Proper 21C (OT26)
343: September 29, 2019
186: September 25, 2016
Calculator to judge your wealth in the global scale:
Last week’s “Dishonest manager” story was told to the disciples. It ends with the phrase “You cannot serve God and wealth.” (16:13)
Skipped in the Lectionary:
16:14-15 “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.’”
The context of this story is to the Pharisees, “who love money” in response to their scoffing at the idea that you cannot serve God and money.
Also skipped is v 18, which seems to be oddly out of place “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”
Rich man (unnamed)
Dressed in purple and fine linen. “which will encourage one to see the character as being symbolic of others in the same class as him.” (Adewale, Olubiyi Adeniyi. Source: Black Theology, 4 no 1 Jan 2006, p 27-43)
Feasted every day
“At his gate”
Covered in sores (which dogs lick. Dogs are deemed unclean scavengers. Open sores are also unclean. This is a double-unclean image that would have been horrific to original hearers).
Lazarus - Carried away by angels to be with Abraham
Rich Man - Buried.
Both go to Hades - “There is a tradition at work in this parable that is not evident (as far as I know) in the Old Testament. It seems to be part of that rich theological development that happened around the 3rd century BCE, particularly with respect to the afterlife. It shows an influence of Greek religion – as evidenced by the reference to ‘hades,’ the Greek god of the underworld.” (Left Behind and Loving It)
Lazarus at the side of Abraham
Rich Man “tormented,” calls to Abraham for help “mercy.”
Rich man is still trying to boss Lazarus around. He still only sees him as a tool for his own gain - “send him to cool me” “send him to my brothers”
“Perhaps...now he sees Lazarus for the first time. The difficulty with their relationship all those years on earth is that the rich man never sees Lazarus. ‘One of the prime dangers of wealth is that it causes “blindness.”’ (John Donahue, The Gospel in Parable: Metaphor, Narrative, and Theology in the Synoptic Gospels) The rich man’s wealth has so distorted his vision that he is unable to perceive the plight of the beggar at his gate… Unfortunately, prosperity has a way of limiting our perspective… It is an age-old story.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 533).
Both the situation and the Rich Man’s plea are reminiscent of John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-17)
This parable is a sort of object lesson explaining Luke 13:30
CEB: “Look! Those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last."
NRSV: “Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Heaven and Hell?
Seems to not jive with most modern understandings of heaven and hell. It is too simple to place these modern constructs on this story.
“In the story, Jesus never uses the words heaven and hell. In a lifetime of reading the gospels I’m surprised by how often I’ve inserted those constructs into the narrative. The rich man is in the place of the dead, removed from the gathering of ancestors that included father Abraham.” (Mark Scandrette, The Hardest Question)
Am I Lazarus or Rich Man?
How do we treat the Lazarus in our lives?
“There are rare occasions when I make a “heroic” effort to look the begging person in the eye and recognize them as the child of God that they are, offering conversation and some help. But more often I avert my eyes and walk on. “A friend of mine recently told me about an experience he had. After the gathering of his faith community he walked outside to find a man begging for spare change. “What do you need the money for?” he asked. The man replied, “I’d like to buy a beer.” “Sorry,” my friend said, “I can’t give you money for that.” Then my friend went on to a pub down the street with his church friends and bought a round of beers for everyone. Reflecting on this incident he said, “I guess I felt justified judging the begging man, assuming that he was an alcoholic, even though I would never do that with my friends.” (Mark Scandrette, The Hardest Question)
Actually, we are the brothers whom the Rich Man wants to warn.
We don’t need the warning of a man brought back from the dead (is this a bit of story-telling irony since we do, in fact, need Jesus Resurrection)
We have the Law and the Prophets to know how to treat others.
“It is near impossible not to read this part of the story as casting a sideward glance to the reception that people either have or do not have to the message of Jesus’ resurrection. If we’re willing to go there, we might read Luke surmising that the good news of Jesus’ resurrection is not readily received as one might think. Or, we might read Luke arguing that the phenomenon of resurrection is not different in kind than ‘having’ and ‘listening’ to Moses and the prophets.” (Mark Scandrette, The Hardest Question)
Thoughts and Questions:
What was rich man’s crime? Was the very existence of a man so poor as Lazarus enough to condemn a man who “feasted daily?”
If the rich man’s only crime is that he feasted daily while another was in such dire straits, then most of us are in trouble.
“Although the rich man apparently made no attempt to relieve the suffering of Lazarus, it’s not that he didn’t know him, or even that Lazarus was invisible to him. After all, in the afterlife he not only recognizes Lazarus but refers to him by name. Moreover, he continues to treat Lazarus as if he were a servant, asking that Abraham send him to bring a drop of water and, failing that, to warn his brothers. The rich man, that is, continues to fail to treat Lazarus as a person, as an equal, as one deserving of compassion and regard.” (David Lose, Working Preacher)
If the rich man’s crime is that he didn’t do enough to alleviate Lazarus’s suffering, then maybe we have hope. Knowing the Law and the Prophets should compel us to act in the world. Simply knowing the Bible without acting upon its teaching gets us no where. The Rich Man probably expected to feast with Abraham because he feasted every day. Why would things be any different after death. Jesus is revealing though, that the Kingdom of God is different than this world.
“There is the need for the church to look inward and invest in the lives of the members of the church who are poor and unemployed. There is the need to cater for the economic well-being of the totality of the members of the church and not just a select few. This is what God wants and expects us to do—to break the grip of poverty in the lives of God's people so that none should be poor in his kingdom.” (Adewale, Olubiyi Adeniyi. Source: Black Theology, 4 no 1 Jan 2006, p 27-43)
Much of this hinges on the translation of Luke 13:30 Is it “some” or not? What are the some who will be made last? Is it only the ones who ‘love money’? Are we letting ourselves off too easily if we allow the wiggle room of “some”?
