Bible Text: Luke 16:19-31 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016
So, what do I preach for my last sermon here? Well, Jesus, duh. Christ and Him crucified for sinners. Christ whose flesh was given into death for your sins and who was raised for your eternal life. Christ, who is the very incarnation of the Son in the flesh and the love of God for the world. And that’s what it all comes down to. Love. God is love. His love is shown in Christ. Does God love you? He loves you Jesus much! Jesus being conceived and born is God’s love for you. Jesus suffering and dying and shedding His blood is God’s love for you. Jesus rising from the dead is God’s love for you. Jesus washing you at the font, absolving you and feeding you with His own body and blood–that’s God’s love for you. God’s love for you doesn’t change and the proof is that Christ was promised long before you were ever born. Your sins have been paid for. There’s no sin you have done or will do that can suddenly cancel the promises the Lord has made to you in Christ. When the judgment of God seems to be a scary thing, and when you aren’t sure which side of that chasm you’re going to be on, God’s love in Christ is the answer: with Jesus in the “bosom of Abraham.”
And the love of God for us is connected to our love for others. When God loves you, then you love your neighbor. The rich man doesn’t love Lazarus, doesn’t care a bit about him. That’s proof he doesn’t love God. He just loves himself. And that’s because He doesn’t know God’s love or has ignored the preaching of that love from God’s Word. That’s our warning. That’s our call to repentance. That’s the flashing neon sign that says, “Don’t act like you love God and think you’re a good person when you treat other people like dirt and ignore them and refuse to help them in their need. It’s not that the rich man was rich. It’s that he didin’t love his neighbor. No matter how much or how little God had given him, he didn’t use it to help others. Just kept it all to himself. That’s not the love of God. That’s the love of self. And the worst part is that when he was in hell, he thought he could spook his brothers into avoiding the judgment too. But he already had everything he needed in Moses and the Prophets, in the Bible. So do we. It’s all there in the Law. Love God. Love your neighbor. But we don’t. And that would doom us. Except for what the Apostle said: We love Him because He first loved us. God loves you. Jesus is the love of God in action, to die and rise for you. And it is that love of God that turns you into a person who loves God back and loves your neighbor.
So love God, dear children. Love Him and receive His Word. Don’t stop coming to church to hear the preaching of that Good News or receiving that body and blood that brings forgiveness and peace. And love one another. Don’t pretend you’re a “good person” when there are people you want to ignore and not help and carry a grudge against. Repent of that stuff! believe that for Jesus’ sake God holds none of that stuff against you and so you need not hold any of it against anyone else. Love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. And that means, after I am gone, that you still look after each other. That you still work together to love your new pastor and take care of him. It means that you forgive each other when you step on each others’ toes. It means making sure that Bethel is always about Jesus crucified and risen for sinners and a place where that love of God is at work in love toward one another. I know how it goes. The pastor leaves. A new pastor comes. Maybe you don’t like him as much. Maybe you like him better. Maybe you just don’t like change. Whatever. Maybe you think it’s a chance to fade away and skip out…but don’t let it be! Love and care for your new pastor and in the same way keep loving and caring for one another. You need one another. As a congregation, to keep the ministry of the Gospel here. As brothers and sisters in Christ, to support and care for each other.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Jesus died for your sins. Every last one of them. Not a single sin isn’t forgiven. He rose for you. Eternal life is yours. He has washed, absolved, and fed you. You’re good to go. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. In Christ, I know you’ll do exactly that. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.