September 25, 2016
Text: Amos 6:1,4-7
I Timothy 6:6-19
Tale of Two Men
The gospel lesson this morning tells the stories of two men. Their experience of life seemedtotally opposite. One was dressed in purple and ate rich food while the other lay outside his gateshungry and covered with sores- content to just have the chance to eat even a crumb fallen fromthe rich man’s table. But it isn’t a story of earthly wealth, it is the story of spiritual wealth.When they died, it was the man who physically had plenty to eat on earth who was the hungryone when he died-content to just have his tongue cooled with a drop of water from the finger ofthe man who had laid outside his gates covered with sores. It is the story of mankind and ofJesus, the bread of life. Will you pray with me?One day, the poor man died-his death hardly noticed. Angels carried him away to be withAbraham. The rich man also died but found himself tormented in Hades and for the first time heunderstood what it was like to be at someone’s mercy- hungry and thirsty for everything andanything.Looking up from his agony, he could see Abraham far off with Lazarus by his side. As he laytheir in agony, he dreamed of being cooled-if only for a moment. If only Lazarus could dip hisfinger in water and cool his tongue, then he would be content. And so he called out to Abraham-but Abraham said: “Can’t be done- there is a great chasm separating us that is impossible tocross.”As he slumped in despair, he thought of his five brothers who were going down the same path ashe had. Urgently, he again cried out to Abraham: “never mind the water- send Lazarus to mybrothers and warn them”. It amazes me- of all the people he wanted to send to warn his brotherswas a man he had only seen and known as a filthy beggar covered with sores. Again, Abrahamreplied- “can’t do”. God has given them Moses and the prophets. They have their chance just asyou did.I see three messages here. First is that the bible tells us in Hebrews that it has been appointed formen to die once and then comes the judgement. God is a God of second chances for our wholelives here on earth until we breathe our last breath. God is patient- his kindness is meant to bringus to repentance. But once we die, there will be an accounting of our lives here on earth.Secondly, God has sent us to do exactly what the rich man from Hades wanted Lazarus to do-and that is, to warn people of the consequences of their sin- and then share the good news ofGod’s saving grace.We hear people complain and protest when they hear Christians standing up and sharing the truthof the bible. They say that Christians have no right to do that. They claim they don’t want to be
warned or be told of Jesus- but there comes a time in everyone’s lives when they will seek thetruth- and the ones they will seek out first will be those they persecuted the most yet stood firmin their faith. Why? Because they know those who are willing to forsake all and even die for theirfaith are the ones who have what they want and need.Saul the Pharisee had made it his life’s mission to persecute the followers of Jesus. And then oneday on the road to Damascus- on his way to arrest Christians and bring them to trial, JesusHimself confronted him and his life was changed. And then God sent him to who? The verypeople he was on his way to arrest.Writing to the Romans, this very man who tried to stop the spread of the gospel, now known asthe apostle Paul said this: “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in ourheart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart andso is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” He goes on to say: “but how aremen to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him ofwhom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can menpreach unless they are sent?”Too many of us too many times I’m afraid- have shied away from sharing the gospel with otherswhen given the opportunity because it makes us nervous and uncomfortable. But sharing thegospel is not about us being comfortable- it is about the lives of people who are starving to knowJesus. What does being uncomfortable and nervous have to do with anything? Before I go on, Imust confess that I am preaching to myself first of all. It is my prayer that you and I be sensitiveand obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.But the question still remains: why did the rich man want Lazarus of all people, to be the one tocool his tongue and warn his brothers instead of Abraham?It makes a difference how we preach as much as what we preach. The gospel becomes personalwhen it is shared in a personal way. Someone sharing a word and prayer who understands whatsomeone is experiencing because they have been there before can share the gospel in a powerfulway.The rich man may not have taken much notice of Lazarus while on earth- perhaps because hissuffering made him uncomfortable. But now, knowing what it was like to suffer himself, andknowing Lazarus knew first-hand what suffering was about, they were now brothers- andbecause of that, he was drawn to him.Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount: “blessed are those who hunger and thirst forrighteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” It is hunger and thirst that motivates people to seekfood and water. It is hunger and thirst for righteousness that moves people to seek God with theirwhole heart and mind. God is able to take the hardest things in life and redeem it for good. Itseems those who are going through struggles in their life- makes no difference who they are orsocial status or bank account-is that when they are hungry to hear words of hope and assurance-that is when they find the bread of life- Jesus. And having experienced that- they are better to seeand understand the hunger in others.
On March 25, 1914, a baby boy was born in an upstairs room of a humble farm house nearCresco, Iowa. One hundred years later- a statue of him was installed at the US Capital building inWashington DC. During his life, he won not only the Presidential Medal of Freedom but theCongressional Gold Medal. If that was not enough, in October of 1970, he received the NobelPeace Prize for his work in genetics in wheat. He is credited for saving literally a billion peoplefrom starvation and malnutrition around the world in third world countries. Does anyone knowwho I am talking about? His name was Norman Borlaug.Because he went to bed hungry more times than he could count, he was moved and motivated bythe fact that millions of people around the world went to bed hungry. He did not set out to seekany recognition or praise for himself- he only set out to make it his life’s work to do what hecould do to feed the hungry.Jesus said: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes inme shall never thirst.” The gospel is simple, yet powerful. Those of us who understand God’samazing grace to save have a message to share in our own way- doing what we can to tell theworld the story of God’s love. It has been compared to one beggar telling another beggar whereto find food.Pray: Lord, as we drink deeply from the well of your salvation, as we are filled and nourishedwith your word- give us a burden to share you with those who are hungry for you. In Jesus name,Amen.