Pentecost 19

So we continue in this section of Luke caught between Peter acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah / the Transfiguration and Jesus arriving in Jerusalem and the recounting of his passion, death and resurrection. In this portion, we have a long list of stories Jesus taught on the road, in the different places where he met with people: Everyday people, but also pharisees, scribes, lawyers…Sometimes, like today, we also find Jesus teaching more specifically to his disciples, those who wanted to follow him more closely, enter into a deeper relationships with God.

And we go back to the topic of prayer – One of the major themes in Luke. We talked this summer about the Lord’s prayer and, if you remember, there was this little story of the man banging on the door of a friend in the middle of the night, begging for bread, and how the friend would finally open, if not because he really wanted to help, b/c of the bother it was, b/c of the other man’s insistence. As a conclusion, Jesus pointed out the fact that if even us, who are evil, are able to give good things to those who ask, how much more God, who is good, would answer our prayers.

Well, it seems today that we have a variation on the same theme. A teaching about prayer using another story about boldness and persistence in asking – and about how people end up granting some requests, not necessarily b/c they’re good, but b/c they’re tired. And then Jesus compares those people who finally grant requests to God.

We’ve just heard the story of a widow seeking justice against her opponent, and having to go again and again to an unjust judge who refuses to help her b/c he has no respect for people and does not fear God. We know that widows were vulnerable at Jesus’s time, having no man to provide for their needs and to protect them. They were ignored. Unexpectedly though, in the story, this powerless woman wins over the judge b/c she carries on, she is persistent when the man is probably just lazy and self centered. He finally grants her request b/c he is tired. And so, Jesus asks, if the unjust judge finally helps the widow, why would not God, who is just, answer those who ask for justice?

Well, first of all we can notice that this is a good story b/c it sounds very real, even in the world we live in. I think a lot of us, like this widow, have to fight from time to time and get up early in the morning to obtain justice. And you know how hard it can be, if you’ve ever had to fight with the DMV, the immigration, social security or health insurance…A few years ago, I had to see a specialist, and although my treatment should have been covered, I had to make countless phone calls and send forms again and again to my health insurance b/c obviously there was always something missing that would prevent them from sending me my check. And speaking about administrative errands, I can’t even begging to tell you what it took to obtain a green card b/c I don’t have an hour to preach!

The idea is that in life, we find ourselves needing to be perseverent if we want to obtain what we need. We have to stand for ourselves, to trust that our cause is worth it, that we’re worth it, to trust that we’re right, even when we feel crushed, or just ignored, by the system. Sometimes, to obtain that we need, it feels like going to war. Even if there are no weapons, it can be a psychological war to not give up against those who deny our rights, to wear them out with our insistence. These are times when we need to be to be tough like the widow of the story.

And so, using this example taken from daily life, Jesus goes on to prayer life. Making a parallel between the widow’s interaction with the judge / and prayer – when we also try to obtain what we need from God. And it seems that Jesus says that indeed, we also need to be perseverent with God in order to be answered.

Well, actually there are a lot of expressions around prayer that use terms that incite us to think that prayer is a spiritual combat, that we have to fight, to become prayer warriors. Maybe you have seen this movie about prayer life called: “The war room” as a reference to this place inside her house where this woman goes to ask God to save her marriage and engage in a prayer crusade.

I think we can all relate to that when we have crisis in our lives. A serious illness, loss of a job, a divorce, a child in troubles…Those times all we can do is to cling to God, and to beg God to help us. It can really feel like going war when we really, really need to obtain something from God. And I guess it’s natural for us to go on this “fighting mode”, arguing and supplicating, trying to wear God out. Because that’s what we have to do in our world in order to obtain something, correct?

And yet. And yet the more I read this story Jesus tells us today, the more I wonder if Jesus is really asking us to do in prayer what we do for everything else in life. Yes, the widow has to fight very hard to gain her cause, as we sometimes do as well. But Jesus tells us also that God is not unjust. God is not like the judge in the story. The judge has no fear of God, no respect for others, when God – the holy one – hears day and night the cry of his chosen ones. God is not indifferent or inflexible. God does not ignore us. God listens to us. God sees us.

Which means: if God is not like the judge, maybe we don’t necessarily have to be like the widow with God. If God is not unfair, maybe we don’t have to fight with God. If God loves us, maybe prayer should feel better than going to the mattresses. Maybe when Jesus asks us if there will still be faith on earth when he returns, maybe he is not asking if people will still be willing to fight, rather maybe he is asking if there will still be people willing to trust, to trust that God sees and hears and responds, to trust that God is not our enemy. God is not our enemy. We don’t have to win God over. On the other way around, God will help us when we meet adversity. If there is a fight, we can be sure God fights with us.

And so if you pay attention, Jesus does not exactly ask his disciples to be “perseverent”, more specifically, what Jesus asks is to “not lose heart”. And it can be very discouraging when we try to “wear God out” by our prayers. I know that when I tried to “wear God out”, that’s the times in my life where I started to lose heart, b/c the more I begged, the more I wondered if God was listening. But I “found my heart” again, when I just decided to trust that God was with me.

To me, that’s what the Gospel is about today. Jesus tells us that God is not like unfair or indifferent people. We have to trust that our prayers are in God’s hands, that we are in God’s hands. And that God will act, and “grant us justice” – and doing that, I think, would enable us to feel a little more happy when we pray, a little more grateful, a little more loved.

Of course, prayer is about asking. Jesus reminds us many times to ask God for what we need. But at some point, prayer is also about how we have to trust that God has heard us, and we need to stop “talking at” God to be able to see how God is answering our prayers, not always giving us all we asked for but, as Jesus puts it, granting us justice, granting us justice by offering us forgiveness, healing of the heart, peace – a sense of self worth, a sense of belonging, a sense of belovedness.

But at some point, prayer is finding a way to let go and let God.

I read recently the story of a woman with stage IV cancer. After 5 years of battling the disease, she was exhausted. And she says she was also exhausted to hear people telling her to keep fighting on. She was wondering if it’d be okay for her to stop the treatment, to enjoy the rest of her life with her close ones, trusting God to give her a new life when she reaches the other side.

Well, maybe that’s where Jesus was when he told this parable today.

As I said, Jesus was heading to Jerusalem. At this point, he did all he had to do. He fought a lot in his life. He was like the persistent widow! He healed, he taught, he argued. But he had many opponents. He was hated by a lot of people. They wanted him dead. And at some point, he could not avoid them anymore. But Jesus trusted that God knew, that God saw him, and that God would grant him justice, even if Judas’s betrayal was the shattering of all his dreams, even if the cross was the loss of all his hopes. Jesus needed to continue to trust that God was good.

And this is the same for us when life is hard – even if our circumstances aren’t that dramatic! We carry our crosses with persistence but at some point, we just have to trust that God is good. That’s the ground of our prayer. That’s also the aim of it: To realize that God is good.

So maybe this week we could do that as we pray. Remember that indeed God is good, that we have to trust even more than we have to fight and argue, we have to believe that God has seen our difficulties, heard our supplications, and we have to trust that God will answer, grant us justice, and is already doing so in many ways, looking around and see how our lives are already being transformed – because we do not lose heart. We do not lose our hearts in the process. On the other way around, we may find them anew. Amen.

The anniversary of Paul and Holly

We’re gathered today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Paul and Holly. As we were preparing for this day, Holly told me that, before the wedding, her mother told her – as a kind of encouragement: “If you two do 10 years, that would already be something…” So I guess you two made it!

But we’re not here to celebrate some kind of record breaking. It’s not about personal accomplishment or endurance, the ability to “have made it” (last). When we celebrate at church, it’s always to give thanks. Today we celebrate, rejoice and give thanks for each one of you and more specifically we give thanks for you as a couple, we give thanks for the life you build together, the life you brought into the world, the joy and the hope you incarnate for all of us, your children, your grand children, siblings, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ.

So on this occasion, we celebrate and give thanks not only for the love you have for each other, but also for the love you spread around you, this love that, as people of faith, we believe to be the ultimate reality, the most important thing in the world – this love we believe to be God. When I told a friend I was preaching for a marriage anniversary this Sunday, she told me: Oh good, you’re going to preach about love. But the truth, you know, is that we should preach about love every Sunday, because it is what it’s all about.

This is the reason this passage we have read from John is so important. It reminds us that all of Jesus’s teaching is actually about asking people to love each other. This passage is often chosen for weddings, but interestingly, put back into context, we find out that this is one of the last things Jesus said before dying: Those verses are part of the “Farewell discourse”. And you know, when you’re about to die, you don’t spend time with details and subtleties, you go right to the heart of things: And so this is what Jesus told us: in the end, it all comes down to love.

We may forget how disturbing, and even revolutionary, it was when Jesus said that his only commandment was to love. In the religion of the time, there were more than 400 rules to follow. So it was really hard I guess to have a sense of having it right with God. There was always something that could go wrong! Jesus came to tell people that they only had to love to know who God was and to please God. “Commandment”: Not so much a “rule”, in Hebrew it’s a “word”, a word that brings life and joy. Jesus speaks about a way of “doing life” that will bring us (true) fulfillment and happiness.

In this sense, this is still revolutionary. Many people have wrong ideas about God and religion, and often religious people themselves have wrong ideas! Having faith, it’s not so much about being very pious or obeying a moral code, rather it’s about loving and being loved, and diving always deeper in this love. What Jesus reminds us, is that we are are first invited to receive God’s love – the reason why he asks his disciples to “abide” in love – and then, as we are being filled with this love, we are made able at our turn to love others: open our hearts, welcome, share, give and forgive and doing so – finding our joy and our purpose.

That’s the bottom line: Because we are made by love and made for love, it’s in loving and in being loved that we find joy and purpose – as you Paul and Holly have found fulfillment and happiness in your commitment to one another.

Now the question for all of us I guess is this: Well, how do we do that? How do we find true and deep love, the love God wants to give us, a love that brings joy and fulfillment?

Well, I really like it that you chose a passage from the book of Tobit for your first reading. The story of a marriage – and a strange and fascinating story – such a strange story that it has been removed from some protestant versions of the Bible. Yet it’s a beautiful story – filled with wise old people, and angels, and children (there’s even a puppy)…and it’s also a very necessary story because it says a lot about how we experience love and become able to receive it.

So this is the story, if you don’t know it: Holly – if your mother hoped your marriage could last ten years, it was nothing compared to what Sarah’s mother was feeling! Actually she was hoping the marriage would at least last 24 hours. Because that’s what was going on with Sarah: She had married several times, but each time the groom had died suddenly on the wedding night, “before the wedding was consummated”. This was very depressing and as the story goes, it is said that Sarah’s father was so sure Tobias was also going to die during the wedding night, he started digging a grave for him in the garden while the couple were headed to their bedroom! Yet this time things went differently: Tobias survived the night and enjoyed a long marriage with Sarah.

And so this is kind of a crazy story, but for all its strangeness it’s a very necessary story because it teaches us a lot about love:

First, it looks like that the death of the grooms and the curse Sarah seems to be under tells us about the way we apprehend love, and most of the time it’s with fear. We fear that we will never find love, that love will pass us by or that we will die before knowing it – or maybe we are afraid that we will destroy the love that is given to us. To become able to love, it’s important to acknowledge these feelings. Made to love, we all long deeply to find love, to love and to be loved in return, and it’s scary because it makes us feel vulnerable. Yet, we cannot find love if we don’t show a little bit of this vulnerability, if we don’t acknowledge that we need to receive love and to be able to learn how to love. In our culture, we often hear that love is not that important – an illusion. Better a good career, a nice house, exotic travels, having fun. But as Christians, we believe otherwise. We believe that only love can make us really happy. It does not mean necessary marriage. But love must be at the center our lives.

Second thing the story teaches us is that to love, we have to surrender our desire to have power on others. Tobias says that he does not take Sarah “out of lust”. It does not mean that he does not like her! “Lust” is considered as a sin but it’s not about having a physical attraction for somebody, there’s nothing wrong with that. The Bible reminds us several times that sexuality was created by God. But lust needs to be renounced because it prevents us from loving truly, lust is when we consider others as our possessions, as a thing we can take or leave, as if people were only there to make us feel good. And we are tempted to behave like that not only with romantic partners! We can very well use our friends or other family members to fulfill our own needs – but then we can never know what true love is about: caring for one another, sharing life together and supporting one another, as the passage from Mark reminds us.

Third thing that the story teaches us about love is that all our relationships rest in God’s love. Tobias prays with Sarah and they offer their love to God, acknowledging that their love is like a small drop in the ocean of God’s love. This is important to remind us that we are not in charge of love, rather love is in charge of us. To love, we need first to receive love: to know we are worthy of love. Then we can enjoy relationships made of respect, intimacy and complicity. Jesus reminds us that love should bring us joy! It does not mean that we don’t meet difficulties, but God will give us the strength to love when it’s necessary – the strength to forgive for example – or the strength to love ourselves enough to leave a loveless relationship. If love is meant to bring us joy, it also means that if we have to try too hard to make it happen or to make it last, maybe it’s not really about love. To love, we don’t have to try too hard all the time, but we have to make the effort to be present and attentive to those around us. What children needs the most is to have their parents spending time with them, not looking at their phones! Love is here, given, present, but we are often absent and we don’t see the people God sends us everyday to love us, or in need of being loved!

Last thing the story teaches us about love is that love is resilient. I admire Sarah who is still ready to get married with yet another man! Love takes risks and chances and carries on. I’ve just read a book about a woman who says that her closer experience of faith was the way she kept looking for the right partner even after having suffered terrible breakups. She says that although each time she kept telling herself it was the last time she fell in love because it hurt so much to be left, each time love kept being reborn in her heart. She was willing to put her out heart out there until she found the man who truly loved her. Well, I think she’s right to say it’s a kind of faith, it’s faith actually: to believe that love is real and can be found and that is the meaning of life.

That’s what we do at church actually – we don’t go to church to become Bible nerds or very pious or very moral people, we come to church to receive love and to learn how to love and to grow in love – as we do when we get married. And we do this because it’s our joy and fulfillment. So today let’s celebrate and let us be thankful with Paul and Holly! Amen.

Pentecost 17

Isn’t it a bit ironic that today, as we get ready to acknowledge the work of our volunteers here in the church and give thanks for their dedication, we find ourselves with this passage where Jesus reminds us that we are all undeserving servants who should have more faith, could do more, and even if we give our best, who should not expect any reward because we would do only our duty by giving our everything?

Well, to tell you the truth, I started my ministry in a church that relied a lot on the work of volunteers as that congregation had an important outreach ministry, and that was the belief of the rector who used to say: In our church, we don’t thanks volunteers because what they do, they do it for God, so they should not expect any reward. And you know I thought about what he said, as I started serving as an ordained person, and I thought: Of course, what we do we do it for God, for one another, and not for a prize or even to make people like us or feel indebted to us – we do that out of the generosity of our own heart. But in the same time, Jesus never taught us to be ungrateful. Not to God of course, but not even to one another. On the other way around, gratefulness is a sure way to find joy and love, and even if we should be first thankful to God, how can we learn this thankfulness if we aren’t able to be first thankful to one another?

So today we’re going to say thanks to all of you who give so much to this place – especially to you the volunteers at the thrift store on the occasion of its 10th anniversary. In the meantime, I think we are invited to dig a little deeper in this passage of the Gospel, and try to understand what it’s really about. To do that, we have to have a look at its context, and come back a few verses before what we’ve just heard. What Jesus does in this chapter of Luke is that he is teaching the disciples about forgiveness, about “not becoming a stumbling block for others” by judging them, condemning them and excluding them. This is what Jesus says (right before our passage):

Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2 It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4 And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

Well, I think we know that only too well, stumbling blocks. People who profess to believe in God but who aren’t that nice, not that welcoming, not that loving, not that accepting, not that forgiving. It’s not anything new. A lot of believers were like that at Jesus’s time, and Jesus had very tough words for this kind of people. Indeed, he said, if you profess to believe in God but if you condemn your own brother and sister, it would be better if a millstone was hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea – meaning:it would be less harmful, less destructive for everyone – even for you – because at least, you wouldn’t lose your soul.

The more I read the Gospel, the more I think that with Jesus, we can almost “get away” with anything…anything, except one: hardness of heart and hypocrisy, that goes with it. The hard of heart and the hypocrites, that’s the kind of believers Jesus wants his disciples to never become, because that is the surest way to turn oneself and everybody else away from God.

That’s our responsibility, you know. If we profess to believe in God, if we proclaim the Gospel, we are here to lead people to Christ, but the downside is that if we are unwelcoming and unforgiving Christians, we will certainly turn them away too. It’s not so much science, philosophy or even atheism that turn people against God, it’s bad religion and mean believers.

And so – this is in this context that the disciples ask Jesus to increase in them their faith, their personal faith and their faith as a community.

So they ask about a special kind of faith. Not the faith that makes us certain about the articles of the Creed, not the faith that makes us so perfect that we’d never do anything wrong, it’s the faith that enables to rebuke and denounce sin, the faith that enables us to demand justice and repentance, the faith that enables us to forgive and look for reconciliation. The disciples need a faith that would enable them to do the hard work of love – and so do we.

To speak about this faith, it’s interesting that Luke talks about removing a mulberry tree. In all the other versions of this saying, that we find in Mark and Matthew and also in Paul, Jesus speaks about a mountain, and we know that expression, right? “The faith that moves mountains”. Well, actually, Jesus was talking about a very specific mountain: Mt Zion, which was the mountain were the Temple was, were the sacrifices for forgiveness were offered. And so basically what Jesus is saying when he says that if we’d have faith, we could throw this mountain (Zion) into the sea is this: if you had faith, you would not need to offer sacrifices for forgiveness, you would be able to forgive out of your own heart – as Jesus did himself for us on the cross. That’s the mountain we have to move. If you ever had to rebuke someone and ask for justice, if you ever had to forgive someone who hurt you really deeply, if you ever had to take the first step toward reconciliation even if you knew you weren’t wrong, or on the other way around, if you ever had to acknowledge how badly you may have behaved, you know what Jesus is talking about: Doing those things feels like moving a mountain or, at least, uprooting a tree.

The faith that moves mountain is not the faith that makes all our dreams come true or makes us win the lottery. Jesus is talking about the faith that deals with all the traps and obstacles of the evil one, the faith that gets rid of evil. It’s the faith that melt our toughness of heart. Because Jesus will give us the power to love beyond anything we can imagine, even if our faith is only as big as a mustard seed to start with.

That’s hard work. But that’s our work as Christians – that’s our only work maybe. Our mission is to bring reconciliation in a broken world. Reconciliation between races, social classes, countries, bringing reconciliation in families, with other living creatures, reconciliation with our planet earth. There is no greatest thing we can do in our lives than working for reconciliation….and life will provide us with many, many opportunities to expose evil, rebuke it, work for justice, forgive those who offended us, ask for forgiveness – because of course, we need to start with our own hearts. We often understand fighting evil as as going on a crusade against the evildoers, yet most of the time, it’s about fighting first our own toughness of heart.

Yes, there is plenty of work to be done in the church, and we are all very aware of that, and so many of you give so much time and energy to do this work. The Gospel reminds us today that the most important work we have to do in the church is to work on our own hearts.

And so in the end, I think this is what Jesus is really talking about when he talks about worthless slaves doing only their duty. Working on our own hearts, that’s just what we are supposed to do, but we are not worthless slaves in the eyes of God, Jesus kept reminding us we are God’s children, we are worthless slaves to sin, and our job is to be freed from sin. Indeed, we should not wait for any other reward than that: freedom from sin and ability to love truly and deeply. Slaves don’t expect any reward for their work, what they really want is to be free, right?

The good news is that, as opposed to the slaves in the parable, we have a good Master who comes to serve us at the table each time our work is done – who feeds us every Sunday in the Eucharist. Speaking about irony, I love the irony of Jesus asking his disciples whose Master would ever serve his salves, when he actually did just that – washed their feet and gave them food on the last supper, as a foretaste of the eternal banquet, those realities we both remember and anticipate in our liturgy when we share communion.

The good news is that we don’t have to do the hard work of love on our own. The good news is that Jesus is willing to provide the mustard seed of faith in our hearts, if only we are willing to sit at the table. And then we may discover what our job is all about. Yes, there is a lot to be done in our churches, lots of practical realities, humble things like sweeping the floor, watering the garden, paying the bills – or running a thrift store. Yet as we do that, we learn how to be together, we learn to be a community, we learn to let Christ use what we do to bless others and to change our hearts and this is indeed our best work and this is indeed our reward. Amen.

Pentecost 16

1 – I’ve talked recently about how Jesus loved sometimes to tell us scary stories / spooky parables. There is something in those stories, like the one we’ve just heard about the rich man and Lazarus, that feels fascinating and gives us goosebumps in the same time. And I think the story is scary not just b/c it’s a good story….For me, it’s scary because it touches something very real, very much present in our faith – in our liturgy – something we mention every Sunday in our confession of sins, when we ask for forgiveness for those things that we have done…and those that we have “left undone”.

It’s not that it is “easy” for me to ask for forgiveness for the (bad/wrong) things that I have done – but at least I may be able to see them. But what about the right / good things I have left undone? The part of the story Jesus tells today that truly gives me goosebumps is the surprise of the man when he lands in Hades – Not understanding why he endures torments, not realizing what it is that he has done wrong…Actually, nothing.

The man has done nothing, and that’s the problem. Abraham explains it to him: He has done nothing to help his neighbor Lazarus. But even as he receives the explanation, you’ll notice that the man still does not get it, he wants to send off Lazarus to serve him (get him some water / warn his family). The man still feels entitled, remains unrepentant, unable to see Lazarus for who he is – a person with his own will, dignity, a person he ought to acknowledge and respect.

The world is so full of people “who have done nothing wrong”, like you and me. Oh, we may occasionally acknowledge a few mistakes, or even sometimes obsess over a few big ones – but hearing this parable makes me suspect that our acknowledged sins might be only the top of the iceberg. The real sin seems to be hidden: it’s all the things we have left undone – how we have failed to change our selfish lives, failed to see our neighbors and serve those in need.

The Gospel we’ve just heard is scary b/c it talks of these sins that are buried under the surface: The sin of indifference, lack of concern, inability to have pity. Not seeing and not wanting to know.

And this week, the parable of the rich man letting his neighbor die at his gate really hit home for me when I heard the young activist Greta Thunberg at the UN asking the powerful of this world to have a look at her and at her generation and begging them, as a journalist put it, “to not let her die, to not let the animals die, to not let the Earth die”. This is what she said: “How dare you?”We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth”.

How dare you go and do business as usual, pretending nothing is happening?I think this is also what Jesus is asking today. Lazarus is dying of hunger, thirst, loneliness and the rich man ignores him – pretending nothing is happening, or maybe thinking there is nothing he can do. Not that he (actively) wants Lazarus to die or to be poor, but he probably does not see it as a consequence of his selfishness, he does not think it is his role to make things better, maybe he thinks he is blessed by God for his wealth and that’s the way God wants things to be.

The rich man cannot see the suffering around him and the suffering in which he participates, in the same way that we may not be able to see the suffering around us / suffering in which we participate b/c of our selfishness, lack of concern, indifference. And this is quite terrifying.

