Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lazarus & Rich Man

So what are we to say about this parable … In my study over the past week I’ve been struck by two strands of this story … As I’m a visual learner … I’m going to use the image of something that i suspect we all have in our pockets / wallets / purses - 1 or 2 Euro Coin 

when you look at those coins they are made up of 2 metals - both are need if they are separated the coin becomes useless! They are inextricably linked 

The outside strand i’m using as reflecting our actions

The internal one being our relationship with God 

So lets take our actions first … because that’s where Jesus begins the story - day after day the rich man is swanning about with his fine clothes and his good food. We’re not told but does he simply choose to ignore Lazarus?, does he just not see him sitting at the gate?  is there just too many poor people around about him that he has grown immune to suffering … which can happen. 

Does he not know how to help? If he feeds lazarus … will other comes and where will it end? 

Lukes Gospel in particular has a concern for the poor, the vulnerable and the outsider this parable reinforces this. those who as we have said were overlooked by the elite, the religious of the society of the day. 

I must admit this week I’ve been hugely challenged by this  this week - because of a few things 

On a local scale - the guys to come down to the bottom of the gate of the church - what should our response be as a church? 

On a national scale - the homeless crisis is being talked about both in abstract but also in reality - facts and figures have the potential to blind us to the individuals 

and the International Migrant & Refugee crisis - and I’m going to be a bit provocative for the moment - because I don't know what the answer is but I do know something needs to be done and  as Christians we do need to wrestle with it.  I don’t normally get this passionate but we are being called to do something 

I have been struck that we have a lot to learn from the leadership and challenge of our global partners. The diocese that we visited in Zambia are doing a huge amount in the area of helping those in poverty - at a local level individuals are responding to God’s call in small but effective ways. 

On an International level - Archbishop Chama - who invited us out to his diocese this week sent an letter on behalf of the 85 Million Members of the anglican communion to Banki Moon 

The global tragedy of the forced displacement of millions of people is now a crisis that calls us to work together in new and creative ways in response to such suffering and disruption. The trauma experienced by the world’s 60 million refugees speaks to our common humanity, and pleads with us to take action as we reach out to respond to their suffering.  However, people are not only fleeing conflict and violence, but also moving around the world to escape from poverty or the effects of climate change. People search to find places where they can work and feed their families, to find better opportunities or freedom to live in peace and safety, whoever they are.  All this demands a much more intentional and robust collective response in which the churches and other faith communities are more than ready to take their place.
In addition, as our church communities reach out in loving service to those who have lost everything and who often arrive profoundly traumatized, bearing both physical and psychological scars from their experiences, we know that these people, whom the world labels as refugees, asylum seekers or migrants are, like all the people of the earth, treasured human beings made in the image of God. They deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people on the move, but we know that each of them is not only another number in a huge statistic but also an individual who brings a unique story of displacement, a unique potential to flourish and a unique ability to contribute to the common good.

In today’s world hospitality, reconciliation and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism.

This parable deals with the reality of the world, Action is important but we also need to remember how the author deals with the world … its through relationship … the heart of the coin - the core of our beliefs - what God has already revealed. 

When the rich man finds the reality that he’s not where he expected to be … he wanted to send a warning back but is prevented from doing so … the world has all the information it needs to make a decisions on how to live and what they should be doing 

Repent, doesn’t mean “to be sorry.” It means “to change, to alter course, to do a complete turn around and go the other way.” The rich man was in hell, not because he was rich, but because he had ignored Moses and the prophets. 

He should’ve repented on earth and obeyed Moses and the Prophets, but he didn’t. The Law and the Prophets had commanded the Jews to care for the poor and take care of the weak. There are many examples of this but just a couple will demonstrate the case.

 From the Law: Deut 15:11“Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” From the Prophets: Isaiah 58:10“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

Not long after Jesus told this story, a man called Lazarus would rise from the dead, in John 11. Did the Pharisees believe then? No, they sought to kill Jesus and Lazarus.

I love the old story of A Christmas Carol with Ebenezer Scrooge - the rich man who was changed by the appearance of the ghost of Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. 

But signs aren’t enough to make anyone believe. 

All who read & hear God’s word - have a responsibility to respond - as he calls. 

Yesterday I was up in Northern Ireland for a mission conference - and heard great stories from around the world where God’s word was being preached but also where faith was being put into action.

I loved the attitude of what they are trying to do. 
  • See a need 
  • Try our best to Meet that need 
  • And trust God that he will supply what is needed 

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius - in the mid 60’s wrote in his devotions and is also spoken the film Gladiator - “What we do in life echoes in Eternity” and very much Jesus was saying this through the parable. What we do in our three score years and 10 or however many years we live matters.

 In today’s world hospitality, reconciliation and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism.

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