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Don't Neglect Lazarus

September 24, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

The-Rich-Man-and-Lazarusartwork (1)

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
September 25, 2022
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 16
Don’t Neglect Lazarus 

“And the dogs came and licked his wounds.” (Luke 16:21)

It is good to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” Sacred Scripture, but even then the our duty is not done, but we must also hear Scripture read aloud in the church and sit under its instruction.

This is why God provided bishops and deacons for his church, and set high standards for them as we hear in today’s epistle; so that those men would be able to teach the faith, and lead God’s people in worship, and in holy living by their example.

And speaking of Bible teaching let us learn two things today. One concerns Biblical translation and other Biblical interpretation.

A preacher would be remiss today if he did not remind you that most English translations of the Bible are done by Evangelical publishers; and so they will often translate Scripture to suit their presuppositions. One such error is to use the word “overseer” in today’s epistle for the original Greek word “episkopos” which should be translated “bishop.” But because of anti-Roman Catholic bias, they avoid that word, and go with the generic “overseer” which could mean anything from a slave master, to the supervisor of a manufacturing firm.

But that is not what it means. Bishop is the chief ecclesiastical office of the church of Jesus Christ, and has been for 2,000 years. To learn more about that attend the Sunday or Wednesday pastor’s class. But enough fo now.

The other matter today is a matter of interpretation. Scripture must be interpreted, and is in fact always interpreted by those who read it. But not all interpretations are created equal. Today’s gospel is a prime example.

If we do a surface reading of today’s parable we will learn a great many godly things. We will learn from the Lord’s own lips that earthly opulence does not equate to God’s favor. One might “gain the whole world” but in the end “lose his own soul.” That’s what happened to the Rich Man in today’s parable. But it was not the wealth that destroyed him, it was that he worshiped it and trusted it … just like the people that Amos takes to task in today’s Old Testament lesson.

Now if you don’t relish answering for your hasty words and dark misdeeds in this world, just wait! But praise be to God that Jesus answered for us all on the cross, and that all who believe in him, and are baptized into him, will hear the following verdict in the final judgment: “'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Mt. 25:34

The Rich Man’s sin was the chief of all sins; the sin against the 1st Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” He worshiped his luxurious life; his bespoke apparel; the deluxe foods and finest wines served at his table.

He had what all of us wish we had;
and was what all of us wish we could be.

Comfortable. Comfortably comfortable and … well-cushioned against any eventuality.

His other obvious sin was that he extended no mercy to the poor but let Lazarus suffer his wounds, and starve right outside of his locked gate. Just like the Elite do when illegal aliens are transported from Texas and placed at their front door. Suddenly their kind hearts turn to stone, just sayin’.

A surface reading of this parable will also provide us with instruction about the doctrines of heaven and hell, and teach us the importance of hearing Moses and the Prophets especially as they are fulfilled by and interpreted by Jesus, the Word made Flesh, who dwells among us, in the church, full of grace and truth!

But there is another interpretation of this parable as well where Lazarus is code for Jesus, the Rich Man for all who reject him (then and now,) and Father Abraham who is cypher for God the Father: from whose bosom the Son is come to us, and returns to the same, after his glorious cross and resurrection accomplished for “the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

Yes, if we understand Lazarus to be Jesus, he who was “wounded for our transgressions,” (Is. 53:5) then we have a different frame entirely. Then it was not the Rich Man’s refusal to show kindness to the needy, though that is a terrible sin, but his deadly error was to shut Jesus outside his gates: the Christ, the Savior of the world, who alone can grant us comfort in this life, and bottomless luxury in the next. The luxury of returning to our God and true Father, and there is nothing better than that.

And so now is a good time for us to remember that "Jesus" is not simply a 5 letter word, a mental construct, or talking point. That Jesus is no help to us! But the Jesus we need is the one who incarnationally joins his indestructible life to ours. (Heb. 7:16). And so all PBS specials about “the historical Jesus” do us no good. We need the real Jesus, his flesh and blood, his humanity and divinity here and now to sterilize our sins, enlighten us, console us, and strengthen us to walk as children of the light … for “in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 Jn 1:5)

Said another way we must perceive the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ through tri-focal lenses. Through glasses that are at the same time 1) incarnational, 2) liturgical and 3) sacramental.

Which means that Christ can not come to us over the chasm of the internet, but instead he must be chanted to us aloud in the midst of the “Great Congregation” (Ps. 40:9) of the baptized, from the consecrated lips of God’s priest, into the ears of his Body the Church. The gospel that is heard amidst the prayers and praise and ardent hopes of all who come here seeking great things from our God.

“Thou art coming to a King,
large petitions with thee bring.
For his grace and power are such,
none can ever ask too much.” (TLH #459)

But even this is not the end of things. The “end” is when we do what the dogs did in today’s parable. When we “lick the wounds of Jesus” in Holy Communion! When he implore our God and Father to place the cooling waters of life, the Cup of the New Testament, on our tongues by Lazarus’ own fingers. For only this can “exalt our low desires,” only this “extinguish passion’s fires.”

And so the take away from today’s parable is this:

Don’t neglect Jesus.

But join yourself to him at the altar today!

“Join in the hymn of all creation” as we are presently doing.

For this is the Day that the Lord has made let us participate in it!

Let us commune in it!

Let us rejoice in it!

Let us “lick Lazarus’ wounds” as the vested Bishop and Deacon place the “Body of Christ” and the “Blood of Christ” on the tongues of those who were once dogs; but are now Lions who lie down with the Lamb. Amen.