St Cuthbert's Church

Pastoral Letters

A Pastoral Letter - 29 Sept. 2019
Heaven or Hell - Is it too late?

by Revd. Ivan Edelson

A Pastoral Letter
“Heaven or Hell – Is it too Late?”
(Luke 16: 19 - 31)
Grace and Peace to you my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,   
It is too late to cry out when one has already been consigned to hell!

Our Gospel reading from today focuses on the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  One a wealthy nobleman and the other a poor beggar.  One who is enjoying all the fruits of life and the other destined to be consigned to a life of misery.  One who enjoyed good health and the other like Job was covered in sores.

We are not told how the rich man became wealthy, but it is evident from our reading that he was enjoying all of the earthly pleasures.  A well provisioned table, finest clothing and he had a mansion, this latter made obvious by the fact that he had a gate to his estate

Once again Jesus is trying hard to teach us about our earthly lives and our destiny. Can we see ourselves in this story?  Do we neglect our neighbour who is in need while we enjoy two cars, a roof over our heads, food on the table, money in our pockets?

Notice that the rich man is not given a name, but the poor beggar is called by his name, Lazarus!  Day after day, the rich man must have been aware of the fact that there was a beggar outside his home, begging for the scraps that fell from the table.  Lazarus was probably not even capable of walking or getting to the gate, but some kind soul had helped him and laid him there, a place where wealthy men and women would come and so he may garner a few coins for his care.
The sores on Lazarus’ body were so bad that “Even the dogs came and licked his sores.”

Both men die, Lazarus first and he gets carried up to Abraham’s side.  The rich man dies and was buried.

Both men die a physical death and their bodies are buried, one in a pauper’s grave, a shallow hole in the ground and the rich man probably has a grandiose funeral with long platitudes being read over his body by his rich friends.  Small joy for the dead?

But wait, it is not the body that is carried to Abraham’s side, it is the soul.  Being carried to Abraham’s side is the lot of the righteous, a place of blessedness.  It is reserved for people of righteousness like Abraham.

Not so the rich man’s soul.  This soul is trapped in hell and is tormented by the fire.  So much so that he begs Abraham, whom he now calls Father, (a fitting tribute, but alas too late), for Lazarus to bring him a DROP of water to quench his tongue.

There is an interesting play going on here.  Remember the beggar had prayed for scraps that fell from the man’s table – now the rich man is begging not for a glass, but for only a drop to cool his tongue!  How sad is this from having everything to begging for a drop.

I read from this last piece that it is the tongue that can bring so much trouble in the world.  The rich man had probably scorned the teachings of Moses and the Prophets and Jesus, but was now pleading for forgiveness.

Abraham denies the request, saying that there is no one who can cross the chasm that has been created to give comfort to the rich man.

The final straw is the rich man finally recognising that he may be of assistance to his brothers, by pleading that Lazarus go to his five brothers to warn them of their impending doom.  But once again, wisdom says that if they did not listen to Moses and the prophets, it is highly unlikely that they will listen to the words of a risen dead man.  This may well be a reference to Jesus and his resurrection from the dead.

Is it too late?  Not while we still have breath.  Remember it says to store up for ourselves treasure in heaven and not here on earth?  It also warns us that we need to seek first the Kingdom of God and then all will be added to us.

The only thing we have to do is to confess our sin, repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.  Bend the knee and invite Jesus into your life.  Go before Him and say the Sinners Prayer
“Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life (take a few moments to ask His forgiveness for anything in particular that is on your conscience).  Please forgive me.  I now turn from everything that I know is wrong.  Thank You that you died on the cross for me, so that I could be forgiven and set free.  Thank You that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your Spirit. I now receive that gift.  Please come into my life by Your Holy Spirit to be with me forever.  Thank you Lord Jesus, Amen. (Nicky Gumbel, “Why Jesus?”)

This prayer features three elements, “Sorry, Please and Thank You”.  Take the opportunity while you still have time.

Our Heavenly Father is waiting for you and I to come to Him before it is too late.  Like the Father in the prodigal son parable, He is waiting and will come running with arms outstretched once we turn from our sinful ways and seek His Face.

May Almighty God continue to bless you with riches in Heaven, and make your passage on earth one of peace, joy and consideration for all His children, whether they be rich or poor, healthy or ill, in comfortable circumstances or in impoverished misery.

God Bless - Revd Ivan Edelson

Date Added: 2019-09-26
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