BELIEVE THE WORD OF THE LORD
Abram believed the LORD, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:6
HOLY Scripture tells us today that Abraham believed God. Now that was a miracle, indeed! Why a miracle? Because that isn't what men do! Men are not anxious to hear, or to believe a Word from God. Why is that? Because sin blinds us to the glory of God, and gives us auditory exclusion. It closes off our ears so that we can hear every voice in the world as clear as a bell, every harebrained message, but our ears become sealed shut when it comes to hearing the Divine Word that dissolves our sins and raises the dead.
The rich man in today's parable is a perfect example. He could only hear one voice, the voice of his belly. It's not that he was unaware of God's Word, he wasn't. We discover that from the latter part of the parable where he holds theological discourse with Father Abraham. He had religious training, even as we do, but he closed his ears to it. He did not keep his confirmation vow to remain faithful unto death in this one true faith. He pursued the soft life and was concerned only with his wardrobe and his table, and he was not about to give away his goodies, even to the one who says, "I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat." We are that rich man in one way or another, to one degree or another.
Like the rich man, we too hear competing voices. As there is the Gospel of Christ, there is also the gospel of Google which, like Satan, carries us to the top of a very high mountain, and shows us all the virtual kingdoms of the world, in all their virtual glory, brightly shimmering with endless possibilities and say to us: all these I will give you if you will fall down and worship me, and we do! Therefore what scripture tells us today is remarkable: that Abraham believed God, and further that his faith was accounted to him as Righteousness. May we do the same. May we, too, be righteous by faith in the Word of God, the Word made flesh, even Jesus Christ our Lord and God. It isn't easy. Indeed, it isn't even possible, except for one thing that makes all the difference in the world; the gift of divine grace we receive in baptism, a gift that is enlarged and confirmed, and that stands taller and stronger as often as you hear God's word, the very thing we are engaged in at this time.
It's not that Abraham had no doubts, he did, but that was because he listened to his own narrative instead of God's. Moses records the encounter for us. Abraham says to the LORD, "Behold, you have given me no offspring, and behold a member of my household will be my heir." Abraham meant to impress upon the LORD that he was an old man, married to a super-annuated woman, and that the closest thing he would ever have to an heir was his servant Eliezer who was no doubt as dear to him as a son, but he was not a son. The LORD then answers back with a behold of His own. "And behold the word of the LORD came to him saying, "This man shall not be your heir, but the son of your own flesh shall be your heir," and he brought him outside and said, "Look, if you will, to the heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "So numerous shall your offspring be!"
By listening to his own narrative Abraham had momentarily forgotten that "with God nothing shall be impossible." He failed to, "ponder anew, what the Almighty can do, who with His love doth befriend thee." Yet let us not make that same mistake, for we are those promised offspring, as numerous as the stars of the sky, who will shine like the stars forever, for St. Paul writes in Galatians that "we are all sons of Abraham by faith in Jesus Christ."
There is yet another blessed lesson we should learn from today's reading. As Abraham was to have a son of his own, Isaac by name, even so God would send none other than His one and only Son to be the world's Redeemer, to be our Savior from sin and death and our shield from the devil's fiery darts. As it was not enough for one who was almost Abraham's son, to be his heir, even so our Lord Jesus Christ wasn't of similar substance with the Father, but as we confess in our Creed of ONE substance with the Father by whom all things were made. That is to say, the man who redeemed us is God Himself, dressed in the likeness of men, one who was born as we are born, lived as we live, suffered as we suffer and died as we die, only He did much more, for you see, He is Lazarus in the parable. He is the one who comes from the bosom of the Father and returns to the same. He is the one who is despised and rejected of men. He is the one who teaches the church about heaven and hell and who fulfills the predictions made by Moses and the prophets. He is the one who was raised from the dead and believed upon in the world, who by His church preaches the Easter gospel to all the world, rich and poor alike, proclaiming to one and all that a man is made righteous before God by faith alone; not any old faith, but by trust in the Lord who, by His cross, attained salvation for us, who comes to us today in this divine service under the bread and the wine, and who will come again in glory, recognizable to all, to judge the living and the dead. He is the One who Abraham believed and who the sons of Abraham love. We are those sons. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras