a fence around it and a winepress for the fruits. In the fullest of times, he went to see the fruits of his labors. The grapes were unfit for wine.
We are God’s chosen ones today, and we have a choice: whether to accept Him and engage in a spiritual rebirth and “Awakening” to encounter a new life with Him.

But created with free will, our lifestyle may be like that vineyard’s, producing unfit grapes or unfit actions by our behavior for the Lord. We yield to the lower side of humanity and its lifestyle.
Satan slips in and drives a wedge between us and our Lord, rendering us unfit to produce blessings for our Lord.

May we see that divisions between us are not always bad, for it may be division that awakes a spiritual awakening and revival in our lives. The Lord can open the doors of our lives open to deeper love in Him.

It’s like the person who said cancer was the best thing that ever happened to him. Not the illness, but the awakening to what is important in his life: his loved ones and realization of love and need for his Lord.

May we take the divisions that happen in our life not to separate us from one another or the Lord, but as a spiritually awakening growth that happens in our lives, awaking us to the fullness of this life and the life that awaits us in the heavenly kingdom.

Let us pray!

No Room in Heaven for Earthly Things

12th Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture: St. Luke 12:13-21

Two things stand out about this rich man in our scriptures in this parable.

First, he never saw beyond himself. Second, he never saw the need for the eternal kingdom that is open to all who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We go into God’s closet and are shown a brand new pair of threads that are made just for us. Are we lost in the material things of this world?

In Christ, we are dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item in our new way of life is custom-made by our Creator with His label. A new Easter outfit cannot be worn with our old, smelly tennis shoes. Our new clothes of renewal cannot be worn out with our shoes and stinky socks of anger, malice, and slander. Once we put on the garments God has created for us, we must rid ourselves of the filthy garments of this world.

The image of filthy rags works for this present world only. We think very highly of our closets overflowing with the latest styles for today. However, in this parable Luke turns our attention away from our earthly positions to the eternal treasures that are meant to define our labors for the Lord. Even new Easter clothes don’t make it into the eternal kingdom of God.

We are to turn our hearts to labor to cultivate the true eternal gifts of our Lord. The scriptures from Luke and 2 Colossians 3:1-11 could not be more aligned in their meaning. The scriptures tell us to set our minds on the things that are above, not on the things of this earth. We are, therefore, to store treasures that are rich in God’s love for us in abundance.

The rich fools’ total lives and labors are totally centered on the material labors of this life.

His words were on himself: I, me, my, mine

A schoolboy was asked what part of speech is “my” or “mine.” He answered, “Aggressive pronouns.” The rich fool was aggressively self-centered.

· “my crops”

· “my barn”

· “I know”

· “I’ll tear down”

· “my small barns and build bigger ones”

· “then I’ll sit back and live the good life”

But the Lord said to him, “Fool, your life will be taken from you this very night. Then, who will get all your earthly treasures.”

While not many of us think we are rich fools, when we are compared with people in our community and the world who have little or nothing, we are living in abundance. How have we used our blessings to express our love unto the Lord? Are we still using our blessings for earthly things?

What is wrong is that there are more rich fools still seeking to tear down their little barns and build bigger ones to store up more? Jesus tells us not to be concerned about what we will eat or wear. If He feeds the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air, who neither sew nor reap, how much more are we taken care of than these creatures, us who were created in Jesus’ very image.

Let us pray!