Now that Trinity Sunday is past, we begin to travel through the part of the church year known as “regular time”. In the Octave of the Holy Trinity, we hear messages of faith, love, and mercy – but they are not as reassuring as we might want. Can we have the faith of Abraham, to believe God’s seemingly impossible promises? Can we truly love God and our neighbor without fear? And what of Jesus’ assertion that some will not believe, even if someone rises from the dead?
As we read these difficult passages, we should remember that God’s Law is there to point us to his Gospel – God wants us to remember that we can’t follow him on our own. It is only through the saving work of Jesus and the blessing of the Holy Spirit that we can believe and be saved. Because we depend on God’s strength and God’s promises, we can be confident in our salvation, despite our human weakness.
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Genesis, chapter 15, verses 1-6:
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
The Epistle lesson is from 1 John, chapter 4, verses 16-21:
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
The Gospel for the Octave of the Holy Trinity is from Luke, chapter 16, verses 19-31:
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’
And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”