Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C—Proper 21)

September 25, 2016
Text: Luke 16:19-31

            Jesus paints a picture for us this morning, a study in contrast between two men: The one a rich man, clothed in purple and fine linen, feasting sumptuously every day; the other a poor man, Lazarus by name, laying at the rich man’s gate, covered in sores, longing to eat the portion of the dogs, namely, what falls from the rich man’s table.  And, indeed, the dogs are his only companions, his only comfort their licking his sores.  At first blush, the contrast seems to be that of rich vs. poor.  The story fits neatly with the narrative of our day.  Look at that rich man, sitting in the lap of luxury, who has not a care for the plight of his underprivileged and suffering neighbor.  And look at the poor sick man laying at the gate, hoping for only a crumb, undoubtedly poor because the rich man has exploited him, and is unwilling to pay his fair share.  In the narrative of our day, to be rich is to be evil, to be poor is to be virtuous.  And it is tempting to use this Gospel text in support of this thesis.  But not so fast!  That’s just not the point of our text.
            The point is not that the rich man is evil insofar as he is rich.  The point is not that the poor man, Lazarus, is righteous insofar as he is poor.  Nor is the point that the rich man would become righteous by sharing his riches with Lazarus.  For all we know, the rich man regularly gives alms to poor Lazarus, as is the honorable thing to do in Jesus’ day, and would explain why Lazarus is laying at this particular gate.  It is good to give alms.  We should do it.  But that is not how one becomes righteous.  The point is this: The rich man looks to his riches to provide him with good things now.  Poor Lazarus looks to God to give him an inheritance that cannot perish, spoil, or fade then, in heaven, and in the resurrection of the dead.  The rich man’s faith is in his riches.  Lazarus’ faith is in God.  That’s the real contrast.  And what it comes down to is the hearing of the Holy Scriptures.  Lazarus hears Moses and the Prophets in faith that the promised Messiah will come and make all that is wrong right again by His saving work.  The rich man hears Moses and the Prophets as, at best, a Law to be kept and so gain favor from God, at worst, a mere distraction to the real work of this life.  In either case, for the rich man, his riches are proof to him of his righteousness.  He deserves these riches.  He has earned them.  The very heavens smile down at him.  And this Lazarus, well… he’s earned his lot, too.  I’ll help him out, throw him a few crumbs and a few coins now and then, let him sleep there on my porch and keep warm with the dogs.  But he obviously doesn’t have God’s favor like I do.  Just look at him, the poor, dirty, pathetic corpse of a man.  Well, so it goes.  Let’s not let it ruin a good dinner. 
            The rich man takes the short view.  What matters is this life, the riches and rewards one can enjoy now.  Lazarus takes the long view.  Present circumstances, good or bad, have a short shelf-life.  They are only for a little while.  But God has promised good things to come for those who trust in Him.  Moses and the Prophets were given to tell of the coming One, the Savior, Messiah, who will save us from our sins.  He will free us from slavery to sin and death, drown our enemies in the Red Sea, and bring us through the wilderness of this life into the Promised Land of His Kingdom.  Now there is suffering.  Then there will be comfort.  Now death appears to have won.  Then the victory of life will be manifest.  Now there is sorrow and sadness.  Then God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  And so it is that Lazarus’ hope in God, in Messiah, in Jesus, is fulfilled, as the angels carry him to Abraham’s bosom, in other words, heaven.  There he receives his good things.  The rich man, who believes in his riches and ultimately in himself, receives everything money can buy, which, in the end, is nothing.  The rich man also dies, just like Lazarus.  Except the rich man had no hope in Jesus.  He did not believe in God.  He believed in riches.  And now he is in hell.  In this life, Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, but he trusted in God to deliver him.  Now he is satisfied with heaven’s bounty.  In this life, the rich man feasted sumptuously, trusting that his riches would never give out, that God would always reward a good man like him.  Now he longs for Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool his hellish tongue.  The tables have been turned.  The contrast is not one of money.  The contrast is one of faith.
