This sermon is based on Luke 16:1-13, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. I preached from the perspective of a baptism that was occurring at worship. That being said, I have to offer my apologies to the family of the boy being baptized. When writing the sermon I had the name Blake in my head rather than the correct name of Bryce, and in several points during the sermon, I called him Blake. After about the 4th time the congregation finally pointed it out to me…but you won’t hear that as this was actually pre-recorded.
Listen to the sermon here;
Here is the text of the sermon. As usual, disregard the odd punctuation and indications to pause. I gotta remember to do this stuff somehow.
Grace and peace to you from God our father and our lord and savior Jesus Christ…Amen
Have you ever wondered what your name meant? Think about it for a second. The origin of names tends to be connected to some sort of meaning. In the Native American culture, this was very blatant. We only need to remember the popular 90’s movie Dances With Wolves to realize that. Likewise, the origin of family names is often connected back to an individuals vocation. Baker comes from the town cook. Smith from the town blacksmith and so on.
But in the end, what do our names really mean? I was thinking about that the other day and did a little bit of research. My given name is Scott Allen Dalen. Scott is a descriptor meaning literally from Scotland. Allen means either rock or handsome. And Dalen comes from Dale which is a clearing in the woods. So my name…Scott Allen Dalen means that I am a handsome rock in the midst of a clearing in the Scottish woods…Fascinating…If you’re curious about what your name might mean…a quick google search will tell you volumes.
As I was thinking about my name, I also got to thinking about the various nicknames that I’ve had over the years…and there have been a lot of them.
Growing up, my nickname with my dad’s extended family was Scooter. My mom’s side called me Scottsaroo. I was Scotty to a couple different summer staffs back in my college days. I was Dalen to everyone in high school, and I was Junior to all of my older brother’s friends. These days I commonly hear Dad from my kids. To my Godson Isaac, I’m G-dad. My wife has a couple of nicknames for me…but…you don’t get to hear them. And most recently, here in Underwood, I’ve taken on the name Pastor.
Interestingly enough as I thought about all those different nicknames, I realized the relationship implied by each and every one of them…and I realized that when I hear someone address my by one of those nicknames, instantly my mind connects with that relationship with that individual.
Speaking of names…did you notice anything interesting in today’s story? Jesus tells us another parable today…this time the parable of the rich man and Lazarus…the rich man…and Lazarus. Notice anything odd there?
On one hand, we’ve got Lazarus. We don’t know a ton about the guy. Only that he’s very poor…poor enough that he hopes to get a crack at the garbage thrown out from the rich man’s table. We know that he’s somehow sick with some unknown affliction that has resulted in terrible sores all over his body…and that’s really about the extent of it.
Then we’ve got the rich guy…He’s obviously important. We hear that he wears purple, which at the time was the color of nobility. He feasts each and every day. He owns property…complete with a fence and a gate where we find Lazarus.
Beyond that, we don’t know much about these two guys…and we really don’t need to know much…but its interested to note that while we hear the name of Lazarus…we don’t learn the name of the rich man…but who knows…maybe the guy’s name isn’t all that important.
What’s important it what happens to the two guys here in Jesus’ story. They both die…apparently death doesn’t discriminate between the rich and the poor…and following their death they both end up on opposite sides of the afterlife…divided by an un-crossable chasm…the rich man in unending torturous agony…and Lazarus in the realm of the righteous…hanging out with none other than the father of righteousness himself…Abraham.
We don’t hear any more from Lazarus at this point, only that his suffering in life has given way to comfort in the afterlife…but we continue to hear from the rich man. He recognizes his torment and attempts to repent…but we see where that gets him…a whole lot of nowhere…and so in a fit of agony…he seeks relief…Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool these flames…as if water could do such a thing…as if a simple bit of water…could quench the fires of condemnation.
