Der Vasken's Sermon on March 4, 2018

Mar 5, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

A few moments ago, we heard the parable of the rich man and the beggar.  It's the story of a rich man, who enjoys grand meals every day and lives well every day and a poor man, who begs for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table.  Eventually both men die and as you might expect, their fortunes reverse.  The poor beggar spends eternity in the glorious Gates of Heaven.  He is living in Paradise for eternity.  The rich man realizes his eternal life will be spent very differently and he realizes that his eternity spent in the Gates of Hell has nothing to do with his wealth.

His eternity has to do with how he treated people throughout his life.  His eternity was set by his total and repeated disregard for the life of the poor beggar who he saw every day.   By ignoring the beggar for years, the rich man repeatedly chose not to receive the gift of eternity in Heaven.  Eventually, he accepts his eternal life of torment.  But the story doesn't end there and it becomes even more interesting.

The rich man no longer tries to bargain for himself.  He now wants to help his five brothers, who still live in their father's house and share that same care-free life that he once enjoyed.  He asks Abraham, the Father of the Jewish faith, to send him back so he can warn his brothers to essentially get their act together or be prepared to end up like him.  But Abraham says to him in effect, "No, you have had your time.  No more deals for you. You're done! Because if your brothers chose not to listen to the words of Moses or the prophets, then neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead and explain it to them."

This is a fascinating story.  This story is not about punishment.  It's the story about an invitation.  The rich man opened his invitation too late, but for his five brothers, he thought, it's not too late.  Their invitation can still be answered.  They still have a chance to hear the words of Moses and the prophets and apply their messages to their lives.  This is a story that answers the question of what we are supposed to do with the 70 or 80 or 90 plus years we are given in this world.  What God wants from us in those years is not a secret.  Listen to what He says:

            "Hear these Words, people of faith: The Lord your God Is One; and you shall love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these Words, which I command you on this day, shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by it; and when you lie down at night and when you rise up in the morning.  And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these commandments hang all the laws of Moses and the prophets."  

In other words, what God is telling us is this: All activity, all kindness, all charity, all ethics, all obedience, all philanthropy, all duty, all love, all joy--essentially everything we do--hang on hearing these Commandments of God and responding to them.  To hear these Words but not listen to their message, cuts us off from God.  And that's why our Church Fathers placed this story in the middle of Lent.  As long as we are alive and breathing in this world, it's not too late to hear the message of God in our lives and act upon it. 

  • Our faith is to enter into all areas of our lives.
  • Our faith is for us personally and for our families.
  • Our faith is for us on the good days and bad.
  • Our faith is to be on our hearts and minds at all times.

So on the fourth Sunday of Lent,

  • What is God saying to you?
  • And are you responding to His invitation to spread His Love and His Message throughout your corner of the world?

That's something for all of us to think about. 

  • What is God saying to you?
  • And are you responding to Him?