            It is tempting to live for the good things of this life, ensuring our comfort and satisfaction now, at the expense of faith in Christ and love toward our neighbor.  By nature, we fallen human beings take the short view, this life, now, the 70 or 80 years we’re given to live on earth, and maybe the legacy we leave for our children and grandchildren.  What does not come naturally to fallen sinners is the long view, that trusts in God to provide all things needful for body and soul, receives the good things of this life as pure gift from God, and when the bad things come, waits upon God to deliver for the sake of Christ, His Son.  The long view, which is to say, faith, is not something we can drum up within ourselves.  It is not something we decide or will into existence.  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him…”[1]  “I believe that I cannot believe,” we confess in the Small Catechism.  But the Holy Spirit does it by the Word.  Faith is a gift from God.  To believe in Jesus is something that God does in you.  How?  Holy Scripture.  Moses and the Prophets.  The Bible.  The preaching.  The Word made visible in the Sacraments.  That is how faith in Christ is given.  The rich man wanted Lazarus to go back and warn his unbelieving brothers.  But they had Moses and the Prophets.  They had the Word.  And as for them, so for you and me.  If you do not believe the Word, neither will you believe if someone should rise from the dead. 
            And that’s where the irony hits us between the eyes.  Someone has risen from the dead, and that changes everything.  That is the fulfillment of Lazarus’ hope, and yours.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  He died… You cannot rise from the dead unless you are good and dead… He died, not for any sin He had committed, but for your sins, for you, in your place.  He suffered your punishment.  Your death.  He was nailed to the cross, pierced for your transgressions, and by His wounds you are healed.  By becoming in His precious Body all that is wrong, He makes everything right for you.  He suffers and is rejected.  Rich men walk by and scoff.  Poor men mock Him.  His wounds ooze, and there are not even dogs to comfort Him.  He thirsts.  He longs for a fingertip of water to cool His hellish tongue.  He suffers your hell.  And He dies.  Your death.  He is buried.  Your tomb.  And He rises from the dead.  Your life.  Because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, in His Body, His holy angels will carry your soul to Abraham’s bosom, heaven, when you die, and on the Last Day the risen Lord Jesus will call you out of the grave.  He will raise you from the dead.  In your body.  Made like His resurrection Body.  Perfect.  Healed.  Whole.  And you will receive your good things then, and forevermore.
            And what if you’re rich now?  What if you enjoy good things now?  Praise God!  He gave those things to you.  Give thanks, and whatever you do, don’t put your trust in them.  They could be gone in a moment, and you won’t take them with you when you die.  But God has given them to you to help your neighbor.  So go find a Lazarus and make an investment in your neighbor that will last on into eternity.  And what if you’re poor now?  What if you’re sick or suffering, worried about what you’ll eat, what you’ll wear, where you’ll live?  Praise God!  You do have some good things or you wouldn’t be alive.  These are gifts from God.  Receive them with thanksgiving.  But remember, things don’t save you.  Things don’t make you right with God.  Jesus does.  And after all He paid for you on the cross, to make you His own, He won’t forsake you now.  Trust Him.  He’s given you a cross to bear, now, for a little while.  But He will provide for you, and your good things await you in the end, with Him, in heaven.  Rich or poor, we put no trust in the stuff of this life.  The real good things are the things Jesus gives: His Word, His Body, His Blood, His righteousness, His life, His peace.
            And just so you know and believe that the good things are coming in all their fullness, He gives you a little foretaste here and now.  He’s set a Table.  And there’s a place for you.  Yes, you, laying there in your festering wounds and sins.  Yes, you, caught by your wealth or your worries, obsessed with the short view of things.  Yes, you.  You.  There is a place here for you.  This Feast keeps your eyes focused on the long view.  Here, heaven breaks in, Jesus is present, and He feeds you with Himself.  Gathered around this Table with you are angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, Father Abraham and Lazarus and all your loved ones who died in the faith.  Gathered around this Table are brothers and sisters in Christ from all times and places who look to Jesus to feed them and deliver them.  Here are the good things.  Take and eat.  Take and drink.  Jesus is the good thing.  He died for you.  He is risen for you.  Here He gives Himself for you.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.            

[1] Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C—Proper 20)
September 18, 2016

Text: Luke 16:1-15

            Of course, for my first Sunday here with you our Holy Gospel would be one of the most difficult texts in Scripture.  The difficulty is that Jesus seems to be commending dishonesty, or shrewdness as Jesus puts it more charitably.  The manager was wasting his master’s possessions, and when he was caught, and it was evident that he was about to lose his job, the manager did something dishonest so as to buy the friendship of his master’s debtors.  He called them in, one by one, and reduced their debt, simply forgave a large portion of what the master was owed.  If anything, more waste, more sin, more guilt.  This is clearly a sin against the Seventh Commandment: “You shall not steal.”  And yet, Jesus commends this behavior as something we should emulate.  What is going on here?  You see the difficulty, right?

            Well, it’s not actually the dishonesty that Jesus commends.  He wants you to be truthful.  He doesn’t want you to cheat your employers.  But the point is this: The manager is banking on the mercy of the master.  The manager knows what kind of a man his master is.  He is gracious.  He is generous.  He is merciful.  The manager knows that forgiving debt is just the sort of thing his master would do.  And that kind of debt forgiveness not only reflects well on the manager and buys the friendship of the debtors, it also reflects well on the master and buys their loyalty.  Everybody wins.  The manager does a good thing and saves his job.  The master retrieves some of what is owed him and the rest becomes an investment in public relations.  And the people are freed up from the debt that has bound them for so long.  And notice the shift that has taken place in the heart and mind of the manager.  This is really a matter of faith.  He once had faith in money, namely, his master’s, which he wasted, presumably to enrich himself.  Now he has faith in the master, and in his mercy, by which alone the manager is saved.  Jesus does not commend dishonesty or cheating.  He commends faith in the master’s mercy.

            And this is what the parable comes down to.  You cannot serve two masters.  This is an either/or scenario and the application hits every last one of us where it hurts: In the wallet.  You cannot have Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as your God and serve money as lord.  Saving faith in Jesus Christ does not trust money or possessions to deliver in the day of trouble.  Luther said that whatever you fear, love, and trust in the most is your god.  Our God, the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is a jealous God.  He will not share us.  This is a matter of the First Commandment.  You shall have no other gods.  If you love wealth, if you fear losing it, if you’re counting on it for the future, you have a god named Mammon.  And who of us does not fall under that indictment?  We scrimp and save, which is fine and good in and of itself.  I’m all for wise use of money and planning ahead.  But we put our faith in what we accumulate.  We hoard it up.  We cling to it.  Or we spend it on things we think will make us happy.  Either way, we’re looking for money to deliver what is good.  We think we earn it.  We worked hard for it.  We have it coming.  We deserve it.  And so we deny the One who gives us all good things.  Instead, we worship cold, hard cash.  Money is, after all, what makes the world go ‘round.  Money talks, as we say.  It makes things happen.  It opens doors.  When we talk about someone who is successful, we mean they make a lot of money.  We gage the health of the nation on how the economy is performing, and we vote for our politicians on the basis of our pocketbook.  And even in the Church, we talk a lot about growing (and we certainly want to grow!), but all-too-often what we’re really concerned about is more givers in the pew when the plate is passed.  Rich or poor, and everyone in between, we think the answer to all that ails us is more money, more stuff.  There is a demonic power behind this idol named Mammon.  Every one of us is prone to his deception.  But you cannot serve God and money.  God will not share us with another.  Beloved in the Lord, repent.

            Our Lord Jesus Christ was born into poverty and scandal to make us poor sinners rich in His mercy.  Born of a teenage, unwed mother and laid into a manger, a feeding trough for animals, that He might feed beastly sinners with Himself, His own Body and Blood, for the forgiveness of sins.  St. Paul puts it this way: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; ESV).  Here is what Jesus does for you, you who are all tied up with worries about money, will there be enough, what will I eat, what will I drink, what will I wear, how will I retire?...  You who look to money to provide all these things, you who have Mammon for a god.  He comes down, Almighty God, to whom all things belong, and He empties Himself of His riches and glory and becomes nothing.  Worse than nothing, He becomes your sin.  And He takes that sin, all of it, to Calvary, where it is nailed in His flesh to the cross.  And your debt is paid in full.  All of it.  Not just a part.  Not even a generous portion.  The whole thing.  The record of your debt is erased.  All your sin is forgiven.  And the proof of it is what happens on the Third Day.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  In His Body.  Still has the wounds to prove it, that it is Him, the same Jesus who was crucified for you, the very Jesus who died and was buried.  He is now risen.  And just so you know, just like Thomas in the upper room, He bids you come and touch Him.  Touch that Body, those wounds, and see.  Where do you do that?  Here in the Supper.  His Body.  His Blood.  Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Placed on your tongue, poured down your throat.  The Church is born from the riven side of Christ and nourished from His wounds.

