"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
"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 >
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
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.
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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