This morning my husband and I were talking about Donald Trump’s 28,000 square foot house in upstate New York. The house he hasn’t been to for four years or so. With an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley and tennis court.
Here where I live, our emergency winter shelter just closed down for the season. They provided shelter in local motel rooms for over 600 people during the coldest months of a Kansas winter.
That got me thinking about a report I heard recently (that I can’t find) about some of the most expensive menu items available—like a $1000 sundae. Which made me think of how quickly food has been disappearing from our church’s little free pantry this year.
After these morning ponderings, I sat down to work on my sermon and there it was: the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Obviously there is a lot that could be said in relation to this parable about the staggering gap between the “haves” and “have nots” in our own communities. There is, indeed, a great chasm. (Fun fact, this is the only mention of a “chasm” in the New Testament.)
Jesus, particularly in Luke, talks about money a lot, and this week may be a good time to focus on that difficult and awkward topic. Though if money is our sermon focus, I don’t think we dare spend the whole time railing against the super rich—some of whom are also super generous.
The story of Lazarus—and the empty mansion and the $1000 sundae—brings up important questions for anyone who has the financial means to live comfortably. How much is too much? At what point is our wastefulness sinful? To my mind, a multi-million-dollar home that sits empty is a travesty. Spending $1000 on a sundae is unthinkable. But what about the empty spare room in my house? The $100 splurge on a restaurant meal? The savings sitting in investments and bank accounts?
Working Preacher has some good commentaries that address money:
- Audrey West and Karl Jacobson highlight various parables that deal with money.
- Lois Malcolm gives a broad overview of the treatment of money in Luke’s gospel.
And, of course, there are plenty of chasms in our societies beyond—though often connected to–the wealth gap. COVID has highlighted the gap in healthcare in many communities. And with the trial related to George Floyd’s death looming in the United States, it might be a good time to talk specifically about racial inequities. (I address that aspect in this sermon I wrote several years ago and just re-preached a couple of weeks ago.)
Of course, for people who are truly struggling, this parable presents a message of hope: your struggles are not a sign of your sin or God’s abandonment. Indeed, God is with you—eternally.
And, even as it is a story about the afterlife, it is an encouragement for us all to pay attention to God’s teachings and to the people around us in this life.
There’s all kinds of good stuff here. May the Holy Spirit guide you as you listen for God’s word to your people through this scripture for this time.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Rev. Joanna Harader serves as pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS. She blogs about the Narrative Lectionary readings–among other things–at Spacious Faith.
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