16 Pentecost Proper 21 Yr C Sept 29th 2019

Audio  16 Pentecost Proper 21 Yr C Sept 29th 2019
Amos 6:1a,4-7, Psalm 146, 1 Timothy 6:6-19, Luke 16:19-31

Luke just doesn't let up on us, at all, ever. One parable more difficult and confusing than the last. The kingdom of God is like... layers of meaning, what it seems like on first blush may not be what it really is about. There was a certain rich man, who feasted luxuriously every day, and at his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus, all Lazarus wanted was to eat the crumbs the rich man dropped. Well, remember one of the themes of Luke's gospel is wealth, so is this parable about wealth, and its proper use?

Well, Lazarus died, and was carried by angels to Abraham's side, Abraham, the father of Israel. The rich man died and was tormented in the place of the dead. This is clearly a judgement about the proper use of wealth, and the rich man gets it in the end, right? There's more to prove that, Lazarus is being comforted, and the rich man is in great pain, the crevasse between is unbridgeable. There is a chasm between good and bad, rich and poor, it is all clear and easy to understand. Well now, that would not be a parable, would it?

So the rich man does not want his five brothers to come to this place of agony, and he wants Lazarus to warn his brothers to repent. It must be about repentance. Is it about wealth, judgement, repentance? It is about all of these things, it is a parable after all.

But in the end, is it about resurrection? In the end, is it about how life is to be lived while living? Abraham said, "If they don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead." In the end, is it really about living? It is not about the reward at the end, it is about the life that Jesus inaugurated on the cross and in the resurrection. It is about the whole new life and the whole new world that Jesus makes real for us, for God's creation. It is about the amazing and abundant love now, in this life, that causes us to be workers for justice, for peace, for healing, for compassion. And is it about Luke's counsel and concern regarding wealth.

It is about our riches, our wealth. A priest in the Diocese of Utah, Lyn, told me this story, it's a story about incarnation. It's a story about showing up with and for people. It's a story about the real presence of Jesus. It's a story about an embarrassment of riches, and it's a story of gratitude. Lyn says, one day she answered the phone at her church, and there was an unfamiliar voice at the other end. He said he needed some help. Now, in this business, when you get a phone call like that, you stop listening and wait for the ask. Sometimes you want to stop the speaker and just say, how much money do you need? Lyn listened, and was surprised that what the caller wanted was prayer. He had just seen a doctor and was afraid of what the doctor might tell him, he had a young daughter, but no one else. He just wanted someone to pray with and for him. Lyn did, she prayed with him. He told her he would let her know how it all turned out.

Rich and poor don't always look like we think they should look like. We are rich. We are rich in our community. Any one of you comes right here, to this place, and asks for prayer. And we, your community, envelope you in love, in prayer, in support. We accompany you on your healing journey. You have family, you have friends, you are rich. After your diagnosis, or after your surgery, you have a list of people to call to tell about how it's going. A whole list. This man, who asked for Lyn to pray with him, had one phone call to make after the doctor gave him the news, one phone call, to Lyn. And the news he delivered was good. Lyn could celebrate with him.

This is what incarnation looks like. It looks like showing up with and for others. It is bearing God's love and God's hope and God's dream for the world in our very beings. It is bringing healing into brokenness, and it is bringing love to bear when hate is all around.

It is seeing, really seeing, The rich man in our story never paid heed to Lazarus in life, never. Seeing, is a very big deal. And the rich man's eyes are blind to Lazarus. Before you can have compassion for people, you have to see them, look into their eyes, and see, acknowledge their presence, their needs, and gifts, and above all their status as a beloved and blessed child of God.

So I think this is Luke's point, Luke urges us to gratitude, and thankfulness for the abundant life that comes through Jesus' resurrection, the new life that Jesus affects. And that brings us to seeing, really seeing those around us and around our neighborhoods and around our schools, and around the world as God's beloved children deserving our care, attention, and friendship. And Luke says to us give, give out of your richness, whatever that richness looks like.

Luke says to us that this reality that we celebrate each time we gather for a meal, each time we come to this table, each time we say together, Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread, we, crumb by crumb, drop by drop, live into the new creation Jesus makes us into. We see, we experience, the fullness of life God intends and offers, and we embrace the people God has set in our path.

Luke tells us in this parable that through the gift of Jesus, the gift of incarnation, the gift of resurrection, God with us in the flesh, God with us in the spirit, we are made new creations, and the character and quality of our lives today matter. Not because we do good things to earn a reward, but because first and foremost we are loved. Eternal life is not a distant reality, it starts now. It starts with Jesus’ relationship with us. Eternal life is life in its fullness now, given to us through God who loves us.

And we respond to that gift by giving from our richness, from our abundance. We respond to that gift by really seeing the people around us. Jesus is in our midst.

Always remembering, if it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God. Amen.


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