Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 25-September-2016; Luke 16:19-31

Scripture for this Sunday is 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31

You can find these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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In the song Eleanor Rigby, the Beatles asked a question, “Look at all the lonely people, …Where do they all come from [and] where do they all belong?”

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That song paints a picture of a woman named Eleanor Rigby who picks up the rice in the church after a wedding. Is she a cleaning lady? Does she pick up the rice and scraps to survive? We don’t know.

And then we learn that Eleanor Rigby died in the church, she was buried (“along with her name”) and no one cared enough to come to the funeral.

I have no doubt that this Eleanor Rigby that the Beatles wrote about was based on a real person. There was a time in her life when she dreamt about meeting her Prince Charming, when she was in love, when she went to work every day, enjoyed parties, celebrated birthdays, spent time with friends. We don’t know whether she was ever married, whether she had children; maybe they all perished in a war. The point I am trying to make is that Eleanor Rigby was worthy of attention, worthy of love, worthy of extra care from the rest of society and especially from those who were doing well for themselves. And yet, she died in the church, she was buried (“along with her name”) and no one cared enough to come to her funeral.

We live with preconceived notions. We each 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.”

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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 the word “chasm” until after Dives and Lazarus were dead, during their lives they were separated by a chasm of likes, dislikes, habits and rituals. They were separated by a chasm of what was considered to be “NORMAL” in their day and age.

I think of Eleanor Rigby from the Beatles’ song as a modern day Lazarus.

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I used to think that Dives was kind of like 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.

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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 the 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. Though all these things are all important, this parable is not about any of that.

The point that Jesus makes 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).

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

Ah look at all the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
Where do they all belong?”

Although today’s sermon is not a candidate for the “Pastor Asher’s Feel Good Sermons” Hall of Fame there is Good News in today’s parable.

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The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus sheds a light on our abilities and how we translate them into our actions. 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 Luke 16:23-31 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 is his own comfort and what happens to his extended family.

That extended family could be us: you and I. You and I are Dives’ sisters and brothers.

None of us are powerful enough to broker peace in a time of war. None of us are wealthy enough to end 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 can translate into actions.

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 can work to rebuild this church community so our rich tradition of mission and outreach can continue long after we are dead and buried.

There are “Lazaruses” all around us. Some are spiritually hungry; they are frustrated, scared and feel disenfranchised by the society that all of us live in. They know who Jesus is, we can share with them the difference that our relationship with Jesus makes in our lives.

Those are just some of the “Lazaruses” that we can help. We can offer them a sympathetic ear that is willing to listen and a place where they can belong. 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.

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In Exodus 34 we learned that after spending one-on-one time with God, Moses’ face was glowing.

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I saw a similar glow on some of your faces during the silent auction. That glow came from experiencing and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, and we have that to offer and we are capable of doing that.

So far we have had three round-robin dinners. I observed something interesting at every one of these dinners. I could not find an English word to describe it but there is a Spanish word that describes what I observed: “Sobremesa.” Sobremesa roughly translates as “after dinner conversation,” but if you really want to know what it means, find a Latino/Latina person and ask them to explain it to you. It is so much more than just an after dinner conversation. I saw that same glow on your faces during the three sobremesas that I was a part of.

Not every Bible Study on Tuesday results in this glow on our faces, and not every Bible Study is emotion rich, but we have had a couple of afternoons when I saw that same glow around the table in the Bible Study room.

The glow that I am talking about comes from experiencing God’s presence.

Evangelism and outreach is about being intentional about having events where we ourselves can experience God’s presence, as well as inviting our neighbors in and offering them a place to experience that glow and that feeling for themselves. We invite others to demonstrate how our lives are changed and transformed by our relationship with Jesus; we do that to offer a safe place for our neighbors to experience the same renewal and transformation.

We don’t know what our church will look like in five, ten, twenty and sixty years from now, but we do have a lot of influence towards what it will be like. This church may become a pile of rubble or it may still be a vibrant community of Christian sisters and brothers serving God by serving the world around us.

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