First Sunday after Trinity 1853.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 5:3.
These words of the Saviour, where the gospel is preached to
the poor, are taken from the Sermon on the Mount. They testify that natural
poverty is not in question here. There are many in the world who are in natural
poverty, but there are not many spiritually poor. We have perceived that the
poor of the world are often so sorrowless that spiritual poverty does not fit
into their hearts. They almost have such a faith that the Christians are obliged
to help them, and if the Christians are not able to fill their colon, then they
say, "What kind of a Christian is he who does not help the poor," although Jesus
said to the Jews, "You have the poor with you always and whensoever you will you
may do them good, but me you have not always,." From these words is heard that
Jesus is not always to be had, but the poor are everywhere. Jesus has not said
not to help the poor, but He has said, "You have the poor with you always, but
me you have not always." When we take heed where so many poor have come from, we
find that God has not made some poor and some rich. But the enemy, who confuses
the intellect of the people with fleshly lusts, he has made the people poor, and
there are not found many who can say, "God made me poor." God has given a
healthy body and a healthy soul; it is a very rare person who naturally has
become maimed. And if there were no other poor than those who naturally have
become poor, there would not be many poor on the earth. But the greater portion
of the poor have become poor through their own ungodly life: some through
drunkenness, some through adultery, some through pride, who in their youth have
lost their health and in that way become poor. For that reason we have the poor
always with us, as Jesus has said. But Jesus is not always with us. If now these
poor of the world would become spiritually poor, then it would be joyous for the
Christians to help them, who have the means to help, but all the poor of the
world do not want to become spiritually poor as Lazarus, who lay at the rich
man's gate. Without a doubt, Lazarus had learned from natural poverty, which
poverty is acceptable to God. Lazarus had, through natural poverty, become a
spiritual beggar, and although now many a poor one takes for himself a false
consolation from poor Lazarus, namely such poor to whom poverty is acceptable
for a foundation of salvation. However Lazarus did not come into Abraham's bosom
through natural poverty, but through spiritual poverty which made him into a
spiritual beggar. Have all poor now become poor in spirit? Are all poor now
humble before God? Has natural poverty been able to humble them and chastise
them? All poor have not yet become like Lazarus, The sorrowless poor always want
to be proud and measure their Christianity with the measure of their colon, but
Jesus has said, "You have the poor with you always, but me you do not have
always." This must be a sign to you, you spiritually poor, that Jesus is not
always with you. And when you can sometimes enjoy His merciful presence, then
you must allow that woman to be at peace, who has a glass of pure and precious
spikenard ointment. Let her waste it, as long as she pours it upon Jesus, for
Jesus is not always with you. And you poor of the world, who think that the
Christians are obliged to feed you, do not think that the woman did wrong, who
poured the precious spikenard ointment upon Jesus' head and did not give you the
price. Do you think that Judas is the best guardian of the poor, who murmured
and scolded that woman because of pouring the ointment? Surely Judas pities the
poor and has mercy on them because of his own purse, but he has no mercy on
Jesus, nor does he believe at all that the woman who poured her love upon the
head of Jesus has done rightly; but Judas figures that it would be better if the
price of the ointment was given to the poor. But you have the poor with you
always and whensoever you want, you can give to them, but Jesus is not always
with you. If now those poor who, like poor Lazarus, are poor in spirit, would
lie at the rich man's gate, who is not so merciless as that rich man who did not
even place a plaster upon the sores of the poor one, but the dogs licked his
sores when the rich man did not have as much conscience as a dog. We have seen
that the dogs must lick the sores of those poor ones, who lie at the rich man's
gate full of sores. We have seen that the dogs cannot be without licking the
sores of such poor who lie at that rich man's gate, who is one exorbitantly rich
man, who is not so merciless as that rich man, who does not have compassion on
poor Lazarus, nor does he put a plaster on that poor man's wounds. But that rich
man who is in Heaven without a doubt will place a plaster upon his wounds, and
will carry his soul to Abraham's bosom where poor Lazarus will be comforted.
Hear, you great Lord of all possessions, the prayer of the poor, sorrowful, and
miserable ones. Our Father who art in the heavens, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 16: 19-31.
According to our holy gospel, we must, at this holy moment, consider: Why the rich man had to go to hell and why Lazarus had to come into Abraham's bosom. The first consideration: The rich man had not gathered his possessions by stealing or by crookedness, and all the same he had to go into the place of torment. The second consideration: That poor Lazarus has done good to no one, but has been a trouble and a burden to the rich man, and all the same he was taken by the angels to Abraham's bosom. Here now are two men, who are entirely contrary to each other. The one was kept in great honor in the world, the other lay sick and under foot at the rich man's gate. To the one the lords of the world came to eat and drink, to dance and make merry, and on the other, no one cares to look. The one wore purple and precious linen clothes, the other does not have a rag on his naked skin. The one has a beau" tiful courtyard, beautiful horses, painted sleds and carriages, but the other has no roof over his head. The one is certainly able to eat delicacies, drink sweet drinks, carry finery; the other has nothing to put into his mouth. If it now went according to the world's judgement and surmising, then the rich man should have become saved by all means, but it would be fitting to see Lazarus in the place of torment.
The first consideration: The rich man has not acquired his possessions through nor stealing nor by deceit, he had inherited that great wealth. Why did he have to come into the place of torment, when he had been no evil-doer? The rich man's brothers would probably ask that. For what reason must this meek, pious, and honest man go into such an unfortunate place? For no other reason but that he had received his good things in the world. So Abraham said: "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things. You did not seek any other good in the world, but only the good of this world, namely possessions, honor, finery, beauty, sweets and good days. This pleasant life you have been able to enjoy in the world, and be satisfied now with that." If the rich man would have stopped his vain and foolish life at the right time, would have sold all his possessions and helped the poor, as Jesus said to that rich youth who came to ask, "What should I do to inherit eternal life?" If the rich man had believed Moses and the prophets, what they have written of penitence and repentance, then, no doubt, he would have had concern over his immortal soul, would have begun to seek in time for that imperishable substance, which moth nor rust corrupteth, nor thieves break in and steal. But his heart was so attached to the world and to those matters which are of the world, that he cared for nothing else but that good which the world gives. There now was the right reason why he had to go to destruction. Some of the brothers of the rich man surely say that the rich man was not harsh and merciless toward the poor. But Lazarus would not have lain at the rich man's gate if he would have received help from him. It appears from all aspects of the matter that the dogs had a better conscience than the rich man, for the dogs licked his wounds from compassion, but the rich man did not place a plaster upon his sores. But let it be as the brothers of the rich man think, that he was merciful toward the poor. What could he have gained then with that showing of mercy? Many a rich man in these times is merciful toward the poor. He distributes only a little to the closest poor ones, and instead makes many poor with his liquor business, so all the brothers of the rich man say after his death, "Surely that man has become saved without a doubt." How do you know that he became saved? Yes, that we know, that he was so good at helping the poor. But think first how many he made poor with his liquor business and with exorbitant prices, which he placed on his merchandise. Place also there his hatred toward the Christianity, and tell me when has he made penitence and repentance of vanity of the world, finery and pleasure, and say then, "This man became saved." But if nothing more is demanded for salvation than the supporting of the poor, which is now found with many rich men, then certainly all the rich men could promise themselves good days in the kingdom of heaven. But all rich men should begin to believe Moses and the prophets, what they write about penitence and repentance. Those wretches should also begin to believe that without true conversion not one person will be saved, for the rich men cannot believe what Moses and the prophets have written about penitence and repentance. The rich of this world do not want to believe that there is a hell to be found for the impenitent, and a heaven for the penitent and believing ones. First they would want to hear fresh news from hell before they would believe that there is a hell; and if all the poor would yet arise from the dead and would begin to preach repentance to the brothers of the rich man, they would not believe, they would not make repentance. If God Himself would come from heaven, they would not even then believe and make repentance, for the brothers of the rich man will certainly not make repentance before the skin gets hot. The brothers of the rich man become angry with all the preachers of repentance, whether the preacher of repentance came from heaven or hell, from the heights or the depths, it makes no difference to them; whether the preacher of repentance is alive or dead, it makes no difference to them. All the preachers of repentance are for an offense and an abomination to the brothers of the rich man. The brothers of the rich man are ashamed to see such ones who preach penitence and repentance.
The second consideration: Why was poor Lazarus taken by the angels into Abraham's bosom, although he had done good to no one? If it is difficult for the world to say why the rich man went to the place of torment, although he had done wrong to no one, certainly it is more imcomprehensible to the world why poor Lazarus was taken by the angels into Abraham's bosom. That much we understand, that Lazarus was not saved because of his natural poverty, nor because of his wounds and his sickness, although many a poor one hopes for better fortune after this unfortunate life, since he has become a crossbearer. But that is unknown, who has placed this cross upon the crossbearer, whether he himself has become poor, sickly, and maimed through his ungodly life. I think that the devil has placed the cross upon many worldly crossbearers, who have not yet understood to differentiate between Jesus' cross and the cross of the world.
But we must now think so, that Lazarus has not become poor and sickly through his own carelessness. He has not become poor through drunkenness, adultery, or laziness, or pride, but through some other misfortune he has come into such a poor condition in behalf of the body. And this cross of the world has changed to Jesus' cross with him since he, from realizing the perishableness and vanity of the world, has come to know his poorness of spirit or spiritual poverty, in which the prodigal son was when he was herding swine. Lazarus certainly did not merit anything by his natural poverty, as also the prodigal son merited nothing by his spiritual poverty. But that distress, which came from the spiritual poverty, has forced Lazarus to seek for better fortune and blessing in that earth and in that heaven which is on the other side of this earth. And that was the merit of Lazarus, that he became so poor that he had no more faith, no hope, no love, no good works: there was nothing any more with which he could have covered his nakedness, there was nothing with which he could have quenched his hunger after righteousness, there was nothing with which he could have healed his wounds. For that reason the dogs also in pity began to lick his wounds. Do you think, you brothers and sisters of Lazarus, do you think that the dogs can alleviate your pain with their licking? Do you think that the dogs have such a conscience, that they can have mercy and pity you when they see the wounds of the conscience bleeding and vile smelling? I think chat the dogs have such a nature that they pity you, they have mercy on you, they lick your wounds, and this licking of the dogs signifies that your sins are forgiven, your iniquity is wiped away. Since you have such a faith that God has made you poor and so miserable that you must lie at the rich man's gate naked, unclothed, full of sores and bleeding wounds, which also the dogs lick in their pity and compassion, then certainly the great Creator has also intended to give a better earth and heaven, where all poor are rich, all beggars are givers, all wounded are well, all sorrowful are joyful, all downpressed are lifted up. The soul of the spiritually poor is not heavy for the angels to carry into Abraham's bosom. Lazarus' soul is not as heavy to carry as the rich man's soul, which weighs itself down into the abyss. The soul of the spiritually poor Lazarus is so light for the angels of God to carry into Abraham's bosom that they do it with joy, but the soul of the rich man is so heavy that it weighs itself down to the bottom. Now Lazarus' soul is comforted, now he sits with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God. If he here has been hungry, he there is filled; if he here has been thirsty, there his thirst is quenched; if he here has been naked, there he is clothed in the righteousness of Christ; if he has wept here, then he rejoices there; if he here has been in wounds, he there then is well; if he here has been in black clothes, there then he will be given white raiment; if here he has been despised, there he is now exalted; if the rich man has stepped on him, now the rich man roust pray to him. Be now of good refuge, you poor Lazarus. Sit now at the table with Abraham, sit now to drink and eat the bread of heaven. You are now in Abraham's bosom, who is the father of believers. No one mocks your tears. Rejoice and be glad. You have drunk of the cup of sorrow, but now you can drink of the cup of life which is in God's paradise. Amen.