When Abraham denies this request, calling it impossible to bridge the chasm placed between paradise and torture…then the rich man appeals for his brothers…Send Lazarus to my brothers…if someone returns from the dead then they will repent before its too late…but no…Abraham denies that too…or perhaps we should say that Jesus denies it…Jesus himself…who we all know eventually rises from the dead…makes a point that many of us as believers struggle with…There are those who chose to ignore God…they chose to ignore Moses and the Prophets…aka the scriptures…and they chose to ignore the testimony of one that has risen from the dead…yes my friends, we all know those that refuse to accept the need for a savior…and it is those people that, find themselves on the wrong side of the chasm.
Admittedly, this is a hard teaching. Its hard to accept the thought that there are those that will not be saved. We ask the question why? Why is that? If God truly desires all to be saved then why are there some that don’t believe? (pause)
I wish I could answer that question…because I’ve got some of those people in my life as well…some of those people that I don’t know which side of the chasm they’ll end up on…so I pray for them…and I try to share the gospel with them…the good news that despite our brokenness…despite our sinfulness…despite our own incapability to ensure our salvation from sin…Jesus chose to enter into our reality…into our brokenness to do that which we are incapable of doing on our own…so that one day we may be with him in paradise just as Lazarus was with Abraham in the story.
Did you notice the subtle difference between the two men? I hinted at it before, but never came out and said it. The rich man is not named…but Lazarus is. We know his name…and obviously…God knows his name… (pause)
There’s one more nickname that I have, and I probably put more stock in it than any other name that I can claim…that name is Child of God. Because of what Jesus has done, I can cast aside my sinfulness…it doesn’t rule me any more…and I can claim to be a heir with Christ…I am a child of God…named and claimed in the waters of my baptism. (pause)
In a few minutes, Blake Edward Leaders will join in the ranks of those with that name…Beloved Child of God…in a few minutes…God will look down upon Blake…and through the water and word accepted in faith we believe that God will call Blake by name…and will call him by a new name…one which cannot be taken away…and we believe that the Holy Spirit comes in that baptism and will rest upon Blake…and together, his parents…and his sponsor…and we as a congregation will make a promise to raise him in faith…to expose him to the teachings of Jesus Christ…to give him the Word of God…to teach him the creed and the 10 commandments…and we hope…and we pray that in hearing that good news over and over again as he grows and matures that one day the Holy Spirit will work in his life to bring him to a saving faith in Jesus Christ…that is why we gather at the font…not as a ritual…not because it’s the right thing to do…or because tradition says we should…but rather because Christ himself tells us to do it…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…In a few minutes, we’ll do the baptizing and Blake will gain a new name…and it is my prayer that we all take the promise seriously to raise him as a disciple of Christ. (pause)
And young Blake isn’t the only one…we live in a world filled with people that do not know…or refuse to recognize the saving power of Jesus Christ…and in the Great Commision he sent each and every one of us out to them as well…and so I ask you today…do you really believe this? When we recite the words of the Apostles Creed…the faith in which we baptize do we really believe it? And in a few minutes when I ask each and every one of you to denounce the powers of sin and the devil, will you really mean it…Do you cling to the identity found in the name Child of God? You were named and claimed by God in the waters of your baptism…and I believe that it is not something that we should take likely but that we should cling to that promise made by God as if our lives depended on it…because you know what…in the eternal sense, you better believe that it does.
And that knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ…that promise that we receive in our baptism…that’s too good to hang out to for ourselves…that’s a message that needs to be shared with the world…that’s a message that comes from one that did rise from the dead…and he did it for each and every person in the world…not just those of us inside these 4 walls but for everyone…for God so loved THE WORLD…that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life and I believe that when we receive that promise in faith…that promise given to us in baptism…when we really receive it, then NOTHING in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (pause)
So what’s in a name? Well, in the case of our salvation…the name Child of God…means everything…Blake receives that name today…and if you have been baptized then I invite you to claim it…it was given to you at your baptism and it is yours today…and if you’ve never been washed in the water and you find yourself wanting to receiving that promise of God…there’s nothing standing in your way. Believe and be baptized and you too are a beloved child of God. Amen.