The story is not scary b/c it says that people like the rich man go to hell. The parable is probably not about hell anyway. Jesus mentions Hades / place of purification. The rich man talks with Abraham who calls him “his son”, the man is not in the company of the demons. What is truly scary is the inability of the man to face reality, and Hades is this place where he has to come to his senses. The rich man lived all his life in a fantasy world where he wore fine clothes / had plenty of friends over to diner but for him Lazarus was part of the décor / not an actual human being with thoughts, feelings, he could not feel his pain…Even his dogs showed more compassion to him! Failing to see people as alter ego with thoughts, feelings and ability to suffer can be a symptom of serious mental illness, but it can be also a spiritual illness. And so the man needs to spend time in “purgatory” / in treatment / rehab of the heartHe learns to see reality. To me, it relates to what Greta Thunberg says when she tells the powerful that they live “in a fairy tale”. They need to wake up from their fantasies and learn to face reality.

2 – Jesus tells a story: not so much about how life looks like after death than how life looks like in the KOG, in reality. Life is about relationships, having mercy = ability to relate to others, especially in their vulnerability. Ability to love. This is what our Epistle today is all about. Paul says to Timothy to take “hold of the life that is really life”. Paul acknowledges that we need food and clothing but greed is also destroying us / makes us lose our ability to share and to be in relationships. In the parable today, we see that the man is not not judged b/c he is rich, but he condemns himself b/c of the way he treats powerless people. He can’t relate to Lazarus / show mercy or simply share his table (economic and religious symbol).

In these times of “Global suffering”(People and all living creatures), how many of us also choose to remain blind / ignorant? But this is the ultimate sin Jesus accuses his hearers about: There can’t be salvation for them b/c they don’t listen to Moses, the prophets and even to the one who will raise from the dead.

We will answer: We can’t do nothing but remain blind / ignorant b/c it’s so overwhelming. Well, yes and no. To this argument, in my mind, the parable brings hope and answers: Start with the one at the gate. Start with the easy things you can do. If the rich man had opened his heart to Lazarus, it may have led him to open his heart to the whole city, to God and changed him completly. Countless stories about people meeting this one person who opened their eyes to reality and it changed their lives. It is said (in Greek) that Lazarus had been “throw out” at the gate/ We are invited to believe that people aren’t just there is our lives / there for a reason, to teach us something.

Yes, this Gospel is quite terrifying and ask us to stop living in a fantasy but it’s not only b/c the fantasy isn’t real after all. The fantasy does not end well. It is a loveless / hopeless story. But we are also invited to believe that there is a better life for us if we live the real life.

3 -This parable tells us that the truth of the world / this life isn’t as we see it. But it’s also for the best b/c things change and power shifts. The parable does not tells us so much about the afterlife than about what’s everlasting. Power rooted in violence and coercion depends on circumstances / love and justice endure for ever. Comfort comes for Lazarus / but knowing what we know, it should also encourage us to act in this life.

Lazarus: Not meant to be an example. We are certainly not encouraged to act like the rich man, but we aren’t encouraged to be like Lazarus either. He is a very passive character. That can happen (addiction, depression, loneliness) where we can do nothing but sit and wait, but maybe Lazarus needs also to see life as it is, that God is truly on his side, that the power and riches of the man are an illusion / maybe he would find the strength / faith to act. All of us can be trapped in hopeless situations / waiting after people who have nothing to share / nothing to give.

But if we have hope…we need to act. Very real character today is Jeremiah in rags / thrown in a cistern because the king wants to live his fantasy and not hear about the impending destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah sees life as it is, he sees the devastation. And yet has hope. Buys this field in Jerusalem to show that the exile won’t be forever b/c God hasn’t forsaken his people.

We find hope not in blind optimism, denial, in fantasies, but when we know what life is really about: the extend of sin / violence / selfishness and devastation / but we find faith in the one who rose from the dead: Believing in a redemptive God willing to work with us so we may change and change the world with us. Amen.