1 John 4:16-21
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
No one on earth really knows what happens after life except someone who has been there. The rich man is onto something here. If this world is all there is, then get what you can now. For you can’t take it with you. Life is suffering then you die. So live it to the full. Carpe diem and all that.
Unless... unless, that isn’t all there is. If there is more, if someone could actually tell us about what lies beyond death, if someone actually rose from the dead, He might be worth listening to.
This day, Brianna and Stephen, you are affirming that God’s Word has created faith in your hearts, that you have listened to Him who rose from the dead, that you believe Him and trust in His forgiveness and promise of salvation in the afterlife, and you seek to live your lives in the life of faith that flows from His Word, His Baptism, His Supper. But be warned. Now that you no longer are required to come to church for classes, you will be tempted away from this faith and life. It’ll be easier to sleep in, to do other things, to take jobs that demand you miss services for months, even years on end. For what? For a few dollars? For some extra rest time, which you could have had if you’d just gone to bed earlier?
We humans are so convinced that God is a liar! That He is holding out on us. That He does not give what He promises. That His commandments are idiotic. That rest can not be found in His Word of forgiveness setting your heart at peace with God on a Sunday morning, but in a few more minutes of shuteye. That true pleasure is not found in your heart delighting in the Word of the Lord nor your flesh delighting in the god-given gift of marital union with your spouse, but rather in what is just beyond God’s Law. In sneaking sexual pleasure now through fantasy, pornography, and sexual activity outside of the blessed estate of marriage. We are such fools to think that the heartbreak, diseases that get passed around, and empty loneliness of pornography, and all other forms of sexual activity apart from the blessings of marriage actually give us the life to the full that God has for us! And every commandment is the same in the gifts they give. They give life, peace, the blessings of God, a clear conscience here and now if only we’d follow them. But we think that if we even try to follow them we’ll miss out on what makes life worth living.
Repent. For true life is not found outside of God’s Word, but in it and in it alone. Lazarus suffered on this side of heaven yet He had life! He had faith that surpassed his present circumstances. It did not lessen his suffering, but it sustained him, and saw him through. In the end he was carried by the angels to heaven itself. Meanwhile, the rich man enjoyed all the vain things the world can offer. He lived in contradiction to God’s commandments. He trusted in this world and its pleasures. He was not carried anyway from this world. His body was put in the ground. And he found himself in a hell of endless torture. He’d had good things in his life. He’d taken as many good things as he could get. He didn’t care about his fellow man, nor share any of his material blessings with Lazarus who had fallen on hard times and lay dying at the rich man’s doorstep.
While his life had been wrapped in luxury on earth, in hell he was wrapped in flame, held in the very centre of it. His suffering was not merely physical torment, but the much more sever torment of a conscience that knows you’ve done the worst possible thing, you’ve rejected God, your Saviour, and life itself for a few passing pleasures. And now you are cut off from your Maker, forsaken by Him for eternity. And worse you suspect that your family members will do the same! That’s the depths of despair, with no hope to get out.
Did you hear his torment? He’s past hope for himself so he says, “Please don’t let my brothers come here too. Send Lazarus to them. They will believe one who rises from the dead.” But so many people don’t. For how many people believe in Jesus these days, the one man who can be historically proven, beyond a doubt, to have done unbelievable miracles, even to have risen from the dead. He says that His resurrection is proof of His victory over death. This, then, is the question that confronts all people on earth: if Jesus did what the Gospels say He did what does this mean?
It is a fact of history that a man named Jesus lived, died, and rose. It can be proven beyond doubt using the very laws of evidence that courts use to determine beyond reasonable doubt what happened in a murder trial. But what does this mean? What does it mean for you confirmands? What does it mean for you older folks? It means salvation is won! Repent of your distrust of God. Recognize that what you are seeking life in is merely the illusions of this world. And receive true life, true peace, true love from your God who made you, who loves you, who sent His Son to redeem you. For with Him life and everything to do with it is all gift. It can’t be earned. It can only be received just as parents give all that is needed to their children. In Christ Jesus, the man who rose from the dead, God is your loving Father. He is your source of life this day and always.
He has a life for you to live here and now. Though the bottom fall out of your world He will see you through and keep you going. This life is His Son’s life given on your behalf. Given to you. His joy, His peace, His courage, His goodness and excellence flowing in you and through you. This is a life worth living. It is a death worth dying. For when Christ comes into you you die to things of this world and are raised to new life in Christ.
That doesn’t mean you never enjoy the blessings of this earth. It means that put in their proper place you can enjoy them in the fullness, the rightness of God our Father’s intended purpose for all things. There is blessing, joy, peace, freedom in this life and in no other. For in this life, which you are now confirming your desire to be part of, Christ is giving all these things to you. He leads you. He forgives you. He restores your soul when you’ve followed the way of death. He does this all through His Word given to you every Sunday again and again.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON