Sermon on Saint Luke’s Gospel

We are all Orthodox Christians holding the same faith but no doubt we have come to our faith in somewhat different ways. Some of us were baptised as children, taken to church by our parents, perhaps sent to church school and have maintained the faith all our lives. This is a great gift from God and we should be thankful for this. Others have perhaps fallen away from the church for a while, perhaps this was due to doubts and questions, which we could not find answers to, perhaps there were moral issues or simply we moved away from the church because of the busyness of life. But we have come back to the church because we have found beauty, depth and meaning here. Others have come to the Orthodox Church as adults, from other Christian Churches, or from other religions, or from no religion at all because we have found depth, meaning and beauty here.
However, it is no doubt that we did not come to the church because God “proved Himself” to us with a miracle. Yes, miracles happen; the lives of the saints are filled with them, and many of us have experienced answers to our prayers. But again, God did not try to prove Himself to us.
We see the same approach in today’s Gospel (Luke 16:19-31). Our Lord tells the parable of a rich man, who dressed well, ate well and was basically concerned only with himself. There was a poor man, Lazarus, who lay at the gate of the rich man’s house, hoping for scraps from his table. They both die and the rich man finds himself in hell and Lazarus in heaven, called here “Abraham’s bosom” (Abraham was the father of the Jewish people and all people who believe in the God of Abraham).
The rich man asks Abraham (who is speaking for God here) to send Lazarus from heaven with a little water to cool his tongue because he suffered from the flames. Abraham says this is impossible because one cannot cross from heaven to hell. The rich man asks Abraham to send a Lazarus back to his brothers to warn them to change their lives so that they don’t end up in hell. Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets to teach them how to live. The rich man says no, but they will change their hearts if they see a dead man come back to life. Abraham says if they don’t believe Moses and the prophets they will not believe even if someone comes back from the dead.
As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah prophesied by the Old Testament, who has indeed risen from the dead, but non-Christians do not believe this because Jesus did not try to “prove” Himself to the world, let’s say by appearing in the temple in Jerusalem or in Pilate’s palace after His resurrection. Rather He appeared to those who knew and loved Him, first to the myrrh bearing women and then to the apostles.
We should remember when Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan and Satan suggested that Jesus turn stones into bread or throw himself from the roof of the temple and have angels catch him so that people would follow him, Jesus rejected these suggestions. Jesus did not want people to follow Him because he was a magician, a wonderworker, but because they knew Him and loved Him.
And so it is with us. God is not going to overwhelm us with miracles “proving Himself” to us, (although we certainly pray for miracles), but rather He wants us to come to Him because we find meaning and depth and beauty in God and His beloved Son.

Fr. John