September 26, 2004

Luke 16:19-31

[19] "There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. [20] A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. [21] All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man's table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

[22] "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. [23] In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. [24] 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.'

[25] "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. [26] 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.'

[27] "The rich man said, 'Then let me ask you, Father: Send him to the house of my father [28] 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.'

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

[30] "'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.'

[31] "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]

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1. With the gap between the rich and the poor growing wider every day (currently papered over by a pseudo-populism implying everyone can jump the gap in one "fell swoop" [check the phrase at]) this story is again relevant to our time. It seems all these vignettes wax and wane in their popularity/applicability.
2. It is comforting to hear that there are consequences for actions that do come back around whether it be evidenced reincarnationally or eternally. Any yet, we need to wrestle with GOD's intention that all be saved - that the consequence of our lives will be a blessing and not a thirst.

3. It appears that experience is still the most effective teaching methodology. If folks don't see results in their life they won't invest in behavior that will bring a longer blessing. Conversion appears to be as much internally driven from some deep need as it is from the particulars to which one is converted. Thus the seeming need for continual conversion or maturing in the faith.

What would you think about intentionally not using any of the in-language of the day (the staying on script that religious people do as well as, if not better than, politicians). Can you go a day without some reference to the theory of atonement requiring bloody death? In place of our habitual language we would look around us and reflect on what we see in light of the gift of community. This would force us to raise new questions about the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak. These questions would probably lead to the kind of cognitive dissonance that can topple regimes from the inside, without preemptive war from the outside and redeem nations from a path of the "rise and fall" syndrome.

Let's think about the everyday experiences that could change our lives and not rely upon the cataclysmic. Let's think about what it takes to change us and apply that knowledge to the systems around us. We have responsibilities here, as well as Father Abraham.

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