Notes for a Message Based on Luke 16:19-31; “C” – P18

Texts for this week are: Jeremiah 32:1-3a,6-15  //  Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 or UMH 810   //  1 Timothy 6:6-19   //  Luke 16:19-31

Scriptures can be read here:   NIV  //   NRSV   //  The Message


We live with preconceived notions. We have our own likes, dislikes, habits and rituals and most of us do not spend much time thinking about it. We even have a name for that combination of likes, dislikes, habits and rituals: we call it “NORMAL.”

The parable of the Rich Man (a.k.a. Dives; Dives means “Rich” in Latin; we don’t know his real name) and Lazarus is a story a two persons whose fortunes changed, and whose ideas of “NORMAL” were challenged. Although Jesus does not use word “chasm” until after Dives and Lazarus were dead, they were separated by a chasm of likes, dislikes, habits and rituals during their lives. They were separated by a chasm of what was considered to be  “NORMAL” in their day and age.


I used to imagine Dives to be similar in character and looks to Ebenezer Scrooge before he “saw the light.” When I looked closely at today’s Gospel reading, I was surprised to discover that Dives is not at all described as being miserly, stingy, gloomy or morose.


Luke tells us nothing about this man’s attitude towards money; it is quite possible that he was generous, supporting all kinds of charities throughout his lifetime.


Luke tells us nothing about this man’s attitude towards life. We have no idea whether he was religious and we do not know any of his thoughts or emotions towards the poor while he enjoyed the blessings of life surrounded by his family and friends in his nice home.


Sometimes what is NOT said is as important as what IS said. By NOT telling us anything about this man’s attitude towards money or life Luke makes a point that this story is not about our need to be generous, our need to depend on God, our need to be grateful to God for every blessing in our lives, or our emotions of sadness or guilt about having nice things.


The point that Jesus makes however has to do with the fact that we live in a world ravaged by poverty, sickness, and vulnerability (based on age, sex, race, ethnic identity, religious beliefs, and social status).


The point that Jesus makes is that we tend to run away from or turn the blind eye to the suffering of others because that is normal in our society and because suffering scares us and challenges our own ideas of normalcy.


We see glimpses of that in our own communities. “Haves” live on one side of the tracks (or the river, or the road) and “Have Nots” live on the other side. The poor are objects of church “outreach programs”; the wealthy are church leaders and members. The “Haves” go to one church and the “Have Nots” go to another. We create separation; we build chasms on the shifty foundation of labels: race, ethnicity, understanding of God (liberal versus conservative), religion (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist), party affiliation (Republican, Democrat, Tea Party), job categories (blue color/white color)… And we don’t see anything wrong with it (Brewer).


These “chasms” hurt our community. Isolating ourselves from our sisters and brothers in the human family makes us more vulnerable and denies us the opportunity to see and experience richness and fullness of God’s creation, richness and fullness that reflects the image of God. That is why it is important for churches to be involved in mission trips, where members travel to different places and interact with other Christians.


So what’s in it for us? What can we learn from God’s Word today? Where would we be in today’s readings?


The story of the Rich Man (Dives) and Lazarus sheds a light on our abilities and how we translate them into our capabilities. Dives failed to recognize the chasm between himself and Lazarus until it was too late. And even then he did not do anything to repair that chasm. In verses Luke 16:23-31 of today’s reading Dives asks Abraham to send Lazarus to fetch some water and then to send Lazarus on an errand to warn his brothers and their families. We don’t see even a hint of remorse or understanding in Dives’ plea to Abraham. All he cares about are his brothers and their families. That would be us.


The people that Dives wanted to warn are you and I. We are ones who build chasms between ourselves and others and we are ones who pretend that these chasms do not matter. We are the ones who hold on to our hopes and dreams instead of sharing them with people outside our walls.


None of us are powerful enough to broker peace in a time of war. None of us are wealthy enough to end the world hunger. We are not capable of ending homelessness. We cannot prevent earthquakes and we cannot stop hurricanes. As individuals we are helpless against tyranny. But we do have abilities and these abilities translate into capabilities.


Our country is facing tough economic times.


There are Lazaruses all around us. Some are hungry because they have nothing to eat; although we cannot fix all the problems of hunger and homelessness, we do what we can through the Ray of Hope.


Some are spiritually hungry; they are frustrated, scared and feel disenfranchised by the society that all of us live in. Those are the Lazaruses that we can help. We can offer them a sympathetic ear and invite them to become members of our community. We can offer to them the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves, something that will infuse their lives with meaning and a sense of purpose, something that will give them hope. In the last couple of weeks I talked about seeing the same glow on your faces that was on Moses face when he came down from Mount Sinai with the Tablets of the Law. That glow comes from experiencing and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst.


That is what we have to offer and we are capable of doing that.


In conclusion I want to leave you with a couple of questions. Who are our Lazaruses? What can we do to invite them? What are the chasms that we need to bridge?


When we become more diligent about bridging chasms between “us” and “them,” being a Christian, being a part of a church will become less about Sunday and more about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.


When we strive to bridge these chasms, the church will become not only a place we go on Sunday, but it will also become something that we do the whole week long.


When we are intentional at inviting people in and offering them a place where everybody knows their name, church will start becoming a verb instead of a noun.


Remember the questions: Who are our Lazaruses? What can we do to invite them? What are the chasms that we need to bridge?


How we answer these questions (and IF we answer these questions) will determine what our church will look like in five, ten, twenty and fifty years from now. The way we answer these questions will determine whether this church will become a pile of rubble or will still be a vibrant community of Christian sisters and brothers serving God by serving the world around us.


Works Cited

Brewer, Sarah Dylan. Sarah Laughed. 27 September 2007. 23 September 2010 <>.


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