In our Lord's parable about "The Rich Man and Lazarus," it's a story about light and dark, good and evil, the powerful and the weak, or, is it?
Do not confuse the man Lazarus in this story with the one who Jesus loved very much (see John 11). The 'other' Lazarus was the brother to Mary and Martha and was like a brother to our Lord. He is the one whom Jesus raised from the dead after being in the grave for four days. This is not the same man mentioned in this story about light and dark, good and evil.
The man Lazarus in Luke 16 was poor, sick, weak, and starving. He had no sense or way to make himself better other than to hope for the table scraps of the wealthy man in the story. One gets a sense that this didn't happen too often either! He was so weak that dogs off the street - who probably also fought him for the same refuse in the garbage (and because the dogs were stronger than Lazarus), they probably won that battle more times than he did.
In the story, Lazarus dies and is carried to the arms of Abraham. Then the rich man dies and ends up in Hades. When the rich man begs for mercy, Abraham tells him that he can't help him because of the great chasm that has formed between God and humanity.
The rich man then begs again for Abraham to send Lazarus to his house to warn his family-to which Abraham replies that they have "Moses and the prophets" to guide and inspire them. "But," the rich man pleads, "they will believe if someone goes to them from the dead." (vs. 30) Abraham rebuts him by saying that if they won't listen to the Word of God then they also won't believe even if someone comes back from the dead.
You see, traditions and history are nice - they serve a purpose for us in life; and momentous events in that history are important to lift up awareness of what has happened on our behalf. But - none of them are worth anything unless we first can trust God and His Word. It is in His Word where we find the truth about who God is and what He means to us and to the whole world.
I believe that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. I believe with all my heart that He did this to show His love for all of His children.
But - as Dr. Luther once said - it is not the emptiness of a tomb or a barren cross, but the fullness of Christ out in the world that shows that Jesus is truly resurrected and alive, That comes to us through the Word of God, of which we must put our trust and faith.
It's not in traditions (which Abraham represents for me in this parable) or in the great chasms that we (not God) have created between us and heaven, but simple faith. "All who call on the Lord's name will be saved." Here, Romans 10:13 tells it plainly. No denomination, certain form of worship, style of praise, or tradition will ever save a person. Salvation comes from God and it is given solely through faith.
"We consider that a person is treated as righteous by faith, apart from what is accomplished under the Law."
(Romans 3:28) We cannot do anything that can improve our relationship with God, or even our salvation. Only faith - that originates from God - can save us.
So - when Jesus talks about traditions and chasms and momentous events in this famous parable, it is all overwhelming and we are lost - without faith. Resurrection becomes a trick and our traditions become useless. But, with faith in God's Word prominent in our hearts, the truth of Jesus Christ shines full with His salvation for us, and for all who come to believe!
As the time for Reformation approaches, renew your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Read His Word and reflect upon it daily. Let it flow into you and give you rest and peace in this hectic world. Know that God is Lord and share it every way you can. Then, through faith, others come to know this truth that is as old as life itself.
To God be the glory, now and forevermore,
To our congregational family,
Grace and Peace are yours in abundance! Amen.
Thank you again - all - for your love and patience - your thoughts, cards, e-mails, and prayers - for Ashley in our first month away from you.
Thank you to our wonderful staff who have had their hands and hearts full - of work, ministry, and mission; I am truly grateful for them all.
Ashley has done well. She now is in recuperative mode for the next month as she prepares for her second surgery (hysterectomy and reconstructive surgery) which is set for November 8. We think that her recovery for this surgery will take around 4 weeks, putting back in Johnson City around December 8 or so. She and David are doing well together and also appreciate all of your thoughts, prayers, and kindnesses.
Mary Alice and I miss you all very much. We are being fed in ways by being with family here; caring for Lennon and Taylor is truly a blessing. We've been able to have some different worship experiences and that has been helpful as well. There isn't much time for a lot of other things - helping out with the grandchildren does require much time and effort, but still - loving every minute of it. Thank you again for being so understanding about this for us.
We request your continued prayers for Ashley's progress and for the family as a whole through it all.
Peace be with you all!
Pastor Jim and Mary Alice