            And what is the result of all of this for you?  You’re free!  Because the demonic lie has been exposed.  Jesus alone is your Savior.  All other gods will fail you.  Money will slip through your fingers.  Money is a merciless master.  It’s never there when you need it.  But Jesus… He’s always there.  And He’s always for you.  After all, look what it cost Him to make you His own.  After all of that, He’s not going fail you now.  He will provide for you.  His Father loves you.  You God’s own child.  That’s what it means to be baptized.  He will feed you.  He will clothe you.  He will shelter you.  Yes, He will give you the cross to bear, which means you won’t always have what you want, or even what you think you need.  As a father disciplines his children, so our God disciplines us.  He gives us suffering to bear for our good.  But even this is from His Fatherly hand.  God does all things well, and He does them for your good, for your salvation.  He will always take care of you and make sure you have what you need.  Now, you should work if you can, and you should save, because God has given you these gifts as well.  But do you see how freeing this is, to know that God, the real One, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, takes care of everything?  I never really appreciated this as a kid, but Mom and Dad took care of everything.  They paid for everything.  Now, they didn’t always give me what I wanted, but they always gave me what I needed.  They always did what was for my good.  And what I really took for granted was the sacrifice it cost them to do that for me.  The work.  The sweat.  The worries.  The tears.  Of course, they didn’t need to worry.  As they took care of me, their heavenly Father was taking care of them.  And, in fact, my heavenly Father was taking care of me through them.  That is one of the reasons our God gave them what He did.  To provide for me and for my siblings and for their Church and for their neighbor who could not work and for all who were blessed by what our God had given them.

            You see, when Mammon is dethroned as a god, it is put in its proper place.  It is a gift given by our Father in heaven for the sake of Jesus Christ, His Son.  And it is given to be used for good and given away.  God blesses you to be a blessing to others.  God pours out His gifts upon you so that His gifts flow through you to your neighbor.  Like a cup that is filled to overflowing.  Go home this afternoon and hold a cup under your faucet.  Fill that cup to overflowing.  Notice how, as long as you hold the cup under the faucet, it is always full and always overflowing abundantly.  That is how the gifts of God work.  God is a never failing fountain of good.  He fills us to the brim with His good gifts.  And there is always so much good that it can overflow in love and sacrifice and generosity to our neighbor, without us experiencing any lack.  And that’s not just true in terms of money.  When you come to the Divine Service, the Lord Jesus fills you with Himself, His Word in your ears, His Body and Blood in your mouth.  He fills you to the brim with His forgiveness and life.  And you overflow.  You go love and serve your neighbor.  You bear with your neighbor’s weakness and sin.  You forgive your neighbor who has sinned against you.  You’re banking on the Master’s mercy.  That’s just the kind of God He is.  And that’s just how He would have you be.  And when you are, everybody wins.  You give and forgive.  The people receive your giving and forgiveness.  And they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

            That is what Jesus commends in this morning’s Gospel.  Not dishonesty or cheating.  Faith in the Master’s mercy.  Faith in Jesus Himself.  Faith in our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He will never fail to provide you with all that you need for body and soul.  Put no faith in riches.  Do not look to your stuff to fill you or save you.  Rest in Jesus and His saving work for you.  In Jesus, crucified and risen for you, you have everything you need.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        


Welcome to the Palouse Pastor, a blog for the new Lutheran Mission Congregation in Moscow, Idaho.  We meet Sunday mornings at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 1015 West C Street, 10:40 am (Bible Study and Sunday School at 9:30).  We’d love for you to visit.

I’m Jonathon Krenz, the brand new pastor at the Mission Congregation.  We’re a mission of Messiah Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington, a member congregation of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  You can learn more about what we believe here.

This blog will mainly be a place for posting my sermons, though I may add an occasional article or personal reflection, as well as any other information pertinent to the mission.  This is also a good place for you to ask questions or make comments.

The Messiah Lutheran + Moscow Mission is committed to Christ centered, cross focused, biblical preaching and teaching, Sacramental life together, Confessional Lutheran theology, liturgical worship, bold witness, and loving service.  Come and grow with us by receiving the gifts of Christ and resting in His forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Welcome to the Palouse Pastor, a blog for the new Lutheran Mission Congregation in Moscow, Idaho.  We meet Sunday mornings at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 1015 West C Street, 10:40 am (Bible Study and Sunday School at 9:30).  We’d love for you to visit. I’m Jonathon Krenz, the brand new pastor at the Mission Congregation.  We’re a mission of…Read more Welcome!