Sermon From September 29th 2013 / “What is in a Name?”
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Season of Pentecost / Sunday September 28th / Luke 16:19-31.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. The name Lazarus means "trust in God." Here Jesus tells the parable of a nameless rich man and the poor man named Lazarus.
What's in a name?
What's in a name? You've heard the line from Romeo and Juliet where Shakespeare pens the words "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" in these words Juliet argues that the names of things, or people, isn't important, the only thing that matters is what a thing is, what things or people "are." On the surface this seems romantic but I bet your name means a lot to you, and I bet it even matters to you that Jesus knows your name.
Today's Gospel reading comes hot on the heels of last week's reading about the shrewd manager, where Jesus told His disciples that they can't serve God and money. The Pharisees, those rich well respected business men who were so looked up to by the poor in the community, had been listening in on Jesus as He taught His disciples and they had ridiculed Him because they were lovers of money. For them their good name was an important thing, and they wanted people to know who they were wherever they went and while they believed in the resurrection of the dead and in eternal life, unlike others of that day, like the Sadducees, the Pharisees were still preoccupied by their wealth and were distracted from the true reason God gives wealth to people. We'll come back to that thought here in a minute.
Now Jesus told this parable, this story to His disciples, following closely after our parable from last week and it's fairly safe to say that the Pharisees are still listening in on today's parable, like they were listening in on last week's parable. One of Jesus' disciples was John: Saint John wrote the Book of Revelation and in it He records the vision given to Him from Jesus. There is a connection between our Gospel today and the Book of Revelation. In Revelation we hear these words that so many find unsettling. "Then I [John] saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." These words from Revelation describe the final judgment, the judgment on the last Day, the parable from today describes the intermediate state, the state of things between now and the end, between now and the last day. You can know this because the rich man is worried about his family that is still alive, he hopes his brothers would avoid the torment he is experiencing as time passes on its way to the last day.
Interestingly there is a tie in with last week's parable here. Last week Jesus said "make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings." What does this mean? all money, all wealth, will fail you on the last day, there will be no U-Hall behind you on your way to paradise, on your way to Abraham's side. Lazarus didn't take anything with him and neither did the nameless rich man. Lazarus' riches were waiting for him in paradise when he arrived there because as Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” So what did Jesus mean when He said "make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings." Use your wealth today to spread the Word of God, for "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. In spreading the Word of God today you make friends who will receive you in the eternal dwellings, who will receive you into paradise. Look around you, you have friends here today that you will have forever. Look around you for the ones who are missing because they have died in the faith, they have gone on ahead, they have gone on before you and those friends will be there to receive you when you enter paradise with Christ Jesus. Now getting back to the parable, basically if the nameless rich man had used his wealth wisely and in the fear of the Lord, he and Lazarus could have been friends eternally, brothers in Christ seated together at the table prepared for them. In order to have done this the nameless rich man would have first have had to have had faith. He would have had to have belived. He had knowledge of God and He was a Jewish person but he lived his life without trust in God.
Does this trouble you? You think to yourself, "I don't always trust in God" "I'm more concerned about my welfare than the spreading of God's Word." "What about my name?" "Am I the nameless rich man or am I Lazarus whose name means "trust in God."" "I feel like there's a fight over my soul, over my good name and I don't know who's winning" "How can I know that my name is written in the Book of Life?"
The man Theodore Roosevelt, who's name you've likely heard of in this life is said to have said, "The one thing I want to leave my children is an honorable name." You have something better than an honorable earthly family name, in your baptism you have a heavenly family name. You have been adopted by God the Father you are now a brother of Jesus, a sister of Jesus, your Jesus is the heir of heaven and in Him you are now an heir to the kingdom of God and a recipient of eternal life in Him. In Christ you have the Family Name of God, and in your baptism you have had God's name placed onto you. You were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the nail pierced hands of your Jesus there is a promise to be found, God says to you, "I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" All of these promises add up to your name being written in the Book of Life in heaven: And just as Lazarus in the parable has a name, you have a name too. And Jesus knows your name and died for you that you would keep it unto eternity. This gift is for all people and we only have the time given to us in life to spread this good news, in death there is no longer any opportunity to do mission work. In death our future is fixed like the great chasm between the nameless rich man and Lazarus.
“We are beggars. This is true.”
If you have five brothers and you want them in heaven with you, you'll need to work on them today because you don't know what tomorrow will bring. How is this accomplished? One of the last things Martin Luther wrote was “We are beggars. This is true.” He Scribbled this on a piece of scrap paper, not long before his death on February 18, 1546, it was found in his coat pocket. You then are a beggar who knows where the Word and Sacraments of the church are, you know where God reveals Himself to you in Scripture and as that beggar you tell others where they can get this good bread, this gift of grace from God; God however is the one who gives the gifts and does the work and bring about the change in your five brothers or any other friend or family you may have. These good gifts are important to everyone. You in your baptism, in your God given faith, trust and know that your Jesus has been with you and is with you and will be with you tomorrow, but there is a world of people who don't have this and need it as desperately as you need it. The forgiveness you have in Christ is for all people. Yet we live in a world that puts off spiritual things for later. They have a name and they trample over it. They have a name and they have forgotten it. They have a name and they act as if they had no name in God at all. If you have trampled over your name in Christ Jesus, if you have forgotten your name in Christ Jesus, if you have lived or acted as if you had no name in Christ Jesus: Repent and seek forgiveness. Jesus will forgive you, Jesus forgives you, you are forgiven in Christ Jesus.
After more teaching from Jesus, the Pharisees later in Luke's Gospel asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Why does Jesus say this? He says this because the kingdom of God is ultimately revealed to you at the time of your death or if you are alive on that day, on the Last Day. This is when your name will be counted up and at that moment it will be too late to change what you are. Take heart, you have a name in Christ Jesus, you have His name and everything that comes with His name; and He is at work in His church on earth to bring His name to a world without one. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.