Sunday, June 10, 2012

Feasting Sumptuously

When Luther penned his last words from his death bed, he may well have had Christ's parable of the rich man in mind, "We are all beggars. This is true."

Every one of us Baptized believers in Christ is the poor, sore-covered Lazarus, neither able to earn nor worthy of being given our daily bread—let alone the sumptuous fare of feasts.

And yet, here we are.

To hear the entire sermon preached for the First Sunday after Trinity at Trinity, Layton, "Feasting Sumptuously"--beginning with the last two verses of the Hymn of the Day, LSB #565, "Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ;" followed by the Prayer of the Church; and concluding with the closing hymn, LSB #573, "'Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee": click on the following MP3 audio link. "Feasting Sumptuously"

A servant of the Word and His folk,
Pastor Hering

If you would rather just read the sermon, or read along as you listen, the preaching manuscript follows below. However, please understand some transitions are filled in and explanations fleshed out from the pulpit that are not included in the ms.

TEXT: 19[Jesus said:] "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And 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.' 25But 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.' 27And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"
Luke 16:19-31

Dear baptized of Trinity,

When Luther penned his last words from his death bed, he may well have had Christ's parable of the rich man in mind, "We are all beggars. This is true."

Every one of us Baptized believers in Christ is the poor, sore-covered Lazarus, neither able to earn nor worthy of being given our daily bread—let alone the sumptuous fare of feasts.

And yet, here we are. Though each of us is, like Lazarus, a poor, helpless, unclean and therefore unworthy beggar covered with the sores and suffering from the ravages of our sin: we have not had not had to settle for mere crumbs fallen to the floor off some rich man's table, we have been invited—indeed carried into and seated at table of the Lord of the Feast and source of all riches "on earth as it is in heaven." We have all been given our daily bread--otherwise we would not be here, would we? Furthermore, our dear Lord has set the table of His altar, where we feast sumptuously as we are given to eat and drink the very body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in God's everlasting kingdom of heaven.

This is the most important lesson for us to take away from this parable of our Lord. But in order to get that lesson out of this parable, one must understand the context in which our Lord tells it—that is, to whom He is speaking and why? These words a few verses back from today's Gospel in Luke chapter 16, vv. 14-5 set the table for us, so to speak.

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Luke 16:14-15

By this parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus is giving the Pharisees--the rich, self-righteous, religious leaders of the Jews and thus all who follow them and look to them as the rich man from whom they will get riches of their own and sit at their feasts with them—the warning the rich man begs Abraham to send to his brothers.

As the leaders of the Jews, Jesus is speaking to those who claimed Abraham as their Father, to whom Jesus replied according to the Gospel of John: "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did." They said to him, "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God." 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." John 8:39-47

Jesus' warning is essentially the warning of Psalm 146:3-4: "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish."

We would do well to heed this warning today. We all have the sinful inclination and desire for an earthly rich man—a seemingly righteous king—with whom we can rub elbows and get at least piece of the feast at his table and a taste of his success as we look down at those who are not cut of the same royal cloth or belonging to the same royal family as are we.

Do you hear that dear Missouri Synod Lutherans? While we are all indeed Lazarus, we all too often are found to be living like the rich man, or at least the rich man's entourage. Too often we name and claim the Synod and our affiliation with it as our Abraham—our ticket to the feast and testament to our share of the wealth.

Too often Synod willingly plays the rich man.

But what is Synod? Convention, Convocation, and Congregational Voters' Assemblies to which we look for our guidance and from which we derive our identity.

And none of us is immune from, or stands above this sin. I have played the rich man in the past, playing fast and loose with the Sacrament here in the early days of my ministry here as your pastor. And doing so as a DELTO vicar who had yet to be ordained, thus undermining the Office of the Ministry in the eyes and hearts of God's people.

I have repented and been absolved—and ordained.

Yet the sin of Synod was greater and we as Synod have yet to repent of it. The program itself, while teaching the Confessions well, also undermined that very confession when it came to the office by both what it taught (pastoral heart and discretion, read will, rather than God's heart and will as clearly revealed in His Word) and what it practiced.

And some of that continues today: in our pulpits and at our altars where men yet to be ordained-- which signifies to the Church that a man has been rightly and regularly called—publicly preach and administer the Sacraments; in the DRP that puts a panel above the Office of the Keys, and in congs. that place VAs over the Word of God in dispensing of faithful and rightly called servants of the Word.

But if we are going to claim to be in the bosom of Abraham let us do so rightly.

And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" 31 And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:29-32

Luther tells us that Abraham's bosom is the Word of God. Hebrews 11 confirms Luther's explanation.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. . . . [Abraham] died in faith . . . By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead."

Abraham's faith, like all faith according to the apostle Paul, comes from hearing the Word of God [Romans 10:17], by which Abraham, the Apostles, and even you and I receive the promises of God.

Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the Word, Who became flesh to dwell among us [John 1:14]. In this flesh He did not become like the rich man, but he became like Lazarus. And when He, a lowly Lazarus bearing the sin of the world died and rose from the grave, He Himself was and remains to this day The Angel of God who bears every Lazarus, every baptized believer, in His flesh to the bosom of God, the Father in heaven.

God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7

Finally, if this Gospel parable is about Jesus for you, it must be about His church, for that is where the Holy Spirit "calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith [the bosom of Abraham]." [SC Creed Art. III] In other words, His church is the kingdom of heaven on earth where the Holy Spirit show[s] the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Christ's church is not to be the rich man, clothed in purple [or blue] and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day, flaunting the riches of the Gospel while ignoring the little people, even their nose around them who are hungry and in pain.

But let not your hearts be troubled, dear baptized of Trinity, dear Lazarus's all. Whatever your status in the eyes of the world--no matter your outward appearance, size, or success as measured by earthly standard--you have been carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham, that is the Word of and Him made flesh, and therefore to the right hand of God our Father in heaven in your Baptism by the work of the Holy Spirit who forgives sins by calling, gathering, and enlightening, and sanctifying you in the holy Christian Church where you feast sumptuously on the daily bread of forgiveness of sin--in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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