FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
16TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 29TH 2019
TEXTS: LUKE 16: 19 – 31
THEME: FAILURE TO NOTICE.
Just before the major story for our today passage Jesus was trying to get the message across of living a trusted life. He told them the story of shrewd manager who owned his master a lot and planned to get away with it on way or the other. He went cancelling people who owned his master debts some even as high as 50%. The Pharisees the bible says they loved money (Luke 16:14) and when they heard all this they sneered at Jesus.
Jesus reminded them that by justifying themselves before people is detestable in God’s sight. Jesus proceed to tell his audience the parable of a rich man (name not included in the narrative maybe he did not need a name because everybody in the community knew who he was) and this is how he describes him:
- He was rich: Riches or wealth is acknowledged to be a blessing from God. This can be seen in the Old Testament when God promised Abram to bless him and make a great nation out of him (Gen 12:1-3). We are told in the process Abraham became rich (Gen 13:2). His son Isaac was blessed and became rich too (Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and silver and gold (Gen 26:12-14). Solomon riches was seen as sign of God’s favor (1kings 3:13, 10:23)) Job was blessed by God and his wealth increased (The Lord blessed the later part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys (Job 42:12). This does not say that poverty is a curse from God. The bible is clear on a number of things in regards to the wealth: First pursuit of it may keep us from maturing in faith (Luke 8:14). Two, one’s life does not consist of one’s possessions there is more to life that material accumilation (Luke 12:15). Three, Possession should not come between God and us (Luke 12:33-34). True wealth is that which helps us in our faith journey (No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matt.6: 24). This is only possible when we learn to give away (Acts 20:35). People have to remember that the kingdom of God is way better than money (Matt 6:33)
- He wore purple fine linen: He wanted people to know he was rich by wearing something of extra quality. We know purple was a kingly attire but his was not any purple but fine linen purple. People would easily notice. The cost of robes in those days ranged between $3,660 – $4,800 and I would assume he had more than one robe. Feasted luxuriously. He seemed to have party everyday which makes one wonder when he worked.
On the other side was a man named Lazarus. This is a different Lazarus from the one who Jesus brought up from death. Lazarus who lived in Bethany and was brother to Mary and Martha where Jesus frequented. The name Lazarus in Latin means “God is my help.” This is how he is described
- He was poor: The was in relation to the material possessions
- Covered with sores (Instead of linen purple that covered the rich man)
- Longed to each the crumbs that fall under the table: In those days one day’s wage was like half-a dollar (50cents) and the rich man would not offer that to him. Rich people would use crumbs of bread to clean their hands after meal and that
- Dogs would come and lick his sores (Maybe he could not resist the dogs because he was weak or maybe it was the only soothing thing that reduced the itching.
Both men eventually die and end up in different destination that seemed to be next to one another. On one side Lazarus was having the best of his time while on the other side the rich man was really suffering and was needing some help. When Lazarus died, he was carried by the Angel to Abraham’s side. When the rich man died, he was buried. But he seemed to have gotten to his destination where there was a lot of suffering. He seemed to recognize father Abraham and Lazarus and suggest he to Abraham that he needs his help by sending Lazarus to bring something to cool him down. Now he to knows Lazarus name who he never recognized when he was living a luxurious life. He also remembers his five brothers who might end up in the same place for it seems like they were also living the same life style as he used to live. This parable therefore brings the following faith lesson for us:
- We are invited to share: The secret of sharing is not in the amount that we have shared but in the heart of willing to share. As many of you may have had a chance to observe your children grow up you might have noticed something when it comes to the sharing spirit. There are some children who will never want to share with their brother or sister even when the parents gave that thing to them. There others who will give out all they have and be left with nothing. If richness is meant to bring happiness then true happiness come when we are able to share is not when we accumulate staff. It is when we sit around the dinner table or at the picnic when food has real joy of eating. It is not when we hide somewhere and feast by ourselves. It is important to always remember that what you have in life is what you have shared. If you are looking for true richness look for ways to share not only your material blessing but your presence and your faith. The spirit of sharing in not grounded on the amount that we have but in the spirit of living beyond ourselves. There is the classic story of the little boy who was willing to share his lunch which had only 2 pieces of bread and five little fish. Because of sharing miracle took place. If you want miracles to happen in your life learn to share. Sharing involves more than material things. It calls for our time our talents. Something happened to our mission group that we took to Kenya couple of years back and some members of this church were part of that team. One of the youngest members of the team (I believe was less than 12 years old) as he went in the village noticed an old lady who had no shoes and wanted to give her something. He came back to the team and shared with the team and before long somebody offered her pair of shoes to her. The day the pair of shoes were delivered, the old woman was so touched and did not know what to do. She happened to have one chicken which had started to laying eggs. There was only one egg and that what she shared with the giver of shoes. Years after this event whenever I go to that church the story of those shoes is told to me. Miracle happen when we choose to share.
