Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Christmas Day, Year A December 25, 2016 Christmas Day, 2016 Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4, Psalm 98, John 1:1-14
The Eve of the Nativity December 24, 2016 Christmas Eve Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2: 1-20
Third Sunday in Advent, Year A December 11, 2016 Third Sunday of Advent, Year A Psalm 146:4-9, Matthew 11:2-11
Second Sunday in Advent, Year A December 4, 2016 Second Sunday of Advent, Year A Matthew 3:1-12
First Sunday in Advent, Year A November 27, 2016 First Sunday of Advent, Year A Isaiah 2:1-5, Ps 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44
Christ the King Sunday, Year C November 20, 2016 Christ the King Sunday, Year C Jeremiah 23:1-6. Ps 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43
Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C November 13, 2016 Proper 28, Year C Malachi 4:1-2a, Ps 98, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19
Charles Sydnor’s sermon, Nov. 6, 2016, All Saints November 6, 2016 All Saints, Year C Luke: 6: 20-31
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C October 30, 2016 Proper 26, Year C Isaiah 1:10-18, Psalm 32, Luke 19:1-10
Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C October 23, 2016 Proper 25, Year C II Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14
Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C October 16, 2016 Proper 24, Year C Luke 18:1-8, Genesis 32: 22-31
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C October 9, 2016 Proper 23, Year C 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Luke 17:11-19
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C October 2, 2016 Proper 22, Year C II Timothy 1:1-14
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C September 25, 2016 Proper 21, Year C Luke 16:19-31
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C September 4, 2016 Proper 18, Year C Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33

 

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Sermon Date:September 25, 2016

Scripture: Luke 16:19-31

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 21, Year C


"The Rich Man and Poor Lazarus " – Terbrugghen (1625)

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I have a question for you.  And you have some help right on the wall in front of you. 

Which of the Ten Commandments did the rich man break in this parable we just heard?

(Commandment One—You shall have no other gods before me.)

Who was the rich man’s God?

(Himself)

The first commandment says that we are to have no other gods before God. 

I don’t generally think of myself as putting myself before God, but this parable that Jesus told makes me realize how easy it is to get on the slippery slope of disobedience and start digging a chasm between myself and others so deep that it cannot be crossed when I put myself before God.  

The rich man’s sin was not that he had so much, but that he used all that he had for himself, just like the Israelites that Amos criticizes in today’s Old Testament reading, who lie on their ivory couches and sing idle songs, forgetting the ruin of Joseph.  Professor of Old Testament Rolf Jacobson explains on the website Working Preacher that “forgetting the ruin of Joseph” means something like Marie Antoinette saying of the poor of France, “Let them eat cake,” or Nero fiddling as Rome burns.

All of these people are oblivious to the horrible situations of the poor all around them, so oblivious that they don’t even see the people anymore. 

Because they are too preoccupied with themselves—having become their own little gods, interested only in themselves.   

This temptation certainly existed in the early church since the writer of Timothy offered this advice to his readers. 

“As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Imagine what might have happened if the rich man had not been so preoccupied with himself, but instead had been focused on God.  

If the rich man had been seeing with the eyes of God, he would have noticed Lazarus and taken care of him, because that’s what God would have done. 

But instead, every time the rich man shut his gate and left Lazarus, untended and hungry, lying on the ground outside, he was digging a chasm between them that kept getting deeper and deeper. 

A great chasm in our world right now exists between those who have safe places to live, which is definitely a form of wealth, and those who live in the poverty of constant fear for their lives. 

In August, a picture came out in the news of a young boy in Aleppo, Syria.  This little boy, maybe five years old, probably less, was pulled out of the bombed out rubble of his home, and the picture shows him sitting in a daze in an ambulance, covered in blood and dust, waiting for help.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/18/boy-in-the-ambulance-image-emerges-syrian-child-aleppo-rubble#img-1

And just yesterday in The Washington Post, the top front page carried another picture of a little child, pulled from yet another building turned to rubble in Aleppo, and this child is dead.

