Sunday, 25 September 2016

Can't make it to church - 25 September 2016

I’m going to move away from my usual practice of bringing all three readings into the sermon and keep on the one major thread of money, God and us and as we begin with thew Gospel there’s a bit of stand up comedian routine that beckons us to grab the microphone and open with the words, “The rich man and Lazarus – what’s that all about, eh?”

Here we have a bloke with nothing but sores and a rich geezer with nothing but full barns and bulging pockets - talk about contrasts. Not only that but we find Abraham making an appearance as the ‘Father of the multitude (the people of God)’ for those hearing the words first hand would have had him, and being in his company after death, in a very special place.

Here we are continuing to think about attitudes to money –  we know we can't serve two masters and that money and God can easily contend for domination over our lives and now we come to the final bit: the culmination of the eat, drink and be merry as tomorrow comes and the rich man, and the poor man too, dies. It’s here that the rich bloke, for the first time, notices a hitherto unnoticed beggar called Lazarus.

But now the tables are turned as the beggar sits at a table laden with good stuff whilst the rich bloke is in hell (Hades) gasping for just a sip of water. This is the stuff of contrasts and judgement – treasures on earth and those stored up in heaven – temporal and eternal stuff.  This passage was then, and is now, a shot across the bows and a call to get our lives in order whilst we can. It is not, I think, a literal statement about life and death but an illustration designed to be provocative and cautionary – so don’t expect to pop your clogs and see some rich buffoon burning far off in the distance whilst you tuck in to some eternal happy meal!

The stab to the heart, and the focus of this passage, comes when the rich man asks Abraham to allow Lazarus to pop back and warn his five brothers about the path he, and presumably they, have taken and the place to which it leads. It goes like this:

“I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets (the Old Testament); let them listen to them.”

The rich man responds, “If someone (who returns) from the dead goes to them, they will repent,” only to hear Abraham say, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Some have always been unconvinced by God’s written word (old and new), by Jesus (God’s living Word) and His message of love and servanthood and continue to ignore Him even when He returned from the dead! Today we perhaps find ourselves among the family members, the inheritors of lifestyle and attitude, of the rich man – perhaps we have wrong attitudes towards money and are a little confused as to what is important – best listen to the man who returned from the dead, eh?

So no surprise that the New Testament passage adds a cherry to the whole thing as it reminds us that ‘we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it’ and need to learnt to be both godly and content; food and clothing, the basics being provided should be enough.  But, of course, there will always be those who fall into the trap that is the ‘love of money’ and this ‘love’ is A root of all kinds of evil; it causes people to ‘wander from the faith’ and load themselves with many griefs. (Note – the use of the word ‘A’ not ‘THE’ for the love of money is but one of the paths to separation from God!

So we should run from the wrong stuff and instead run after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness and should ‘Fight the good fight of the faith’. We should be prepared to give an answer for the reason we believe in, and follow, Jesus (the Christ) and should seek to tell those who are rich to put their hope in God rather than wealth; storing up treasures in heaven rather than in the bank!

After all – you can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead!

Let us pray for those who have nothing, that they will have food and water, be clothed, have shelter and be free to live in safety.

Let us pray for those who have plenty that they will not be shackled by their possessions and limited buy the things that they have - may they show kindness and grace to those less fortunate and seek the things of the kingdom.

Let us pray for those who suffer in body, mind and spirit - may they know the healing touch of God's Holy Spirit and the presence of His people ministering love to them.

Let us pray for ourselves - that we may grow in grace and overcome those things which hamper us, causing us to fail and fall.

The Collect
God, our judge and saviour, teach us to be open to your truth and to trust in your love, that we may live each day with confidence in the salvation which is given through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Luke 16:19-31
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

1 Timothy 6:6-19
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Post Communion Prayer
We praise and thank you, O Christ, for this sacred feast: for here we receive you, here the memory of your passion is renewed, here our minds are filled with grace, and here a pledge of future glory is given, when we shall feast at that table where you reign with all your saints for ever. Amen.

No comments: