Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 19

"Richly Oblivious to Mercy"

Luke 16:19-31

September 25, 2016

Picture this. Hollywood. The street is lined with oversized mansions surrounded by tall walls and electronic gates. Only the very wealthy live in places like this. They come and go in luxury vehicles with darkened glass windows. These cloistered ghettos of the wealthy reveal the showy seclusion of the very rich. As they come and go, they can choose to ignore the "little people," who for whatever reason, might try to intrude into their lives.

So what's changed? When you look over the course of history, human attitudes and behavior don't change. This is why we shouldn't find today's Gospel all that difficult to relate to.

Luke 16:19-31 "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. Here we meet another rich guy who lives in a big house surrounded by high walls. Instead of a limo, he and his friends travel by a litter. It's a big box carried by four guys. It has curtains to insure privacy from the prying eyes of ordinary people on the street. He and his wealthy friends enjoy all the best that life has to offer.

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. We shouldn't be all surprised that he doesn't notice the poor beggar laid at his gate. The friends or relatives of Lazarus mistakenly thought that by leaving him at the rich guy's gate, the rich would take notice of him, have pity on him and help him. Yet, the wealthy passing in and out of the rich guy's gates were oblivious to Lazarus. He remained invisible to them.

None of these rich people took notice of this poor guy. The only food he received was the garbage thrown over the wall for the scavenger dogs. The only kindness he experienced was from these same "unclean" animals. As Lazarus lay by the gate, no one noticed. No one cared. No one offered any compassion or human kindness.

Then, in the course of time, the end came to both of these two, the rich guy and Lazarus. Now, we discover the real difference between the two.

(22) The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hell, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and l saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

The rich guy is in torment. Perhaps this is why he has no name. It wasn't recorded in the Book of Life. Nevertheless, he is aware that the tables have been turned. Now, he is receiving no comfort or compassion.

(24) 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.'

There was even more bad news. When he cried out for some small comfort, he was denied even a drop of water to cool his tongue. The small acts of kindness he refused to give to others in his lifetime were now withheld from him. There was no comfort, no sympathy and no hope. Now, a little belatedly, he begins to think about others. In this case people just like him.

(27) 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.'

Surprisingly, even this request was denied. But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'

Although he was in no position to argue, he becomes rather demanding. And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'

Really? What makes him think they will be any more spiritually tuned in than he was? If they are as self-absorbed as he, they wouldn't let Lazarus through their walled gates much less listen to him if he tried to warn them. Lazarus would always have been invisible to them.

[Abraham] said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.' "

If they don't pay attention to what they do have, the Law of Moses and the warning of the prophets, they won't pay attention to a living prophet returned from the dead. Of course, Jesus is warning His enemies that if they refuse to listen to Him now, they won't believe Him after His resurrection. He will die on the cross for the sin of the world. He will die for the sins of the poor and the rich, alike. He died for our sins. Yet, that forgiveness will benefit only those who repent to their selfishness and turn to Him in faith.

What are we supposed to learn from this? It's all about now. Now, is the moment of faith. Now, is the day of salvation. Now, is the opportunity to show your love and kindness to others. As Ben Franklin reminded people, "don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." While this was meant to apply to daily life, it also has application to our life of faith.

What is mercy? It is showing love for someone who cannot fully help themselves. We are recipients of God's mercy. We could not save ourselves except that He sent His son Jesus Christ to take our sin to the cross. Because we have received mercy, we understand what it is to show mercy. In Christ we become ministers of mercy to a hurting world.

As we hear the today's Gospel, we are reminded of the importance of Christian compassion. By first reaching out in compassion to alleviate the pain of the body, the Gospel may soothe the longing soul. Now, is the time for the light and goodness of God that flows into your life to flow through you to touch the needs of others.

Amos warned the people of his time that they were far too self-absorbed. They were also like people today. It is not necessarily the wealthy who are self-absorbed. It's easy for any one of us to become so preoccupied with our lives that we ignore the needs of others. We pray that we will not be like these people.

Even if we don't consider ourselves filthy rich, we still have been blessed with much. The Lord has given us our talents, skills, gifts and abilities. We use them not only to support our lives but to serve others in the name of Jesus. Fortunately for us, the Lord forgives our selfishness. He opens our eyes and hearts to share His love with others. Picture this and you will see faith in action in Jesus' name. Amen.


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