The Good News!
Fr. Ken Saunders' Sermon Blog
Year C - Proper 24 - October 20, 2013
"I was praying that you would." she said.
In Amos, there are woes presented to those who think that they are better than everyone else because they have security in there beds of ivory, anointing themselves with the finest oils, and drinking wine from bowls…
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul warns Timothy about the uncertainty of riches, and that because everything comes from God, he should be rich in good works and create a good foundational practice that will lead him to “take hold of the life that really is life.”
Jesus tells us a parable this morning... a story about a rich man and a poor leper, and the consequences that surround their circumstances… as I said last week, wealth was a serious issue during Jesus’ time... The rich often got rich on the backs of the poor. Their "riches" and “richness” was typically the only thing that mattered to them… How they horde the money they have, and the scheming ways to make more, dominated their lives.
Their greed separated them from others, and even from God... Jesus’ parable was contrary to what they thought… Back then (and sometimes today), folks think that their richness was a direct result of God’s blessing on their lives, and that the poor somehow deserve what they get – because of some ill they have done. Jesus takes some more time this morning to unravel this wrong thinking…
Jesus presents us with the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus…
The rich man is as pompous as the folks we hear about in Amos… He is dressed in the fine purple linen that was often reserved for royalty – this was even mandated by Roman law. We get a clear picture in our head of him prancing around with that “everybody look at me” attitude.
The poor diseased man, Lazarus, sat outside the gates of the rich man’s home, longing for something to eat. We can imagine that the rich man passed him every time he left his home to go somewhere. Jesus’ parable tells us that they both eventually died, and the rich man went to the torment of Hades while the poor man was carried off by angels to be with Abraham.
Even from the depths of Hades, the rich man still doesn’t get it…
He thinks that he can appeal to Abraham and have his agony relieved. He pleads with Abraham to have Lazarus sooth his ailment, but Abraham reminds him that he already been rewarded with good things, but despite warnings by Moses and the prophets, he chose not to honor God in his life by caring for his neighbor Lazarus.
He even begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his fathers house so that his brothers won’t suffer the fate that has taken him andAbraham tells him that the fate of his fathers house is up to them… If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, it won’t do them any good to hear from someone that comes back from the dead.
One would immediately jump to think that this parable is about heaven and hell… Perhaps thinking that the poor get in but the rich don’t… But this parable it is more about life, and what we do with what we have in this life, and how we use it to directly honor God.
There is a story about a preacher that had been assigned to a new congregation… He had never met the congregation. Before the Sunday church service, this preacher dressed in the shabbiest rags he had, marked up his face, and rolled around on the ground and got all dirty. Just before the congregation was to arrive, this preacher laid in the walkway at the entrance to the church. The parishioners started coming in, dressed in their Sunday finest, and walked right by him laying there. Some even stepped over the preacher as they tried to enter the church.
Some pretended that they didn’t even see him. No one tried to help him at all, no one even stopped to see if he needed medical attention, they just walked by. After they were all in the church, the preacher jumped up and walked in the church – right down the center isle to the front, where he started to preach –
He preached on the ills of being comfortable, of not wanting to be bothered by someone that they saw as a “lesser” human being.
That is what these readings are about... In Jesus' story, the rich man has it all, what more else could he want? He walks right by Lazarus every day, and doesn’t even have the decency to throw him a crust of bread. He didn’t want to be bothered by this “lesser” human being. The sad part to the story is, that only in death does he realize what he really should have done, then it is too late.
Jesus continues to upset the social order as he travels on his way to Jerusalem. So far this season, we have heard what he teaches about what it means to be a disciple, to move forward in mission and minister to those that don’t have the gracious abundance that we have. We have heard about what it means to be a neighbor, to reach out in hospitality to everyone that you receive, and to be humble.
Now Jesus is warning us about our stuff and our money. He doesn’t want us to give up everything that we have worked for. But he does warn us that our obsession with stuff and with money will make us loose sight of the
Those of you that know me, have heard me comment on the Apostle Paul before. While I may personally feel that Paul has his own struggles and issues that he is working through – Trying to live in the ancient world while spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, Paul always stays true to his message.
In his pastoral letter to Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy to tell the rich not to be self-important, and snooty – not to bank on the “unrighteous mammon” in their lives… but to rely on God, be generous with what they have, and build a foundation for the future and take hold of life that really is life. Paul hits the nail on the head… some may say "this sounds like works righteousness," but it is works that are a result of the love and joy we have for Christ… It is our witness to the gospel.
So – are we honoring God with our life in how we use our stuff and our money? Are we witnessing to our love of Jesus in our daily actions? Our challenge this morning is to look inwardly – to examine our own lives and our mission as a people of God…
We should think to ourselves, are we like the rich man who “passes by” Lazarus laying out by the gate? Are we the church goer that “steps over” the vagrant laying in our pathway? Or are we honoring God with our lives, achieving justice, healing and peace… and witnessing to the love of Jesus Christ with our thoughts, our words, and our actions?