Sunday, June 2, 2013

Seeing with Your Ears

First Sunday after Trinity
Confirmation Day
June 2, 2013
Katie and Joseph, last week the main point of the sermon is that it’s all about you. God’s love, it’s for you. His work is all for you. His focus, it’s all on you.

Now here today you’re sitting in the front pew. You will be confessing the holy Christian faith before God and this congregation and the world. You will be strengthened in the faith in being confirmed in the faith. It’s a blessed day, and you are at the center of it.

So following up on last week’s sermon, it would fit very well to have another sermon that is all about you; for you to be the focus; for you to be the ones that it’s all about. After all, you are here because of God’s love for you.

But sorry, it’s not about you. It’s about Christ. I want you to look at that cross and see there who it’s about. It’s about Christ and His suffering and death. It’s always about Christ, it always flows from Him, always centers in Him, always revolves around Him. It’s not about you.

As you are to be confirmed in the faith, I want you to see that. That’s the reason we have this huge cross overlooking the sanctuary. It’s a constant reminder to you that it’s always about Him. Each time you enter this sanctuary, you can readily see that it’s not about you, but about Him. Who He is and what He has done is what is at the center of your Confirmation today and your life in Christ forever.

You can see this in the Gospel reading today. When you look at it it seems that it’s about Lazarus; that poor man who was destitute outside the gates of the fabulously wealthy man. Lazarus had nothing. Well, except pain and sorrow. What he had was not what any of us want to have. We’d much rather be inside the palatial house of the rich man, who had far more than he needed.

But when poor Lazarus died he found himself in heaven. He found himself experiencing far more than he could ever imagine. Riches beyond what he could ever have expected or dare to hope for. But the other man, the one who seemingly had it all in this life, had nothing. Nothing, that is, except eternal torment in hell.

Lazarus ends up experiencing eternal glory in contrast to his wretched existence here on earth. Is this story about him? No, just as today is not about you, but about Christ, the story of Lazarus is not about him, but Christ. You can see this in the way Jesus tells this story.

Jesus didn’t tell us about just a poor man, but about a guy named Lazarus. He had a name. That’s because God knew this man. He knew him as his own dear child. This is because of Christ. This story is really about Him.

Lazarus had a name. He was known by God. And as we end up seeing, he had everything. On the surface the rich guy had everything. But the Bible teaches us that it is when we are weak that we are strong, that when we are foolish we are wise, that when we have nothing we have everything. This was Lazarus. He had nothing. Therefore he had everything. This is so because he had what the rich man didn’t have: Christ. For the rich man, gold and fine clothing, and sumptuous feasts, and pretty much anything else he wanted, was his god. He had everything, therefore he had nothing. He wanted everything but Christ, therefore he had nothing.

We know Lazarus knew Christ as his Lord and Savior because of what we see when he died. Those who are in Christ die, but they will not end up in eternal torment. Rather, it is heaven they receive. Eternal glory beyond compare. Glory and riches that make the wealth of the rich man look like a beat up penny on the street that’s not even worth picking up.

When Lazarus died he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. In this life he was covered with sores. Now in heaven he was clothed in heavenly splendor, cleansed of all wretchedness, and in his eternal home with Father Abraham. The promise first given to Abraham was fulfilled in Christ. The promise to Abraham that he would be the Father of many nations was brought about through Christ. That’s how Christ is pointing you to Himself in this story. Lazarus was brought to his eternal home because he was the recipient of that promise of Christ to Abraham.

The rich man now saw that all his wealth he enjoyed in this life was not worth anything. What he looked to for his ultimate good availed him nothing at his death. His desire in this life was to be apart from God and so for eternity that is exactly what he would experience in hell.

But he had brothers who were still living. Maybe they could escape this torment. Abraham, send Lazarus back to warn them! Abraham cut him short. Not only was it not going to happen, it wouldn’t do any good. Yes it would!—the rich man just knew it. If someone were to rise from the grave to give warning, they would heed that warning. No, Abraham knows that there is only one thing that will change the hearts of people. It is the Gospel. A miracle won’t do it. Convincing won’t do it. Even resurrection from the dead won’t do it.

Only the Gospel. Only the Word of God which tells us of our sin, of our deserving of eternal punishment, and the Word of God which tells us also that there is hope for us. Only the Gospel, Jesus’ death and resurrection for the sins of the world, will bring people to new and eternal life that escapes the eternal torment of hell. Abraham told the rich man that his brothers had exactly what he had had in his lifetime, Moses and the Prophets; that is, the Word of God, the Bible. It alone tells us of who it is always about. Christ. Christ and Him crucified. Christ, the Savior of all, who died for the sins of all. That’s why you must always go back to the cross, rather than looking or hoping for some amazing way God will reveal to you what you need to know. You know. It is all given to you in His Word.

When I urge you to look to the cross I am urging you to look to Christ. Urging you to look to Christ is pointing you to the places, or ways, He comes to you. I am urging you to look to your Baptism. I am urging you to this altar where you will receive often the very body and blood of your Lord. I am urging you to see with your ears. Hear the Gospel proclaimed. This is where you will hear that, in your Father’s House. Here is where you will receive the Gospel, the very forgiveness of your sins.

This is what I want you to see. I don’t want you to see with your eyes, but your ears. The seeing you have is not sight that your eyes give you, but knowing. Knowing who your Lord and Savior is. Knowing that He is always for you and with you, just as He was with Lazarus. Just like Lazarus, you have nothing you can give Him, but in Him you have everything. When you are weak, you are strong. When you have nothing you have everything. Not only did that rich man’s brothers have the Word of God, you do too. Hear it. Receive it. Rejoice in it.

And in seeing the cross, in remembering your Baptism, in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, in hearing the Gospel, you will see Christ at the center, the one who is always for you and who always comes to you with His forgiveness, love, and eternal salvation. Amen.


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