26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Image of a manuscript illumination of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus

The story of the rich man and Lazarus does not have a happy ending,
for the rich man.

By Meister des Codex Aureus Epternacensis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The sermon today was about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31. Our pastor pointed out that the rich man and Lazarus seem to have no social interaction at all in the story, although they are in close proximity. The rich man doesn’t really even see Lazarus during their simultaneous lifetimes. He only notices Lazarus after they have both died, and the radical reversal in their fortunes – Lazarus comforted in the bosom of Abraham, the rich man tormented in the flames of Hades – has had its effect. The radical reversal is one of the central themes of Luke, as most readers of Luke already know.

I probably dreamed off somewhere in the middle of this sermon, truth be known. The problem with it, for me, is that when this parable comes up in the lectionary, I can’t help identifying with the rich man. Here we are, Americans, using whatever exorbitant percentage of the earth’s resources we use … I’ve seen the statistics but don’t have them committed to memory … with most of the people of the rest of the world sitting outside our gates in the position of Lazarus, wishing to have any amount of a share of all this abundance. And most of us feel, continually, that we don’t have enough.

I think that is one of the central themes of this year’s election, at least from some quarters: we need to keep people out of our country and away from our jobs because we don’t have enough, we need to stop people using our healthcare system and our educational system because we don’t have enough, we need to keep taxes from going up because we don’t get to keep enough of our hard-earned money, we need to lift restrictions on this and that because we don’t have enough profits, we need to stop people putting limits on what we can say and do because we don’t have enough privilege, we need to put up more barriers because we don’t have enough security, we’re afraid; we need to be able to have more guns because we don’t have enough peace of mind, we’re afraid we’re afraid we’re afraid. Other people want what we have, but most days we feel we don’t even have enough ourselves, and that there isn’t enough to go around.

I can’t believe there isn’t enough to go around, “but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” (1 Timothy 6:8 – the secondary text for today) I have a strong suspicion, stronger and stronger, that the problem isn’t the “enough.” The problem is how we’ve got it divided up. And I’m one of those people who has way more than my share, I’m sure. So I ought to help more. There ought to be a way to do that, at least one.

And if I cared as much as I think I should, I could probably find it.

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About HAT

Heather Thiessen (HAT) is a happily married 60-ish, Bible-reading, Presbyterian Church Sunday School teaching and choir singing, small fuel efficient car driving, still pretty much 2nd wave feminist and generally out lesbian Hoosier mom. (There are no monochrome states.) From time to time she teaches religious studies to students at a small liberal arts college in Louisville, Kentucky.
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