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The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost C – September 25, 2022

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The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost C – September 25, 2022

In his Small Catechism, Luther sets before us clearly the purpose of the Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”  Luther gives its meaning, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not neglect his Word or the preaching of it but gladly hear it and learn it.”  Grasping this meaning is essential for understanding the disagreement between Abraham and the rich man.

The rich man enduring the torments of Hades first asks for mercy from Abraham in the form of servanthood from Lazarus.  Abraham appropriately chastises him with a reminder of the quid pro quo of eternal punishment or eternal reward.  Almost as an aside, Abraham also indicates that the mercy requested is impossible because of the great chasm between them.  The rich man then asks for mercy on behalf of his five brothers.  He requests that Lazarus be sent as one miraculously raised from the dead so that his siblings would be warned.  Abraham responds with an insistence on plainly hearing and believing the Word of God.  The rich man entreats Abraham once more, insisting on the convincing power of miracles, especially someone risen from the dead.  But Abraham remains insistent as well:  Belief (convincing) comes from hearing Moses and the Prophets, not from witnessing a miracle.

Encapsulated in this parable, you will find the centuries-long struggle within the Christian church regarding miracles and their relationship to the Word of God.  The Apostle Paul confronted the Corinthian church by exposing its desire for both signs and wisdom, but Paul would only preach Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 1:22-23).  Jesus himself claimed that this sinful and adulterous generation would receive no sign but the sign of Jonah (Lk. 11:29).  To expect visual and experiential confirmation of the things of faith through the miraculous would, at face value, contradict Paul when he preaches, “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).  Abraham, speaking from that blessed place, contradicts the one suffering in the torments of Hades.  Miracles are insufficient to bring about repentance and belief.  Only the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God accomplishes such things.

Table Talk:  How have miracles, signs, or wonders detracted from, or enhanced, your faith?
Pray:  Heavenly Father, keep me steadfast in your Word and not distracted by the things of sight.  Amen

Luke 16:19-31 English Standard Version

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”


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