Last minute lectionary (Proper 21C / Ordinary 26C / Pentecost +19)


“Last minute lectionary” is a series of brief thoughts on the week’s narrative lectionary reading.

Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

I’ve been reading Max Lucado’s “Experiencing the Heart of Jesus”. In one of the lessons he talks about the gift of unhappiness. He writes,

“Unhappiness on earth cultivates a hunger for heaven. By gracing us with a deep dissatisfaction, God holds our attention. The only tragedy, then, is to be satisfied prematurely. To settle for earth.”

This week’s reading isn’t an easy one. Here we have an example of two men, one satisfied “prematurely” and one satisfied in God, who nonetheless suffers while on earth. We could write or preach purely about seeking satisfaction in God alone, as Max Lucado does, and not be wrong once. We cannot be satisfied on earth, not totally; that’s true. But is that enough?

A few weeks ago there was a photo in one of our town’s local newspapers of the well-dressed head of one women’s organisation or another presenting a “gift purse” to a haggard-looking female car guard. Is that enough?

This morning a woman hiding from the berth of the sun beneath an umbrella stopped by my house, probably looking for work or food; I pretended not to see her. Is that enough?

If it is, our dissatisfaction with earthly things probably doesn’t run quite deep enough, nor our satisfaction in Christ. If we truly are satisfied in God I don’t think we could look at the world without feeling that same discontent with its strata that he does.

During the week Rachel Held Evans tweeted about how this reading had turned her proposed sermon theme on its head.

The temptation here will be to preach about the “them”, but as always, we need to start with God, and then ourselves in relationship with him: is God enough for us? If he is, then can we honestly stay inside our various dwellings while tragedy occurs at their gates?

Has the Risen Dead not convinced us after all?

Blessings for your sermons.