November 5, 2019
Scripture: Luke 16:20-21
At the rich man’s gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores.
Thought for the Day: The story (parable) of Lazarus is one of the deeply troubling stories found in scripture, unless you are a poor individual who finds yourself completely ignored and discarded by society. In the very next verse, Lazarus dies and is immediately taken to heaven. And of course, the rich man dies and is taken to the place of the dead where he is tormented. This is troubling to most of us who, if you make more than $800/year, are above the world’s poverty line. Yes, $800/year. Most of us, if not all of us, would be associated with the “rich man” in the story, including the writer of this devotional. And have I ever ignored someone along the road? The answer is an affirmative. Now I don’t want to dismiss the powerful discomfort provided in this story as so many others try to do. At the same time, I do believe Jesus is offering a larger teaching in this and the surrounding chapters of Luke’s Gospel. In the previous chapter, there are three parables that according to Dr. Amy-Jill Levine are all about counting. The first one is about a shepherd who has a hundred sheep and notices that one is gone. The next is about a woman who has ten coins and notices that one is gone. The third parable is the Prodigal Son, and it is a story where a father only has two sons but does not notice that one is not present at the party. In the story of Lazarus, a rich man has to literally step over a suffering individual on the street, yet does not even sack up his breadcrumbs for Lazarus. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus offers harsh words about divorce, and he gives no grace in that area. Any divorce, according to Luke’s Gospel, is unacceptable. Yet in that culture, a divorced woman was cast aside without any options for survival. Jesus is calling out another example in their society where human beings are being dismissed and forgotten. It is not some moral debate on divorce. Instead, at least in my reading, the whole section is a larger conversation about the value of every human being. Period! Jesus points out so many excuses among the religious elite that might sound reasonable on the surface, but at the end of the day, these so-called justifications are the tools of the powerful to provide theological cover to their arrogance and unjust behavior.
So that you know, today’s devotional is an introduction to my sermon this coming Sunday. Stay tuned!
Prayer: For everything in our social structure that invites us to dismiss a human being, I ask for your mercy, O Lord. So many voices and demonic forces that tug on us and invite us to undercut the value of people based upon gender, race, history, sexual orientation, economic level or nation of origin. When will we learn, God of Immeasurable Love? When will we awaken to the beauty of every sister and brother upon this planet? It is a question we ask, but it is also the challenge you put before us. Through Christ, help us stand against all that dismiss and devalues. Amen.
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