- We are stewards: We have to acknowledging what we have comes from God and we are just stewards: People easily forget who’s they are and where they have come from. The moment we think that what we have no matter how small is out of our hard work not from God then we are missing the point of who gives us the strength to work hard. Even when we forget that what we are is because of God we miss the point. It happens more so when God blesses us and we let the blessings became a reward of our own hard working. We have to always acknowledge the giver who is God. He gives by first giving us life and ability, protection and insight. God has blessed some of us with children, Jobs, a home, a car and the list continues. Do we ever stop to even think that all we have is not really ours? A true rich man or woman is the one who acknowledges all they have belongs to God and they are just mere managers. An account will be expected of them at an appropriate time when we meet our maker.
The wise person then is one who never forgets to invest for eternity. The way to invest for eternity is by acknowledging that we are stewards of what God has allowed us to have hence we have and own nothing. Sharing is the key thing to those in need. When we put our treasures in heaven then our hearts will be there. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). Where is your heart today? Remember the response of Job when all his property was destroyed, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord taken away, may his name be praised.” (Job 1:21). Job had discovered something very important in his life. We are invited to discover the same.
- Our action makes a difference: He thought it was natural that Lazarus should be in pain and hungry while he had his luxury. It is very easy to ignore the pain of other just because we are not the ones going through it. Look how we see the news of people suffering in different parts of the world and how many times we turn off the TV without even asking ourselves whether there is something small that one can help. The issue in our book of Luke story is not what the rich man did but what he did not do. The sin here is when he looked at the world suffering as symbolized by Lazarus and did nothing. He did not feel the grief or pity piercing his heart. He looked at the fellow human being in pain and hunger and did nothing. His punishment was because he never noticed. It is easy to read this story and think that we are not as rich so what is the preacher talking about here. We are nothing but just a poor community in small place south east of Nebraska. But the world today is so open that none in this building will say that they don’t know somebody who is suffering. Our challenge today is when we see the world suffering and do nothing and then accept it as the way of life it is a sin before humanity and God. You don’t have to be an activist to be engaged in changing the world around you. All it takes is for you to notice the need and then do something. We are invited to live beyond ourselves. Some here might remember the story of the man who one time was walking on the sea shore one early morning and there were so many starfish were left back by the tide and were dying. This is how the story reads: The Starfish Thrower retold by Peter Straube “Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eyes could see, stretching in both directions. Off the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is you are doing?” The young boy paused, and looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up unto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the you replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.” The old man replied, but there must be tens of thousands of the starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean, “It made a difference to that one.” (Adopted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977).
We have the opportunity to make a difference where we live. But often we find ourselves thinking that we are too busy and no much time. We even get to the next level and ask ourselves what difference would it make even if I did something. It happens even during voting season when one thinks that their one vote would not make a difference. Other times when the challenge is so big, we tend to want to procrastinate but if we divide the task into small task, we can make a difference. Like that boy and that one starfish that got back into the ocean we are making a difference.