How easy it is to decide not to look at pictures like these, because they are so distressing.  Or to look at them, and to decide that this is in a part of the world that has nothing to do with me.  Or to look at them and figure that yes, this is horrible, but there’s nothing I can do, so therefore, maybe I’m going to maybe utter a quick prayer and turn the page, putting unpleasant images like this out of my mind.  And so I dig a chasm between me and the sorrows of the world, out of the need to protect myself from this sort of tragedy. 

It’s hard to see these images through God’s eyes, because we know  that God would act and have mercy—the name Lazarus in fact means “God helps.”  And helping in these situations is what we find so hard to do. 

After that first image I mentioned appeared in the paper, Laura Long posted the picture and the following thoughts on her Facebook page and I quote—

“This image has shocked the world this week. It has been widely spread through social media postings followed by sympathetic captions. When I first viewed this image/video I sat and cried. Partly due to the jarring image this child is of Aleppo’s suffering but also the eerie resemblance this image bares to that of Aylan Kurdi from last September. Omran Daqneesh was just 1 of 15 children being treated that day from that airstrike. War has no regard for age. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights over 18,000 civilians have been killed 4,500 children. If children are our future then I can’t help but wonder what these images and numbers are telling us. Or yet, warning us.

I see a group of people crying out for help. They’ve been crying out for a long time. We tend to feel overwhelmed with emotion and hopelessness reading articles with images like this. However, Syria doesn’t need our empathy and tears as much as it needs our prayers and actions. I know there is no easy answer for this crisis. I am by no means an expert on the subject but I do believe the first step is to continue to educate ourselves and help wherever we can. Here is a link from The Guardian with recourses as to how we can begin:”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/19/shocked-by-the-image-of-the-syrian-boy-in-the-rubble-heres-how-to-help

I have to confess that it’s been a long time since I’ve cried over a picture, or let myself look too long at anything so tragic because I have my own concerns on my mind. 

But Laura’s words made me open my eyes.  I could see the chasm between my own safe world and the terrifying and war torn world in which this little five-year-old boy had to be pulled from the rubble of his own bombed house. 

So yesterday, after seeing the picture of the dead child on the front page of The Post, and feeling the desire to shut the gates of my heart,and to shrug off this photo,  I decided instead to look at it more closely.  In the crowd of people around the child, I realized that a young woman on her knees was holding the dead child—maybe the child’s mother.  And I felt sorrow, and sympathy, and wished I could do something to help. 

Meanwhile, Laura says that “the past six months of her own life have been spent with God shifting my heart towards the crisis from sympathy to a call to action.” 

So she’s going with a group of people from her church in California to Athens, Greece, to help the over 50,000 refugees who have fled there in an effort to escape from the horrors taking place in Syria. 

You’ll find a letter about her trip in your bulletin.  You can take it home, read it, and you can help her out by helping her fund this trip.  You can go with her to Greece in spirit as she and the others in the group go to the refugee camps, distribute food and clothing, organize programs for young children, and assist in any way they are needed. 

In Bible study this past week, our discussion lingered over the fact that the rich man ended up in Hades, tormented by thirst and flames while Lazarus rested in the bosom of Abraham—and the great chasm meant that no one could go to the rich man to relieve him from his torment. 

This ending sounds so final, so lacking in mercy for the rich man.  Jesus meant for this parable to bring us up short.  Jesus wants us to see that even now, we are digging chasms so deep and wide that they cannot be crossed in this life or the next. 

But we know the end of the story, and in the end, there is hope that even this chasm that the rich man fixed in his lifetime, and that the deep and wide chasms we create may be crossed. 

And our hope is Jesus himself.

Jesus, because of his compassionate love for us, through his crucifixion, death and resurrection, crossed over all of all of these fixed chasms to us, and built us a bridge to God.

And right now is the time to step out onto the bridge that Jesus has laid out for us that will carry us over the chasm of death into the heart of God’s compassion and eternal life of love.

Amen. 

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