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The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
Faith Contrasted with Unbelief
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #50 Lord Dismiss Us
First Sunday After Trinity
Faith Contrasted with Unbelief
5. Here one traces the secret sins of his heart as the evil fruit. For where faith is, there is no anxiety for fine clothing and sumptuous feasting, yea, there is no longing for riches, honor, pleasure, influence and all that is not God himself; but there is a seeking and a striving for and a cleaving to nothing except to God, the highest good alone; it is the same to him whether his food be dainty or plain, whether his clothing be fine or homespun. For although they even do wear costly clothes, possess great influence and honor, yet they esteem none of these things; but are forced to them, or come to them by accident, or they are compelled to use them in the service of others.
1. We have hitherto heard in our Gospel lessons of various examples of faith and of love; for as they all teach faith and love, I hope you are abundantly and sufficiently informed that no human being can be pleasing to God unless he believes and loves. Now in this Gospel text the Lord presents to us at the same time an example of faith and of unbelief or of the state of the godless, in order that we also may abhor the contrary and the opposite of faith and love, and that we may cleave to faith and love more diligently.
For here we see the judgment of God upon the believers and the unbelievers, which is both dreadful and comforting. Dreadful to the faithless and comforting to the faithful. But in order that we may the better grasp the meaning of this text we must picture to ourselves both the rich man and poor Lazarus. In the rich man we see the nature of unbelief and in Lazarus the nature of belief.
The Rich Man
11. Now all unbelieving people are like this rich hypocrite. Unbelief cannot do nor be different than this rich man is pictured and set forth by his life.
And especially is this the character of the clergy-, as we see before our eyes, who never do a truly good work, but only seek a good time, never serving nor profiting any one; but reversing the order they want everybody to serve them. Like harpies they only claw everything into their own pockets; and like the old adage runs they “rob the poor of his purse.” They are not moved in the least by the poverty of others. And although some have not expensive food and raiment, yet they do not lack will power and the spirit of action; for they imitate the rich, the princes and the lords, and do many hypocritically good works by founding institutions and building churches, with which they conceal the great rogue, the wolf of unbelief; so that they become obdurate and hardened and are of no use to anybody.
These are the rich man.
If you have missed theme so far in the Bible - Abraham is always connected with faith, since he believed God's Promises and was justified by faith - Genesis 15. That is repeated in Romans 4 and Galatians, in Hebrews and James, in John 8 with the repudiation of "we have Abraham for our father". And here we see Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, a subtle shift from "with God" or "with the Savior." In the context of the entire Bible, this is not subtle at all. There are children of Abraham by faith, and children of Abraham by blood. It does not good to call Abraham "our father" without faith.
The rich man also died but he was in torment. A lot could be said about timing and how this sort of thing could happen, even in a parable. Stories are very useful for getting abstractions across in a way we cannot possibly miss. Luther did this often in his explanations, where he wrote, "It is as if Jesus were saying..." and then used words Jesus did NOT say - but they are good explanations. That is almost like a parable.
The adult students of today have a difficult time with adding stories, examples, and anecdotes. They even balk at using color and graphics in their work, and that is remarkably easy today. Pure black and white is harder to remember and focus on. But color and graphics make the abstract more concrete. We have no place for stained glass windows, but we have graphics for the blog and sermons.
The rich man is in the torment of his own conscience. That is often the case of the dying with no faith, and even those with faith love to hear the Gospel at the end.
When Pope Pius XII was dying, he was tormented that all his compromises with the Communists were an enormous failure. He chose to get along rather than to be a leader, and this conscience truly put him in Hell.
Likewise, the most famous theologian in America, Paul Tillich, was terrified of dying. He told liberal students and professors exactly what they wanted to hear. But his life was full of cheating and lying. His widow wrote a tell-all book and the Tillich Fan Club condemned her for telling the truth.
The trouble with sin is this - no one has a human solution that works. The Catholic Church has oppressed and robbed people with their solution - that each one must do works to make himself pleasing to God - but they add the greatest works are still not enough and each one is lucky to spend thousands of years in Purgatory to finish the EZ pay schedule. People realize this instinctively and find themselves confused, especially if manipulated by this (or similar schemes) for years.
And in all this people overlook the greatest sacrifice of all for their sins - the death of Christ on the cross.
The rich man's torment is not from being rich but from having no faith and therefore no compassion. When life dwindles away, the delights of life diminish in importance. In contrast, the real issues of life grow and dominate. The worst torment is not physical but mental, which is represented by the second part of the parable.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
We can see that post-humus remedies have no value. The rich man, who would have fed Lazarus at the table and dressed his wounds for him, even kissed the wounds, would now like a little comfort from the poor man. But that is not possible.
This part of the parable addresses claims that the Catholic Church still makes. I bought a tape from a Catholic organization that promised me - souls of Purgatory would come to my aid. They had several examples on that tape. I was impressed - by the manipulation. It was witchcraft in the name of Christ.
The boundaries are fixed and there is no travel between, as Abraham says in this story. So how important is faith? Abraham is the example and the teacher.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The next section teaches us the efficacy of the Word of God. Now Lazarus has been promoted to the position of Evangelist, the same man who could not catch a break at the rich man's gate. The rich man is an example of caring about important things too late.
He reminds me of the ministers who said nothing about their denomination going to the dogs until they were safe in retirement. Then they saw the continued decline and decided to speak out about it - but no one cared. Several of them were the actual synod presidents - David Preus and James Crumley - who led their groups into the ELCA merger.
God shows toxic religious leaders the results of their apostasy before they die. Or, one might say, Satan rips the blindfold away to see what his kingdom really delivers.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
Abraham himself says - "They have Moses and the prophets." In other words, the Gospel is found in the two most important parts of the Old Testament - the Torah and the Prophets.
Anything the brothers need to know can be found there, without a guide from the Other Side. There is no attempt by the rich man to make the Gospel real, relational, and relevant. When life and death are on the line, Gospel makes everything else shrink to nothing in importance.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
This bossy rich man is used to having his orders carried out, one way or another. He is quote sure if someone from the dead would come to them, they would repent. That is given a great ironic twist, when the phrasing is changed to "rose from the dead." Abraham said, "Not even that great wonder would persuade them.
26. At last he feels, that it is declared unto him: There is a great gulf fixed between him and the believers, that they will never be able to come together. These are the thoughts of despair, when the conscience feels that the Word of God is withdrawn forever from him; accordingly the thoughts of his conscience rage and would gladly have the living to know that such are the agonies of death, and he craves that someone would tell it to them.
But it is to no purpose; for he feels an answer in his own conscience, that Moses and the prophets are sufficient, whom they ought to believe, as he himself should have done. All such thoughts pass between the condemned conscience and the Word of God, in the hour of death or in the agonies of death; and no one can perceive what it is, except the one who experiences it; and he who experienced it wished that others should know it, but all is in vain.