A few years ago, I helped celebrate Holy Communion at an affluent church. We used the liturgy of The Great Thanksgiving for Advent. In the middle of the liturgy, the celebrant speaks these words: “You fill the hungry with good things, and the rich you send empty away.” I heard an audible gasp mixed with an uncomfortable silence in the majestic sanctuary. The liturgy continued, “Your own Son came among us as a servant, to be Emmanuel, your presence with us” (The United Methodist Book of Worship, 54). I saw the people relax. The gasp, the silence, and the settling back in stayed with me for weeks. Why are we okay with Jesus as servant but uncomfortable with a faith that challenges us?
The Gospel text once again contrasts the rich and the poor, pulling off a reversal of circumstances after death. The rich man finds himself in the tormented place of Hades and the poor man rests on the bosom of Abraham. We do not know that the rich man did nothing in life to change Lazarus’s circumstances, but now in Hades the rich man actually sees Lazarus for the first time. His wealth has limited his perspective on people and the world. Money and sumptuous living are not the evils in the text; the lack of acknowledgment and action on behalf of others less fortunate is the sin. The Gospel calls us to do good in the world, to see the other and offer care. Riches are not worth our souls.
The Great Thanksgiving instructs, “You have mercy on those who fear you from generation to generation. You put down the mighty from their thrones and exalt those of low degree.” We have been convinced of God’s promise of abundant and eternal life by someone who rose from death. We see the other and conduct ourselves in such a way as to reveal God’s promise to others through our living.
Dear Lord, free us for joyful obedience through Jesus Christ our Lord. May it be so. Amen.
The Bible warns about the delusions that wealth brings, repeatedly directing readers’ attention to the poor and the destitute. Luke’s Gospel text culminates in Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus. Only in the next life, when the rich man is rid of his riches, can he see Lazarus, now secure at Abra- ham’s side. First Timothy contains a series of warnings to pros- perous readers that having the basic necessities of life should be enough. Greed diverts attention away from the God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” And against the best wisdom of all the nancial planners of Judah, Jeremiah purchases the eld at Anathoth. The prophet invests his money in the divine promise, in the outlandish conviction that God is faithful.
• Read Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15. Where do you see God’s prom- ises in your life? How do you act on them? What keeps you from acting on them?
• Read Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16. In what setting do you experience a sense of God’s shelter?
• Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19. With what do you nd yourself content?
• Read Luke 16:19-31. How do you maintain an ability to see those in need? How do you address those needs?
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