Jesus tells a lot of parables, but only once does He name a main character. That happens in this week’s Gospel Lesson where we hear about a rich man (nameless) and a poor, sickly beggar named Lazarus. Lazarus is a short form of Eliezer, “The Lord is my help.” The Lord was his help when others weren’t. The rich man in the mansion didn’t even seem to notice the beggar at the end of his driveway near the garbage cans hoping for a scrap or two. The rich man wasn’t prepared for what came, even though it comes upon every single person—namely death. How foolish. Lazarus put all his hope in God and the life to come, and he received it. Jesus teaches a clear and simple truth: What seems to help in life fails in death; what seems to fail in life helps in death. Jesus beats death. Wealth falls short. Get Jesus!
The prophet Amos is even blunter than Jesus in our Old Testament Lesson. But that’s what prophets do. They proclaim God’s Law and Gospel fearlessly in times when many refuse to listen and some even threaten them. Amos was sent to preach during a time when people were complacent about true religion, only going through the motions at best. Nonetheless doom and judgment hadn’t come (yet!) Things were going well for both Israel and Judah (for the moment) and as a result the elite members of society had become arrogant, self-serving, party-going worldlings, even though they were still God’s people, at least in name. God sent Amos to warn them sternly, “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you distinguished people of the leading nation, to whom the house of Israel comes. … You who are trying to put off the evil day, you bring near the session for violence! …Drinking large bowls of wine—they slather themselves with the most expensive perfumed oils, but they do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. That is why they will go into exile as the first of the exiles. Those who sprawl out at their feasts for the dead will depart.”
In our Epistle Lesson God reminds us simple “non-elite” Christians to live a chaste and decent life of faith, knowing that God will reward our trust in life by caring for us, and then He will take us to heaven on angels wings like Lazarus. “‘I will never leave you, and I will never forsake you.’ So then we say with confidence: ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid.’”
Our Sermon will focus on the Old Testament lesson. Amos condemns the “elite” in Israel for boasting about their prosperity but not grieving over the state of the faith and the church (“the ruin of Joseph”). So God asks us this question in our time and land: “What Makes You Boast or Grieve?”
This Week’s Lessons: