Lyons United Methodist Church

Dick Kenville, guest preacher

(Disclaimer – this sermon is the intellectual property of Rev. Kibbe)

September 29, 2019

Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

“Hope”

Here we are on the last Sunday of September and if you noticed, the theme was all about the prophet Jeremiah. His ministry was from approximately 627 – 586 B.C..

Now do you think Jeremiah was a successful man? Well we see success as achieving our goals, acquiring wealth, prestige, favor and power. We see successful people as enjoying the good life and financially and emotionally secure. They are leaders, opinion makers, and you could say trendsetters. Now by these standards, Jeremiah was a miserable failure. He never achieved material success, he was poor, and was rejected by his neighbors, family, friends, the false priests and prophets, and thrown into prison.

in God’s eyes, Jeremiah was one of the most successful people in all of history. You see, God measures success as obedience and faithfulness. Jeremiah never gave up on his mission to save his people and bring them back to God no matter what trials he would have to endure. Jeremiah’s message was very simple; Repent and turn to God, or he will punish. In our reading today the people have hope, love, and forgiveness. But look what it took to turn them around. Two weeks ago in the reading, Jeremiah brought us to the middle of disaster; the earth was devoid of plants and animals; the sky was dark; quakes shook the earth; cities lay in ruins; and once fruitful land had become a desert. As Pastor Brett would say, it took a holy 2 X 4 to open their eyes. It seems like it always takes a major crisis to bring us back to God. Yes the people repented and returned to God even though it took a long time, God with his eternal love for mankind, accepts them back. Isn’t it amazing that God never gives up on His people? Just as the people of Judah were tempted, we too will be tempted. But you know what’s scary? It almost seems that we are living in the times of Judah. Many have turned away from God, the land is being devastated by fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, the ice caps are melting away, birds are disappearing, and we aren’t being good stewards of the earth. Pollution has taken over our oceans, lakes, rivers, and our land. Makes you wonder huh.

But just like the days of Jeremiah, we have hope that we can turn our world around. God had Jeremiah buy some land from a relative and promised to make it fertile and it would flourish and bear good fruits. When we stay focused on God, all good things come to pass. Even today, we have environmental groups working to save our planet.

When it comes to success, how do we see ourselves? Is success for us wealth, prestige, favor, and power? Is it about how much money we have or how much property we own? Are we materialistic? How do we measure our success? Do we give God credit for our success or are we like the people of Judah who feel we can do it without God’s help? Based on the readings it didn’t work very well without God. But after they repented and brought God back into their lives, things got better.

Let’s remember that God has blessed all of us with gifts. Yes and these gifts can bring us wealth, prestige, favor, and power and we need to have goals in our lives that we wish to achieve. Can you imagine not having any goals to work for? What would our lives be like if we didn’t have a purpose? It is human nature to want the best for our families. But do we share our successes with those in need; the poor; the hungry; the homeless? Even our churches and conferences have to have goals or how would anything get accomplished? Our goal, as a church, is to do God’s work here on earth. Is it easy? No not at all. You see, as human beings, we see people abusing the systems that were put in place to help the truly needy. We have our own agendas and prejudices. We may think we don’t, but think about it. These things influence our giving. Sometimes things don’t go the way we want them to and that can effect our giving. The truth is, it’s not our will, but God’s will that needs to be done. Its just like prayer, prayers may get answered but not always in the way we wanted and not always in our time frame but in Gods time.

Supporting our church and its mission of helping the needy, poor, and homeless is more easily accomplished through our pledging or weekly giving. It not only helps our church financially but it keeps our doors open so we can strive to do our mission of creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It’s important to remember that to make disciples, we need to get them into the church. We won’t get them here unless we go outside of these 4 walls and set an example of how our lives have changed since we accepted Jesus Christ. We can’t just talk the talk but must walk the walk. We need to show by example. Churches can’t survive without the support of its members and its hard to bring others into the fold if we don’t have unity within the membership. Psalm 133: 1 states, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

Every year we are concerned about the churches financial situation but we seem to make it even though our checkbook balance continues to drop some. Some of the ways we have managed to make ends meet, even though our weekly giving seems to be less than needed, is through our fund raisers. We have been very fortunate that for our Turkey dinner last year, Wegmans donated all the turkeys and some farmers donated produce and some of our members made donations for the dinner as well. If my memory serves me right, we didn’t have to pay for anything so it was all profit for our church. The Bazaar was also all profit as everything was donated as well as for our tag sale. We have many talented and giving people that help to lead our church forward. Just as we have individuals who do the custodial work which saves us money. We are also blessed that Sharon Smith donates her time as organist.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 talks about hope through trials. Just as in Jeremiah’s time, God’s people suffered trials because they didn’t stay focused on God, today we too are facing trials in our world and churches and we must remain focused on God.

Jeremiah 29:11 states, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

When the membership works together and prays together for the good of the church and we stay focused and remain faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can accomplish anything with His help.

As I was working on this sermon, I received a call from Wegmans and they approved my request and are donating 220 pounds of frozen turkeys for our turkey dinner again this year. Amen.