September 30, 2001

Luke 16:19-31

"There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man's table. His best friends were the dogs who come and licked his sores.

"Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, 'Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I'm in agony in this fire.'

"But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus the bad things. It's not like that here. Here he's consoled and you're tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us.'

"The rich man said, 'Then let me ask you, Father: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so he can tell them the score and warn them so they won't end up here in this place of torment.'

"Abraham answered, 'They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let the m listen to them.'

"'I know, Father Abraham,' he said, 'but they're not listening. If someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways.'

"Abraham replied, 'If they won't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they're not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.'"

<The Message >


1. The gulf mentioned in this passage is similar to that separation of the conscious from the unconscious. Once the rich can see the long-term consequences of their having opted out of connection with the poor there is an attempt to pass the word on to others, but it seems experience simply cannot be gotten around as an exemplary teacher. Is there any teaching technique which will help folks place the value of community on a par with their own comfort?

2. This same gulf can be looked upon in terroristic terms. There is no convincing true believers, whether that belief is in economic systems or a sense of injustice or some moral configuration.

3. If convincing or converting is basically out of the question, how do we live? If nothing else we are called to continual exploration of our own basics. Within most religious traditions there is the basic of community. Can we keep looking at that issue and using it as a measuring rod? Is the community we are a part of increasing in size and deepening in its connections? If we don't ask the question of ourselves we are probably riding for a fall. If we do ask the question we are in for a lifetime of growth, and not always easy growth.

Are you convinced that community is a basic value? If so, I'm glad. If not, I'm sorry. Either way I think and feel it to be a standard worth pursuing. Within the United Methodist tradition these days there is a T-shirt saying worth contemplating out of the Igniting Ministries Campaign - "I believe that when you truly embrace diversity, you embrace God." The rich man was not up to this; I pray you and I are.

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