In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today the family of God got a little bigger with the Holy Baptism of Krystin. God’s family is a great, big, huge family with people from every tribe, nation, and language under the sun—all under the fatherhood of God. And our joy increases to see new souls added to God’s family. We like God’s family being big. But think about our society, and your own thoughts as a member of this society. Our society doesn’t like big families anymore. And you’ve found yourself thinking it too: “Big families are scary.” We are so convinced of this that nowadays three kids is considered a huge family. And if someone dares to go beyond three you yourself have probably thought, “You know how this works right? Don’t you know where babies come from?” Or, “Don’t you like sleep?” And the real clincher, “Don’t you like money?”
Money and the comforts that come with it are our “god”. By that I mean: it is what we fear, love, and trust above all things. You love money and get angry if someone takes it away from you (ahem, taxes). You trust in money to fix all ills even though Jesus’ parable clearly shows it can’t save from the biggest problems of life. And you fear being without money.
Meanwhile, do you love God and desire to spend one measly hour a week hearing from Him and sitting at His table so He can feed you? Do you trust Him to take care of you and yours even when money is scarce? Do you fear being without God or are you already living without Him? Repent.
We heard a story today of these two natures dominating two separate lives. Both men were Jews. Both had heard God’s Word. One was a beggar named Lazarus, whom Jesus uses as an example of the life of God born from above. He didn’t have the delights of the flesh. We might guess he had no family on earth since no one was taking care of him but the dogs licking his wounds. But in the midst of his suffering he had God’s Word of promise to Abraham that one of his offspring would bless all the families of earth (Genesis 15:1, 5-6; 12:3; 18:18b; 22:18; 26:4). They both knew that any who trust in God’s promise are members of Abraham’s family (Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:7-9), welcomed by the Father Abraham in heaven (Luke 16:22). This beggar, despite the trials of life, trusted in the merciful God who would send His own Son to save us and enlarge His family.
Right next to gutterboy Lazarus was the mansion of an unnamed rich guy. He loved his riches and delighted in the pleasures they bought. He lived for those pleasures. Those pleasures were his “god” in which he trusted. Both these men were Jews. Both knew the Bible. Both had heard of Abraham and the promises God gave to Abraham of a saviour for all mankind. Both knew that any who believe and trust in that were part of that family. But the rich guy lived for himself. He didn’t care about his bigger family. He lived for now. He lived for pleasure. He loved his money and all it bought. He trusted in that for all things. His money was his “god”. His god was a feeble god with no power to save.
This story not about rich versus poor. It is about faith. What they put their faith in is the difference between these two men.
These two men are examples of these two natures in the Christian. One trusts in anything but God and His promises. The other trusts in God and every promise He makes in His Word. You can be poor and trust in money, love money, covet money, be a miserly penny-pincher who never gives a cent to anyone or anything because it’s your “precious”, your beloved, the thing you trust, worship, and fear to be without.
Which brings us back to why big families are scary these days. Kids cost. And let’s be honest: you love your stuff. Whether you have a lot or a little. You like your stuff. Your comfort. Your lifestyle. Your camp. Your toys. Your flat screens and sports networks. Your smart phones. We are a society drowning in stuff. We all need bigger closets. More storage. Some even need to rent storage spaces because we’ve got so much stuff.
Big families force you to choose. Choose your kids and their needs for food, clothes, your love, your time, your attention, your energy. OR choose you. Your food—your “right” to go out for lunch. To go on a holiday. To have a new car. Your own personal comfort. This is why our society doesn’t like big families. Because money or comfort or lifestyle—whatever you call it----that is our “god”.
Which means we are a society of the nameless rich man. Unknown by God. People may be dying in front of us but so long as we have our fine clothes, fine houses, fine food, or whatever you choose to spend your time and money on we don’t care.
And notice that the rich guy had five brothers—a big family by today’s standards. He says to Abraham, “Send Lazarus back from the dead to warn them.” Did he actually want to save them or just wanted to show Abraham that he was one of the good guys, worthy to be saved from his lack of comfort? I don’t know. But Abraham says, “These five brothers have the five books of Moses. Lazarus listened to them even while suffering. Let your five brothers listen to those five books.”
Hearing the nail in his brothers’ coffin he says, “No, they’ll listen to someone who rises from the dead.” But Abraham says, “If they won’t listen to God’s Word (i.e, Jesus, John 1:1-3, 14; Revelation 19:11-13), then they won’t believe if someone comes back from the dead.” By this Jesus means Himself. And this has always been true. If people won’t listen to Jesus’ Word and promises then it doesn’t matter how many miracles accompany it. Jesus is His Word. He is as good as His Word which the apostles’ wrote down.
He rose from the dead. He will make good on every promise He has ever made. He loves big families both on earth and especially in heaven. He may give you a big family here on earth. If so, God be praised. Or try though you might, He may not give you any children. To which we trusters in Him say, even through tears, God be praised for God’s will is best. But like Lazarus, who had nothing, we know that He has risen from the dead. We know that He is a God able to help in time of need. Even when you die.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON