On Dying Well

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First Sunday after Holy Trinty

On Dying Well

First Sunday after Holy Trinity

June 23 & 24, 2019

Luke 16:19-31 The Rich Man and Lazarus


Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Two Ways To Read A Parable


Our Gospel text for today is on the Rich Man and Lazarus.  And there are two ways that you can read this parable of Our Lord.  What is the Lord teaching here?


One way to look at it is as the world looks at it.  The world in which no one has the faith that Abraham had.  Without that faith, the parable looks like this: 

We are the Rich Man.  And we look to be the Rich Man.  And our sorrow comes when we find ourselves in a situation that may be physical or emotion but whatever it is it is a situation like we find Lazarus.  We don’t want to be like Lazarus! We work and strive to be like the Rich Man. Maybe not as rich as him, wearing richly kingly robes all the time. Having a Thanksgiving meal everyday of the week.  All year long. We might not want to be that rich, but we want to be well off like the Rich Man.  

So we see it to not quite a curse but not good luck that we end up living our lives a little bit more like Lazarus than we do the Rich Man.  But that is looking at this parable without faith. Without trust in the promises of God.

There is another way to read this parable.  This way is to read the parable the way Abraham would have read it.  In the Old Testament lesson, Abraham is upset with the Lord. The Lord had promised to be a nation of blessing to the nations.  And yet, at this time, Abraham has not received one child. And the Lord took Abram outside to count the stars in the sky if he is able.  So shall you offspring be, Abram. It’s a promise. A promise that Abram can’t see but he holds to the promise by faith. Abram trusts the Lord.  Abram believed the Lord’s promise that Abram’s children would be so great in number that they would be a nation. And this nation would bless the entire world and all the nations on the earth.

So, coming back to our parable.  When we read it like Abraham. Trusting in Christ.  Trusting in the promises our Father made to us. We read it differently.  

The Faith of Abraham

We identify, whether rich or poor, with the Rich Man.  We are more like him. We are born into this world without faith.  We strive to be a better person. To be a rich man. Even when we know that that should not be our first pursuit.  


The One in this parable who is Lazarus, who identifies as Lazarus, is Jesus Christ Himself.  He is the One born of the flesh came to dwell among us. To dwell among rich men. People who are self-made.  Whether rich or poor, people who are taking care of themselves. Into this, Jesus, God and man, is born. He walked with His disciples.  He taught His disciples. He preached in the synagogues. And He taught the faith of Abraham. The faith of trusting in the promises of God.  And He even declared that He Himself must be crucified and die in order that this promise be fulfilled for you. And that it would come to you.  And that would be blessed into a new nation. The nation of faith in Jesus. A nation that won’t pass away. Even should this world pass away. It’s an eternal nation.  It’s an eternal kingdom in which you enter by faith in Jesus.  

Jesus is THE Lazarus.  In our lives as we come to faith as we hold to these promises, what should be our pursuit if we now recognize that we should not be more like the rich man?  Who do we want to be like? What is our heavenly Father shaping us into? As we grow in the faith, we become more and more like Lazarus. More and more like Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity who is God.

Even if we have Thanksgiving meals every day.  We don’t put our trust in that. They can come or they can go.  For we have Christ.  


Good clothes.  You could be wearing a $2,000 suit.  You could be wearing a $5,000 dress. Or you could be wearing a T-shirt and torn jeans.  Clothes can come and they can go and that’s ok because your trust is in Christ. You are robed in righteousness. You are in an eternal life in an eternal kingdom.   


In good times and bad times we strive to be like Lazarus.  Lazarus believed like Abraham believed. He received his bad things in this life.  So do you. So do I. That’s part of this fallen world.  

Purgatory - Is Now Until the Day We Die


Some teach about a purgatory after death.  Actually, the Holy Scriptures don’t speak of a purgatory unless you mean a purgatory like this:  You who believe in Jesus Christ, who have all the promises of God, are living in purgatory right now.  


For you, this is as bad as it gets.  This is as bad as it gets. You might be poor in riches.  You might be emotionally or physically poor because various kinds a bad situations.  But no matter how bad things get, even should you die, that is as bad as it gets.  


