While in seminary, I preached a sermon on this Gospel lesson that I still remember as one of my more mediocre moments in worship leadership. While the sermon itself could have used some improvement, I think that the point I preached holds true: we are all Lazarus. And we are all the rich man. Or at least, we have been at some point or another in our lives. Sometimes we are the poor person, desperately hoping for the goodwill of another to help make our lives a little easier. Sometimes we are the self-absorbed rich man, unwilling to see the need right in front of us, and even less willing to inconvenience ourselves with a response. Sometimes we are Lazarus, welcomed warmly into God’s presence, and sometimes we are the person finding ourselves unexpectedly in a place of torment.
Where are you today in relationship with this Gospel passage? Where is your congregation? What message does your community need to hear this week?
Other interesting points to note about Luke 16:19-31 are that the rich man is never named, even though the poor man is. Does this say something about God’s sense of who is truly important or valuable in the world? What does it mean that the man who is embraced by Abraham after death has the same name as the man Jesus raised from the dead? Perhaps there is no connection – or perhaps the name “Lazarus” is meant to remind us of that other man by the same name, who was so beloved by Jesus that he wept at his tomb and raised him back to life. Additionally, this parable is unique to Luke. How does this story fit in with Luke’s overarching themes of wealth and justice for the poor, and inclusion for all people?
Other RCL texts for this weekend include a passage from Jeremiah 32 that would frighten even experienced lectors! If you can get past all the complicated names of people and places, you hear the good news that it is time to settle in and buy some land, because God is going to restore the people to Judah. Psalm 91 gives beautiful imagery of God’s protection and salvation to all who “abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
The RCL also offers a choice from Amos 6, prophesying the demise of the wealthy who avoid the poor in their midst. Psalm 146 sings praises to God, listing some of the highlights of God’s interaction with humankind.
1 Timothy 6 carries a possible connection to the Luke passage, reminding us that we brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out of it. Rather than money, faithful people are to pursue godliness, love, gentleness, and all kinds of other admirable characteristics. A lofty goal but a good one – so how can you encourage folks to work towards it?
Where are you headed with the texts this week? How might they resonate with your community? Please share your ideas and comments below. Blessings in your writing and worship preparations!
canoeistpastor is Katya Ouchakof, co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI, part-time hospital chaplain, and certified canoeing instructor. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, and has recently given her blog a facelift: Provocative Proclamation.
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