Sermon September 28th 2016 Luke 16:19-31 Gospel Rev. Tanis Kolisnyk
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.* The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.* 24He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” 25But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” 27He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” 29Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” 30He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” 31He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’
May the Words of my Mouth and the medications of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight o Lord. Our strength and our Redeemer. AMEN
As with last week's reading from Luke, this parable begins with the words,
"there was a rich man" – a signal that we're about to hear another of Jesus'
lessons on wealth. Immediately, we learn a great deal about this rich man,
but not his name: he wears fine, imported clothes and unlike most people
who only feast on rare occasions - he feasts every day. The gospel
describes this man from his external appearance – the way he dressed and
the way he ate. He was dressed in purple and fine linen, which was the
ultimate in clothing those days, and he also set a very fine gourmet table,
not once a week but every day. His extravagance set him apart in his
Then, we meet Lazarus who sits at the rich man's "gate". Rather than fine
clothes, Lazarus wears clothing that identifies him as sick and ritually
unclean; Rather than feasting every day, Lazarus could only long "to satisfy
his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table" (v.21).
These two characters in this story, this parable tell a recognizable story of
social/economic challenge and disparity of that day. While the rich feast
every day, the poor/unclean/sick wait just on the margins of their
households, watching and hoping for discarded scraps of food (e.g. pita-like
bread commonly used by the rich as napkins for wiping their hands).
Lazarus is a sharp contrast to the rich man. He is a godly man, he is poor,
he is a beggar. Lazarus waits for crusts of bread that had been thrown out
after the feast. He was ignored by the rich man who went by the gate daily.
Lazarus was not acknowledged in any way. People on the margins like
Lazarus were keenly aware of the movements of the rich, just hoping for
some gift of grace to land in his direction.
One thing that I think we need to receive from this message this morning is
that the parable does not depict a reversal of fortune -blessedness is not the
opposite of luxury. It is true that people seek comfort in luxury, and
certainly we are happier when we have enough. Yet, research shows
conclusively that luxury has little to do with long-term happiness. More
importantly, luxury is no substitute for blessed comfort.
I think this parable calls us to confront ourselves and our communities
concerning our own practices. We can hear this message, but do we really
change? Three years ago, I preached on this same message and I asked the
- Do we have the eyes to see those in need?
- Do we have the ears to hear those in need?
- Do we have the will to help those in need?
When I hear this parable I am deeply aware that on any given day it speaks
to me. I know I have been on both sides of the not seeing and not being
seen. The rich man was not in hell because he was rich any more than that
Lazarus was in heaven because he was poor.
We are supposed to be accountable for our actions and our lack of action.
The problem lays in what the Rich Man did not do. All of us here can
probably remember a recent moment when you avert your eyes and walk on
instead of helping someone who is begging on the street right here in our
I will share that truthfully, it does make me uncomfortable when I see a
person walking the boulevards and approaching vehicles for any change
folks can spare. Sometimes their sign says, anything please. God Bless You.
Sometimes I give, sometimes I do not. It makes my heart ache to see this
regularly and I think sometimes I am just getting numb to seeing it over and
over again. BUT it does disturb me. And you know what, I think it should.
It also makes me question what we as a society are doing to help solve this
problem? What are we doing as Christian people to help? Do we have the
eyes to see, do we have the ears to hear, do we have the will to help?
This is a question we have to answer as individuals, but there are also
measures we can take as a parish – some things we can do to make a
- I know that parish offerings of food help support our St. Philip’s Food Cupboard and this is good, very good.
- I know as a congregation members give to Agape Table, which is run through All Saint’s Anglican to help the needy of our community, this is good, very good.
- I also know that many of us support Winnipeg Harvest in a variety of ways, this is good, very good.
There are many good ways to connect to our community. Yet there is more
that we can challenge ourselves to do.
At a dinner in November, the Bishop of Rupert’s Land has invited
David Northcott from Winnipeg Harvest to speak. It is good, very good, to
hear about the need of those in our city. The number of folks who rely on
food banks to help make ends meet continues to grow. I am looking forward
to hearing his take on the continued growing numbers of people who need to
rely on food banks to make ends meet. I hope as a church we are
challenged by his words, by the realities that he will share with us.
In the parable, it states that despite the rich man’s circumstances, he still
sees Lazarus as someone to be ordered around, someone who should relieve
his circumstances when he did nothing on earth to relief the circumstances
of Lazarus. It does not matter if you are poor or rich, brokenhearted or out-
cast, our good Lord says “Come to Me”. Come and drink of this Living
- Today we say “ Yes” when we partake of the cup and the wine during the Eucharist. Come, to me Jesus says.
- Today, together we have heard the word of God and it is life giving and it is also challenging.
Let us pray: May God help us be the people he needs us to be. We pray, believing that the God we serve loves to show up in response to our prayers.