For your faith is the same faith as Abraham.  You look to the heavenly Father and He says I promise that I will send my Son through the lineage of Abraham and He will be the One through whom I will forgive you all your sins.  Jesus is the One, like Lazarus, who dies a despicable death. And yet, three days later, He rises from death to life. Jesus died with your sin sores, with your sin-sickness that leads to death.   And no matter how hard we try we can’t get rid of this sin-sickness are all those sores. But Jesus takes your sins and sores upon Himself. The Father is pleased with you. And He even and promises you this: Should you die, I will send My holy angels to you.  They will pick you up gently. They will carry you to Me. That’s a promise.  


This is as bad as it gets.  This is our purgatory.  

But the Lord is with us right now.  And yet, things will be getting better.  


So without faith, we are all rich men.  


But with faith in Jesus, beginning as rich men we look to Jesus as He uses His Law and Gospel to form us and mold us into a Lazarus who even though He received many bad things in His life, he still had faith in Jesus and the eternal promises in Jesus’ name.  

You Are A Little Lazarus, A Little Christ


Only Christ is the true Lazarus.  But we are like little Lazarus’ in our day to day lives.  We see other get riches or lose riches. We receive riches or lose our riches in all different kinds of ways.  But in a little way, because we believe in Jesus we are like a little Lazarus.


We are a congregation of little Lazarus’ in this place.  Whatever we accomplish may be considered mere crumbs by many but we look to a table in which the crumbs are a full meal.  An eternal meal. By faith, we are turned into the likeness of Lazarus, like Christ. Not Christ but like Christ.  

On Dying Well - Part 1


And this is our goal in life.  This is our pursuit. To live like Lazarus believing Jesus.  Living by faith is living well. And living well prepares us to even die well.  Like Lazarus who died well because of faith in Jesus. Like Christ, who died well so that you may live well here, that you may also die well, and even rise from the grave well for evermore.

Lazarus died well.  The rich man did not die well.  Therefore Abraham is a great example for us.  

The Promise

Actually, like I said earlier, Abraham was upset with God our Father.  He promised Abraham would be a blessing to the nations but Abraham was old.  And without one child to call his own.  


And yet God brought Abraham outside at night and said look now toward heaven.  And count the stars if you are able to count them.

And the Lord promised Abraham, so shall your children be.  


You are one of those children.  Not by blood and flesh. But by faith for you have the same faith as Abraham.  


That’s a big promise to make to a 75 year old man with no children.


That’s a big promise to receive without a little skepticism.

The Faith of Abraham - And The Faith of You

But, Abraham believed in the LORD, and the LORD counted it to Abraham for righteousness.

Abraham is righteous before the Lord.  You are righteous before the Lord. Not because you are rich.  Not because you are poor. Your are righteous you believe the Lord. 

This is the Christian faith in a nutshell.  God makes a promise. A sinner believes.


God gives His Son for you.  And you believe. And are counted righteous in the name of Jesus.  

Hell & Heaven Are Real


Yes, hell and heaven exist.  Upon death those of you without faith will go to a place of eternal torment.  Those of you with faith will be buried but the Lord’s holy angels will come to you.  Your loved ones on earth will come to you and place your body in the ground, gently and lovingly.  It will be a sad day because death is bad but it is not the end. The holy angels will carry your soul to our heavenly Father.  With the promise that one day in your death will even stand up from the grave. Body and soul rejoined. No sin. No more death. 

 

Thanks be to God you have Moses and the Prophets.  You have the Bible. You keep hearing the big promise the LORD makes to you.  My only begotten Son, God in the flesh, suffered and died so that you may live forever with the LORD in a new heaven and earth.  The Great Exchange. By faith we are changed from a rich man into the likeness of a little Lazarus, the likeness of a little Christ.  The LORD gave up Jesus to receive you.

On Dying Well - Part 2


What is the best thing that can happen around here?  


That we would all learn to live well.  That is that we would learn to live by faith in Jesus.  And by living well we would also learn how to die well. That is that we would all die with faith in Christ.


That’s why the Holy Spirit recorded the account of Abraham believing the LORD.

That’s why the Holy Spirit recorded the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

That’s why the Holy Spirit recorded Moses and the prophets.  The whole Holy Bible.


Not that you believe for a moment.  Not that you believe just in hard times.  But rather that you live by faith always. That you live like Lazarus.  That you die like Lazarus. That is you die with the same faith in Jesus that Abraham has.  Then, regardless of sin-sores and hunger for righteousness, the LORD’s angels will gather you into the arms of your heavenly Father.

Waiting with all the saints for the day of resurrection.


The Lord bless you and keep you in this faith.  Now and forevermore.  


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your body and soul in Christ Jesus.  Amen.