Trinity 1 (Lk 16, 19–31; Gen 15, 1–6)

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There was a certain rich man, and there was a certain poor man, whose name was Lazarus.

᛭ INI ᛭

What’s in a name? Depends on the name! God’s name. Your name. Anyone’s name. This parable—is it a parable? It is. Context proves it is.—this parable isn’t about the proper use of wealth. The first clue to that is the names, which is piece to this parable that we brush over. The final clue comes at the end: “They have Moses and the prophets… If they don’t listen to [them], neither will they be convinced when someone rises from the dead.” More here than just how to spend your money.

There was a certain rich man, and there was a certain poor man, whose name was Lazarus. What’s in a name? As far as this parable is concerned, everything! When you consider the names, everything else in the parable starts to make sense. And really it all comes down to this:

THOSE WHOM THE LORD HELPS ARE HELPED—SAVED!—FOREVER.

(I. It’s not a matter of class or action or reputation.)

“The Lord helps”—That’s Lazarus or Eliezer. (Same name different languages.) Literally it’s “God is My help.” What about the rich man? He has no name. Sometimes he’s called “Dives” which is just Latin for rich, but, in the parable Jesus tells, he’s nameless. He’s just “a certain rich man.”

How rich? Very. “He dressed in purple and fine linen.” He had clothes fit for a king (Prov 31:22), clothing that matched the material of the tabernacle and the clothing of the high priest’s vestments. (Ex 25:4, 26 passim, 27:16, 28 passim) Not only that: “He feasted sumptuously every day,” that is, every day at his house was a fancy, swanky dinner party.

If he had all that wealth, he surely would’ve had his name on many things. Many deeds. Lots of property. Lots of things. Lots to his name. Maybe even a pillar of the community, but Jesus leaves that aspect to our imagination. (No class warfare here: we’re all wealthy by the standards of Jesus’ day.)

Yet in spite of all of the rich man’s things, all his fine clothing, all his feasting and partying, he has no name. Why is the rich man nameless? Well, to help us understand that, we’ve got to look at the other character in Jesus story. We need to consider Lazarus.

Lazarus had nothing. He was nothing, by worldly standards. He was a beggar. Covered in nothing but sores. He was better of dead. His only friends were dogs, “who licked his sores.” (Dogs in Jesus’ day were not considered household pets. They were vermin, who hung out with the dying, the dead. But yet he’s named.

It’s not a matter of station, or what you can do or offer, or what you own, have owned, will own. There’s no need to make a name for yourself, no legacy needed. We care about such things. Too much! Deeds and titles and ownership—stuff! We care about how our name will live on in this life. But none of that matters: It’s all a matter of whether or not God knows your name.

“Jesus kept quiet about the rich man’s name and mentioned the name of the poor man. The rich man’s name was thrown around, but God kept quiet about it. The other’s name was lost in silence, and God spoke it. Please do not be surprised. God just read out what was written in his book…. You see, God who lives in heaven kept quiet about the rich man’s name, because he did not find it written in heaven. He spoke the poor man’s name, because he found it written there, indeed he gave instructions for it to be written there. (Augustine)“

(Transition)

Lazarus’ name was written in the Lamb’s book of Life. He was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. He was a true son of Abraham, and not the rich man. Paul says that those who believe are Abraham’s offspring (Gal 3). After all, “Abraham believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15)

But it’s not just that Abraham believed out of the blue. It had to do with what the Lord said, promised, and did. “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” That’s what the Lord is and promises. That’s how He helps, saves: He is the shield, He is the great reward, which is received by faith.

THOSE WHOM THE LORD HELPS ARE HELPED—SAVED!—FOREVER.

(II. It’s the Lord’s action received by faith alone.)

The Lord acted for Abraham’s benefit. He called him as His own not on the basis of Abraham’s good deeds. Abraham believed in the false gods of Ur of the Chaldeans. That’s where he was from. The Lord made a promise to save mankind, and He kept that promise in Abraham. So, He called Abraham to faith and kept him the faith unto life everlasting through His continual promises.

Lazarus, since he was brought to Abraham’s bosom, which is just a roundabout way of saying “God’s presence,” got there by faith alone. He was kept believing and trusting in what Yahweh did for him rather than what he could or did offer the Lord.

Lazarus, His name, is your comfort today. The way it was for him in Jesus’ parable is the way it is for you. You are known. The Lord acts as your shield and your reward. He helps you. He saves you. He is the shield against your sins and your suffering, even your death. He is your eternal reward. His cross and His empty tomb are the fulfillment of His Old Testament prophets.

Nothing changes the fact that you are known, known by name. It’s all in His name! You are baptized. That is where you were placed into God’s Name. Where His naming you in His book was made yours.

“If riches increase set not your heart on them,” the Psalmist says. Those things have your name all over them. Don’t trust to them, cling to them. You have God’s name all over you: You’re baptized. That means He’s helped you—all the way to cross, death, and resurrection. Nothing can undo Calvary or the empty tomb, and so nothing can undo the promises made to you at Baptism, nothing can undo God’s name which He gives you.

You can exchange it for your stuff—like the rich man. That ends in your eternal ruin. What are you afraid of loosing? There your false god. There’s no protection, no shield, no lasting reward there.

The Lord has claimed you as His own. You are His reward, His heritage, that is, His inheritance. The Lord named you with His named at the font, even as the Son died and rose for you. There He helps and saves. And

THOSE WHOM THE LORD HELPS ARE HELPED—SAVED!—FOREVER.

(Conclusion.)

“There was a certain rich man.” No name rich man. Maybe priest. Maybe king. Doesn’t really matter. Who’s Lazarus? (Him whom God helps) Child of God.

One is clothed in purple and fine linens. One is covered with sores, but he was clothed with some far more precious than anything in this world: God’s own righteousness that covered all his sins. The rich man was covered by nothing except his own personal righteousness, which as Isaiah says, are “filthy rags.”

You are clothed in Christ’s righteousness in Holy Baptism. You are known. You are died for. You are risen for. You are baptized. No matter your baptismal name, no matter your circumstance, you can rejoice, you can believe, that you are a little Lazarus, that is, “one who has been helped.” (Jerome) And

THOSE WHOM THE LORD HELPS ARE HELPED—SAVED!—FOREVER.

᛭ INI ᛭

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