The Greeting

Hello. Thank you for joining us for today’s online service of prayer and praise.
Here we are at the end of September and it seems so long ago that we began following Jesus on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. It has been an exciting journey filled with teaching, healing and most recently increasing tension between Jesus and the religious authorities of the time.

I pray that through this service today you will be spiritually uplifted and know that you are loved and blessed by God.
Come, let us worship.

The Gospel Introduction

Today the Gospel passage that we are about to read is found only the Gospel attributed to Luke. It is a story that Jesus directed at the Pharisees; a story that draws to a close a short rebuking response Jesus directed at them in reaction to their ridiculing comments about the parable of the rich man’s steward that we heard last week.

As we listen to this story, the story knows as the Rich Man and Lazarus, please keep in mind that this parable is introduced with Jesus pointing a reproving finger at the Pharisees, saying, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts.” I believe those word of Jesus point us towards the heart and kingdom truth of the story that we will now hear.

The Homily

Last week we read what could well be considered the most difficult of all of Jesus’ parables, the parable of a rich man’s dishonest / unjust /

unrighteous / shrewd steward or business manager. You will recall that I went to great lengths to steer clear of presenting a single, full and complete understanding of the gospel truth that Jesus was trying to convey in that parable. Rather, in rather pedestrian form, I offered a

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plethora of the diverse thoughts and opinions of others; how they understood and interpreted one or more of the numerous facets of that parable to support and, on occasion to challenge, a variety of pre-existing theological positions.
Today we have heard another story told by Jesus which, like last week’sparable, has numerous facets, each of which affords the opportunity to speak to something different. For some the primary purpose of today’s story is as an instructive explanation of the afterlife and the reversals of

fortune that will come. For others it evoked comments about final judgement. Others focus on Jesus’ continuing cautionary words about the place of wealth in our lives, its influence on our spiritual health and, more broadly, economic disparity. Some see these words as Jesus’ convoluted way of censuring the Pharisees. Some see it as a corrective to the popular belief that wealth was an indication of being blessed by God and that poverty was an indication of punishment from God. And others see this story addressing the issue of unbelief and the need of repentance. Sometimes it is difficult to discover gospel truth. This parable has lots of facets and each offers a path to follow. What drew my interest this past

week was to look at this parable in light of those words that Jesus said to the Pharisees – “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts.”
“God knows your heart.”

It strikes me that the rich man could, at least in his own assessment, validate his earthly life. And probably those who heard Jesus thought so as well – after all, he was rich. He lived a good life, a very good life, and at

the time, Jesus’ audience, including the Pharisees, who loved their money, may have thought that there was nothing uncommendable with this rich man. After all, according to some readings of the Old Testament,

one could argue that this man’s wealth stemmed from God and thereforeindicated that God favoured him.
And just as an aside, such thinking has continued throughout Christian history. Do you remember the Anglican hymn All Things Bright and

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Beautiful? It was written in 1884 by Anglo-Irish hymn writer and poet Cecil Frances Alexander and her original text included a verse that goes like this:

The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate. All things bright and beautiful …etc. etc. etc!

Though this verse has been left out of our hymn books, the belief thatprosperity is a sign of God’s blessing can still be found in some current

theologies.
However, such an understanding does not seem to be acceptable to Jesus and it seems that in this parable the rich man may have been very well- to-do but his heart was not in the right place – not in the Kingdom place. The rich man’s fault was not his prosperity but rather his indifference to Lazarus. The rich man, though he must have seen the poor man at his gate, did not see Lazarus, he did not see a fellow human being let alone a fellow child of God. Even after death the rich man regarded Lazarus as something to be used – “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue” he said, and “send him to my father’s house – for I

have five brothers – that he may warn them.”
Words from a short pithy poem came drifting up from the recesses of my brain as I thought about all this. It was written in 1899 by the American educator and poet William Hughes Mearns. Its title is “Antigonish” but is often referred to as “The Little Man Who Wasn’t There.” Here’s the last stanza:

Last night I saw upon the stair, A little man who wasn’t there, He wasn’t there again today Oh, how I wish he’d go away….

Though not the original inspiration for the poem, I thought these wordsexpressed the fault of the rich man in today’s parable – looking at but not

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seeing – the rich man saw only the little poor man at his gate but did not see Lazarus. He was indifferent. He was unmoved.
Today I hear this parable as a story of how we are to live as children of the kingdom of God in the present moment, in the here and now. Today’s parable speaks to the reality of the present chasm created by indifference which blinds us to each other’s humanity and to our affinity as much-loved children of God. Indifference not only dehumanises us, it shows contempt for our place in the kingdom of God.

Following Jesus calls for action calls for our participation in God’s creation and in the work of the kingdom. In a roundabout way this parable reminds me that truly seeing the unseen other, caring for the disenfranchised, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, setting the oppressed free are marks of discipleship and acts that contribute to the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in our midst. They are moments of resurrection in that they give life where death has been.

This parable drives us towards the gate of our house with the words of the 8th century BC prophet Amos echoing through the years to our 21st. century AD ears; Amos warns against those who “push away the needy in

the gate” and calls instead for “justice in the gate” (Amos 5:12-15).
We are called to be part of Jesus life and ministry now. Participating in the kingdom now involves seeing and responding to those in need around us. The gate of the rich man’s house proclaims all the opportunities for kingdom living, all the opportunities to truly see beyond just looking, and all the opportunities to express the love of God to those who are so often ignored, dismissed and overlooked, those we so often

think of as “other”.
Jesus calls us to see who it is that is at the gate, who is the Lazarus at our gate. And seeing with the eyes of God’s kingdom, take action as would

our Lord Jesus, treating them and valuing them as beloved children of God.
Remember, dear friends, God knows our hearts. May they always be united with God’s.

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