Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Reginald Martin Crenshaw, OHC
BCP - Proper 21 C - Sunday 30 September 2007
1 Timothy 6:11-19
Luke 16:19-31, in The Message version, as read and preached by Br. Reginald.
Let us pray: No matter what you’re going through You don’t have to worry and don’t be afraid because joy comes in the morning, troubles they don’t last always for there is a friend in Jesus who will wipe away your tears. You don’t have to be afraid and if your heart is broken just lift your hands and say, I know that I can make it, no matter what may come my way, My life is in your hands. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (The words are a portion of Kirk Franklin’s-“My Life is in your hands” from his CD entitled--God’s property)
Begin: I want to begin this morning’s reflection on the Gospel with the prophet Amos. I begin here because Amos as usual comes to the point, He wastes few words and his words opens us to this mornings Gospel with clarity. He says, “Alas for those who are at ease in Zion and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria…who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp…who drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile. The reference “to the ruin of Joseph” means lack of concern for the welfare for the people of Zion- the people, the masses- one’s fellow human being. If you ignore the people, reject them oppress them because you can because of your wealth, or if you ignore the concerns and welfare of the people as you bathe in your privilege and wealth, you will be the first to be sent away.
Amos is listening and articulating the community’s groans and giving them a voice. A groan is different from a mere complaint or gripe. By definition, a groan is inarticulate. It is a cry of deep distress or pain that does not always reveal its source or cause. Amos is sensitive to groans-the inarticulate cries of a people’s distress—because such groans are the initial and indisputable signs which announce: “all is not well!! Something is terribly wrong. This is not how God wants things to be.
This is the context for understanding this morning’s gospel story about Lazarus and the rich man. We are presented with a situation in which wealth, power and privilege is set against oppression, pain, and suffering. Each world, the world of wealth, privilege, and power and the world of oppression, pain and suffering are magnified in this morning’s gospel and are brought together for dialogue and reflection by the concurrent deaths of the rich man and Lazarus. This gives us the opportunity to confront these two worlds with all they represent and with all the realties these two worlds reveal so that we can learn to respond with the light of faith. That is with righteousness, godliness, endurance, gentleness, and love. Well, there it is, all we have to do is follow it. It is all so easy to do but is it?
In our novitiate Bible study on Friday, Br. James reminded us of this. It is so clear, he said, that we are told what to do and it really is that easy, what’s the problem but, the issue is is it that easy? Do we get it? What gets in the way of us not getting it? And why didn’t the rich man get it. What was in his way? And Brother Robert reminded us about the issue of entitlement of the rich man that even in Hades he didn’t get it. He was still trying to negotiate with Abraham when he saws him with Lazarus. Clearly from his perspective there was a resolution to his torment without a change in either his behavior, consciousness or attitude.) He even goes so far as to request that Abraham work a miracle. He was to come back from the dead and tell his remaining brothers that they ought to live differently. (so maybe he did get it at least partially) Abraham refuses also recognizing that he doesn’t get it enough by saying to him that if they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, that is, to pay attention to God’s dream for humanity as revealed through the prophets, the Torah and Moses, a miracle is irrelevant. Their minds and hearts won’t be changed by the extraordinary entrance into their lives of the dead. It would be viewed as another form of entertainment.
The point is that power and privilege often results in a fundamental dis-ease that I call “lack of awareness.” This “lack of awareness” puts one in isolation and out of relationship with the rest of humanity. It is an inability to see and understand that the human person is formed, shaped, affirmed and identified, through a complex organic relationship among and with other human beings in which compassion, mercy, love and justice are the threads that make the human organism of relationship so profound and holy. Therefore, human beings are not commodities that can be bought sold, or ignored at will. To commodify other human beings is a supreme act of atheism. You have set yourself outside of everything, outside of God’s creation. This is a profound ignorance this “lack of awareness” that affects your ability to love, to be intimate, to seek peace and justice Let alone to show compassion and mercy. Lack of awareness also means that one takes no responsibility for the process of restoring, repairing or making satisfaction for restoring harmony to the human community. It prevents one from achieving that purity of heart by which we see and commune with God.
The point of the Gospel is that this dis-ease of “lack of awareness” is a particular temptation for persons with wealth. This dis-ease is not just the problem for the wealthy but the comfort of wealth and power enable “lack of awareness” to run rampant and undeterred.
The antidote for this dis-ease is found at the end of today’s second lesson, 1 Timothy 6:11-19. It reads: “ As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
If you failed in this The Rev. James Cleveland sums up the results this way in His Gospel hymn “It’s goin' be too late”. The hymns says: “Won’t it be sad, so sad if my Jesus comes and you won’t be ready, sad, so sad, its goin' to be too late…Don’t let him catch you with your work undone. It will be sad, so sad, its goin' to be to late.” Amen.