SERMON TEXT BELOW
Pentecost 16 2022 Proper 21 125th Anniversary Celebration Day
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 25, 2022
Amos 6:1-7, 1 Timothy 6:6-19, Luke 16:19-31
Text and Audio: immanuelhamiltonchurch.com click “sermons”
Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
What’s in a name? My name, Kevin, has Irish roots and means “handsome birth.” Now, I do not have Irish roots and I have seen my baby pictures so I think my parents may have been trying to compensate for something. But that is my name. Some names are more meaningful.
Today is a special day for this congregation. This is the culmination of a year-long celebration of our 125th anniversary, 1896 to 2021. The name of this congregation is Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School. Immanuel is a great name for a church. Matthew 1:23 (ESV) 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
We gather here on Sunday morning to receive forgiveness of sins because… God is with us. God is with us in His Word. God is with us in the Sacrament of Baptism. God is with us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. God is with us pouring out the forgiveness of sins earned by Jesus on the cross. God with us. God with you.
In our Gospel reading today we meet two men. There is a rich man, sometimes called “Dives” (dee-vess) which is the Latin word for rich. This man is very wealthy and he wants everyone to know it. He flaunts his wealth and cares only about himself. He wears lavish purple robes. Purple is a very expensive color of dye and reserved only for royalty and the very wealthy. The rich man also wears fine linen, likely his undergarments made from the softest fabric that money can buy.
Now, folks will have feasts on special occasions. You may feast on Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter. A feast is a special event. The rich man feasts sumptuously every day. Thanksgiving dinner every day. He is living his best life now; each and every day.
Outside Dives’s gate lies a beggar named Lazarus who desperately hopes to gets something to eat. After the rich man is finished, the servants will sweep the floor and throw out the remnants from the dust pan. Lazarus is waiting for those scraps. Lazarus is a pathetic beggar. He lies at the gate covered with sores which the local dogs come over and lick. The dogs care more about Lazarus than does the rich man.
So, there is the rich man dressed in fine clothes, feasting daily. And there is the poor beggar Lazarus wearing rags, hoping to eat floor scraps, with dogs licking at his boils. Which one would you rather be? It’s an easy choice. Right? Rich man or beggar? Which one do you want to be? It’s obvious…or is it, because you just heard the end of the story. Outward appearances would make it seem that the rich man is blessed and Lazarus is cursed. But appearances are deceiving.
Lazarus means, “The one whom God helps.” It seems a strange name for such a poor, pathetic person. But appearances are deceiving.
Lazarus dies. The rich man dies. Lazarus is taken to heaven, the rich man to hell. The joys of heaven are beyond human understanding and so St. Luke abbreviates it all as, Luke 16:22 (ESV) 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. …” Heaven is a place of inexpressible joy and peace and comfort and fulfillment and Lazarus is there, with
God, for eternity.
Luke 16:22–23 (ESV) 22 … The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.” The poor man is richly blessed. The rich man is in torment.
This is a full reversal of fortunes. Now, who would you rather be? The rich man or the beggar? It goes against everything the world wants you to believe, but you want to be the beggar. You want to be Lazarus, the one whom God helps.
This is a very difficult passage because it communicates a truth that is devastating to everything the world wants to teach you.
This story clearly shows the eternal consequences of the work that this congregation and school have been doing over the last 125 years. It shows the vital importance of the work we do today and the work that we will continue to do, God willing, until Jesus returns. We deliver Jesus to His people in Word and Sacrament. We baptize babies as we saw this morning with tiny Beatrix. We baptize older children and adults who come into the fellowship of Immanuel. We baptize school students who do not have a church home. We deliver Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins to strengthen you on the journey and preserve you to eternal life. We deliver Jesus’ forgiveness. We proclaim to people of all ages that Jesus died for you and has paid the price for your sins. We do this because there is good and evil, life and death, heaven and hell, and in Jesus is eternal life.
This congregation is not a social club made up of people of like viewpoints. This is God’s mission outpost here in Hamilton, Ohio bringing Jesus to this community and to the world. What we do here in this church and school has eternal consequences.
Like the billboard says on I-71 north, “Hell is real.” This is a dreadfully uncomfortable truth that so many want to dismiss as a remnant of medieval superstition, but it is true. Hell is real. We get so caught up in day to day life, and what we can see, and what we can feel that we can lose ourselves in the day to day and forget about eternity. The devil, the world and your own sinful nature want you to ignore hell, forget about hell, just get rid of hell because you don’t like it.
We hate hell as a concept. We wish there was no hell. But Jesus teaches about hell. Hell is real. Hell is real and there are so very many people who are losing themselves in the love of money and the appearances of this life. So many people are dedicated to serving themselves, rejecting God’s forgiveness and living life with themselves as their own god. They think they are living their best life now, not realizing their eternal fate.
The rich man is in such great anguish that he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and give him a drop of water to cool his tongue. But Abraham cannot. Luke 16:25–26 (ESV) 25… 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. 26And 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.’
There are warnings about hell, but people ignore the warnings. The rich man ignored the warnings and now, in torment, he wants to warn his brothers. The rich man knows the torments of hell and desperately wants to tell others, but it is too late.
God provides Moses and the prophets to warn people to reject false gods and self-centeredness and to follow the true God, but so many reject these warnings. The rich man rejected these warnings. Many of the children of Israel reject these warnings as they participate in the abominable worship of the local gods which involved orgies and child sacrifice. Many today reject God’s warnings. God, indeed, is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, but slow to anger does not mean He will never be angry. The call to repent and follow Jesus is real.
The rich man knows his brothers will reject the warnings of Moses and the prophets, but… but… if someone would go to them from the dead, then they would heed the warning. If someone rose from the dead, then they would repent.
Jesus here drops a devastating truth through the mouth of Abraham. Luke 16:31 (ESV) 31 …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.’ ”
What a sad truth. So many people have heard the amazing Good News that Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! And they reject this Good News and go one living for themselves. The soldiers at the tomb in Jerusalem saw Jesus rise from the dead and did not change their ways. The religious leaders reject the Good News that Jesus has risen from the dead. So many today have heard the Good News that Jesus rose from the dead and yet they remain unwilling to repent and follow Jesus because they are following money and power and status. The desire to live like the rich man is just too strong. There is too great a temptation to ignore the warnings and give in to the world and in so doing, choose hell. Folks do not want to heed the warnings even if someone would rise from the dead.
Everyone needs Jesus, so our work as a church and school will not end until Jesus returns from the dead. United in Christ we will speak the truth in love to a world that does not want to hear it. We will call each other and all people to repent and believe the good news. We will speak the truth and live the truth that we are like Lazarus, beggars who need Jesus.
So, today, the big question is -- are you the rich man or are you the beggar? You are the beggar. You are the one who needs Jesus. You are Lazarus, one whom God helps. You gather here each Sunday to receive what you need from Jesus because Jesus is, Immanuel, God with us. Amen.