10 years after the first defeat by the Babylonians (2 Kings 24:10-17) and the first group of Exiles
Jeremiah imprisoned for being a traitor (saying the Babylonian conquest was the work of God)
Not a simple real estate deal, but symbolic prophetic action
Real Estate Transaction in Scripture:
Gen 23: Abraham buys a plot for Sarah to be buried in
Ruth 4: Boaz buys(redeems) a field
1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard
Matthew 27: the Potter’s field
Acts 5: selling a field and misreporting the earnings
Answers the question: Why are you prophesying against Judah?
Jeremiah has repeatedly been prophesying against Judah and now those prophecies seem to be coming true as Jerusalem is about to be sacked
Two weeks ago in Jeremiah 4- foretelling this moment:
16 Tell the nations, "Here they are!" Proclaim against Jerusalem, "Besiegers come from a distant land; they shout against the cities of Judah.
Jeremiah buys a field in the middle of Jerusalem
Ridiculous as Jerusalem is about to be sacked
Public - Jeremiah’s cousin, Jeremiah’s clerk, Witnesses, the Judeans sitting in the court of the guard
Symbolic action proclaiming that this is not the end of Israel in Jerusalem
Jeremiah 32:15 (NRSV) 15 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
Jeremiah’s message is hopeful on two levels:
1) Israel will return to the land
2) This is not the end of the people of God, but a new beginning. Even on the eve of destruction- you should remain faithful (which Jeremiah is doing by buying his family’s land according to Levitical codes)
Everything is done according to the Law- the removal from the land (which is imminent) does not signify an end of the law.
Counter Theory - the Babylonians are the family of God just as much as Israel
Leviticus 25:25-28 (NRSV)
25 If anyone of your kin falls into difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next of kin shall come and redeem what the relative has sold.26 If the person has no one to redeem it, but then prospers and finds sufficient means to do so,27 the years since its sale shall be computed and the difference shall be refunded to the person to whom it was sold, and the property shall be returned.28 But if there are not sufficient means to recover it, what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and the property shall be returned.
Just as Jeremiah has been called to redeem his cousin’s land because he “fell into difficulty”, so Babylon is redeeming the land from Israel who has “fallen into difficulty” and therefore cannot stay in the land
What does it mean to think of Babylon, not as an agent of judgement but of redemption?
The land is not, nor ever was Israel's, but is now and always will be God’s
Leviticus 25:23 (NRSV) 23 The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.
Thoughts and Questions
What will the congregation's hopeful act be today? Will it be material and prophetic—a land buy and a development project in inner-city Detroit? Will the investment be more social—churches building special education programs for kids who seem destined to fail, or addiction-recovery programs for lives that seem to have no future? - Stephen Breck Reid, Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).
How often do we as individuals and churches use times of crisis to justify unfaithful acts? Jeremiah is reminding his community to remain faithful in the midst of national and religious crisis/tragedy
While Jeremiah is focused on the cause of the tragedy- here his focus is on the presence of YHWH in the midst of tragedy- how can we proclaim the same comfort of that prophetic witness? The presence of God - all evidence to the contrary.
“Conveniently” (but not really) skips 6:1-2
End of the letter
The love of money
Money is not the problem. Money like most tools and aspects of social life, can be used for great good and great evil. The choice is up to us.
A question of idolatry and worship. To use money for the purposes of loving God self and neighbor is a faithful act. To worship money, to love money- or any “thing” - is an unfaithful act
Karl Jacobson, workingpreacher.com - Money is a root of all kinds of evil
Not all aspects of evil are rooted in money (e.g. jealousy, apathy, other forms of idolatry).
Also many different kinds of evil (things which are not of God) come from the love of money: slavery and racism, sexism and prostitution, predetory lending practices, opressive and absentee land lords, corrupt governments that take, but do not care, etc)
John Chrysostom (quoted in Interpretation: First and Second Timothy and Titus):a plague that so seizes all, some more, some less, but all in a degree. Like a fire catching a wood, that desolates and destroys all around, this passion has laid waste the world.... Desires are thorns, and as when one touches thorns, he gores his hand, and gets him wounds, so he that falls into these lusts will be wounded by them, and pierce his soul with griefs.... But since the love of money is a matter that is willed, not fated, its cure lies in a rebirth of willing, [for] Did not our own choice cause it, and will not the same choice avail to extinguish it?
About choosing “true life”
not condemning the wealthy or purely eschatological hope
True life and eternal life are to be epilambanomai, to take a hold of, grasp, catch, sometimes with violence
These are gift to be seized and grabbed (v. 12 and 19)
Eternal life and true life are things to be seized NOW not at some futuristic eschatological moment
“The Kingdom of God is at hand” - Mk 1:15
"The eschatology of the coming God calls to life the history of new human becoming, which is a becoming without any passing away, a becoming into lasting being in the coming presence of God." - Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God, trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 24
To be in God’s presence
challenging - how would you act if God were right there?
This is the End - Seth Rogan, "I haven't lived my life as if there's a God.”
Seizing life not wealth
real life- pursuit of God
destructive life - pursuit of wealth
Justification in the name of $$
human trafficking - $10 billion/year, 2 million people have been bought and sold over the last 15 years
Wealth is not evil - the wealthy are included vv. 17-18
wealth as the goal is useless
wealth is “uncertain” v 17 - God is eternal
God is the goal- wealth is another tool to serve God
Being faithful DOES NOT mean financial success
Thoughts and Questions:
Does the church promote seeking life or seeking sustainability?
Are we focused on helping people grasp true life or making sure they pledge?
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.