Jesus talks, through many parables, about stuff…a lot of stuff! Specifically our stuff. Is having stuff good? Bad? That’s a lot of stuff to think about! The writer of Luke was very concerned with how we use our stuff, or wealth. Let’s face it, if we have stuff, then we have wealth whether we think so or not. There are so many people in this world that don’t have anything.
As the parables in chapters 15 and 16 conclude, it’s important to remember that in these three parables no one is ever condemned for being wealthy or for having a lot of stuff. It’s what is done or not done with it that matters.
Last week’s didn’t make any sense at all. Is this parable making too much sense? A rich man steps over a suffering child of God, ignoring him. The suffering man looks longingly at the table that is laden with rich food for rich men and are so rich they eat rich food every single day. The men die on the same day. Now the reversals for which Luke is so well known are completed.
After their deaths, Lazarus is carried away by the angles –his name is “God helps.” The rich guy – buried. Lazarus is the bosom of Abraham. And when someone is in the “bosom” it is Bible-speak for “beloved”. The rich guy is in Hades.
The one who lived the life of comfort now finds himself tormented, Lazarus is now the comforted and the great divide between these two continues into the afterlife as well.
“Father Abraham,” the rich guys demands, “send Lazarus from the dead to tell my five siblings that if they don’t change their ways they will be right here with me.”
“If they don’t listen to Moses the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” I love that divine sense of humor, don’t you?
Then the truth that we are to learn from this not-necessarily true story is that we are the five siblings. We are them.
If someone rises from the dead…Jesus rose from the dead and the writer of Luke knows that. The readers and listeners of Luke know that because the Gospel gets written down some 60 years after the resurrection of Jesus. We are the ones who have Moses and the prophets. We know tomb is empty. We KNOW Jesus is Lord! We do know the compassion of a God embodied in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
This parable is about the character and quality of our life right now.
We are invited to embrace the abundant life God offers. Because we believe that God is loose in this world, we participate in chasm-closing activities of God as God seeks to level the playing field of our lives.
And there are many chasms prevalent in our world right now – the chasm of racism, sexism, ageism, classism and any other “ism.”
We are invited to live into fuller, more meaningful, more joyous life by sharing what God first gave to us – our time, treasures and talents – with those around us. And to work to close those chasms.
It is important to God in how we deal with each other. Christ conquered sin, death and the devil but now what?
We may have the assurance that we won’t suffer the same fate of the Rich Man but does that release us from our debt?
It changes the question of “what must I do to be saved?” to “How do I respond to the free gift of grace, justification and salvation?” We are freed from the worry about being saved, we are freed to love and serve God.
This is kingdom living at its best!
And because we believe that God is loose in this world, we are participants in the chasm-closing activities of God. It is God’s work, but our hands – God is working for us, in us and through us. We are the flesh and blood of God’s action in the world.
We are walking, talking illustrations that the life, death and resurrection of Christ has made the difference in the world.
The kingdom of God is here and now – not yet fully realized but definitely present for all to participate in.
This parable very clearly links our wellbeing with that of others. And it is a call to be responsive to those needs.
God saw fit to send a man from the dead to awaken us, to bid us to bring relief to others and to tell all that we meet that God loves us and cares for us. We have seen a man rise from the dead and it has made all the difference in the world.
Has it made a difference to us? Or is it just stuff?