Sermons by Pastor Walter Snyder plus announcements, articles, videos, and anything else that doesn’t fit Ask the Pastor or the Luther Library.

25 September 2016

Installation Sermon: Life for the Dead

Preached on Luke 16:19-31
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 21C
The Installation of Pastor Brian J. Thorson
25 September AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Life for the Dead.

Bronnikov's Lazarus Summary: If one were looking for a Scripture that shows what God desires in a pastor’s character, the appointed epistle for today is a wonderful fit. I certainly referenced it in this sermon. However, today’s Gospel sits at the heart of the message entrusted to pastors and their congregations: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”

Jesus told the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus sometime before His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. It would be years before the Evangelists and Apostles recorded His life and carried the Gospel forth into the world. Yet even then, the Scriptures we now know as the Old Testament were sufficient for salvation, for they already declared divine judgment against sin and proclaimed forgiveness by God’s grace through faith.

In telling this story, Jesus certainly has an eye on love for our neighbors, particularly the poor and helpless among us. Yet the emphasis finally isn’t on the Law’s demands to care for the poor and it certainly isn’t that the poor are righteous and the rich wicked.

Instead, Jesus shows how we are either trapped by or else escape from the consequences of our sinful natures. Poor Lazarus isn’t saved by his poverty any more than is the rich man damned because of his wealth. And the rich man’s brothers wouldn’t be saved by the miracle of a dead man coming back with the threats of the Law. Their salvation would depend upon believing the Scriptures, knowing the depth of their sins and trusting the greatness of God’s forgiveness.

Jesus fulfilled the promise of the Old Testament but He didn’t negate its content. People are still saved by hearing Moses and the Prophets — and the Evangelists and the Apostles — and by believing that God forgives their sins for Christ’s sake. The message remains the same: The harsh, absolute, unwavering condemnation of sin by the Law drives sinners to despair their own righteousness while the sweet, healing, absolute forgiveness of any and every sin through the Gospel brings peace, joy, and the promise of everlasting life with God for all who believe.

No sign, not even a dead man coming back to life, will create and sustain faith. We have a concrete example of this when Jesus called a dead man — one also named Lazarus — forth from the tomb. Those who already trusted God rejoiced while those who persisted in denying and resisting Jesus instead plotted to kill Him and the very man whose life He’d just restored (John 11:45-53).

Only the Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word, can crush sin-hardened hearts with the Law and restore shattered sinners with the Gospel. The content of saving faith remains simply and solely the forgiveness of sins we receive in the Gospel and Sacraments. And only God's grace received through faith will bring us to the joys of eternal life with Moses and the Prophets, with Evangelists and Apostles, with Abraham and Abraham's God.

Luke 16:19-31 Text: [Jesus said,] “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 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. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.

“The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 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.’

“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.’

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

“And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

“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.’” Luke 16:19-31

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Life for the Dead

Illustrations: Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Gate by Fyodor Bronnikov, 1886. Folio 78 recto from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, Lazarus and Dives.

NB: A few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio with Windows Media Player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 146; Amos 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:1-13

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