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First Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion

Petite Riviere, West Dublin, Vogler’s Cove  June 14, AD 2009

1 John 4:7-21    St. Luke 16:19-31

 

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us,

and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

 

This morning, at the beginning of Trinity season, we are just beginning our ascent on the steps towards the opening up of our minds to see God.  As we see God more and more we are captured by His love.

 

We have placed before our minds today in the Gospel this image of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus.  We are not to forget it but it should fixed into our minds and held there.  God wants His children in every age and in every culture to remember it, to love it.  Why?  How is it supposed to shape us?

 

What is the image?

Two men, one really rich, who feasts sumptuously every day.  The other poor, at his gate, waiting for the crumbs which fall from his master’s table.  One a seeming success in this world - the rich man, one a seeming failure in this world - the beggar.  But in the eternal scheme, in heaven, the tables are turned and we see who is in the loving arms of Abraham – it is the poor beggar.

 

Remember these are the words of Jesus, we can’t just skip over them – this is God speaking directly to each one of us this morning.

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There is the warning image – of the uncaring rich man who is in a state of hell because he’s turned in only on himself.  

 

If this man thinks he is a believer, thinks that he sees God, he discovers he was mistaken when he dies, because it was clear by how he treated his brother he did not know or love God.  St. John says in today’s Epistle,

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

 

So to avoid this, to show our love of God, we have taken some practical steps in our Parishes to respond to the “poor” man in our midst.

 

-     the food bank support in our parishes is one way that we try to remember the poor in our area

 

-     there is the support of children around the world through World Vision.  Seven children are receiving an education through our generosity each year.

 

-     opportunities are around us in our communities to help others – contributing to medical charities and local non-profit charities.

 

When we participate in these and other charitable acts.  We are not like the rich man only concerned with our own pleasure and comfort – our hearts are exercised in loving our neighbour, and we are moved by God’s love as we do this.  We are not in a state of estrangement from our our neighbour or God.  Again, St. John says,

If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 

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But in the Gospel story, there is also a positive image here which we are to follow somehow – not just avoiding being like the uncaring rich man.

 

The positive image is the poor man with sores waiting at the gate of the rich man, waiting for him to respond in love.  Lazarus after all, gets the eternal reward of being in the arms of Abraham, in other words, he is part of God’s chosen beloved family, he is not alone.

 

How is this a positive image for us, what is good in it and why is this something to emulate?

 

Some of you may have seen the recent movie – Slumdog Millionaire – a rags to riches story about a poor orphan in the slums of Bombay who rises out of utter poverty to win millions in a game show in India and the heart of his beloved – and the whole nation watches on TV and cheers him on.  He’s not educated but the questions asked him just happen to be known because of the particular circumstances of his life – he thinks of it as his fate, or we might think, God’s wonderful providence.  The story appeals, because, in part, we still think this really is the ultimate dream. 

 

Yet, when we put it beside today’s Gospel, we are a bit confounded.  It is the beggar with sores who waits upon his rich neighbour and who dies in that state who has the everlasting reward.  And the reward is not money, but to be embraced in the kingdom forever.

 

The providence of God, the good will of God towards us, might in fact mean losing everything in this world so that we might come to know the goodness of God without confusion.  Like in the story of Job, that we have begun reading in the daily pattern of readings found in our bulletins (from the Prayer Book lectionary).  He loses everything, is covered in sores, and waits, and is rewarded everlastingly by a different kind of visitation of the Almighty.  God speaks directly to him in the whirlwind – and it is enough for Job.

 

What is the virtue of Lazarus waiting at the doorstep of the rich man?

Why is this the starting point of Trinity season?

How are we like this?

 

In a very literal sense, we live in communities where there are many who live in fancy homes and who have nothing to do with the church.  Maybe it is not so wrong to knock on their doors and ask for help – to give them the opportunity to contribute, to show charity, to desire to be in relationship (not just with their money) but with them?  Or will we ignore them as they do us, will our pride keep us from showing our poverty, our neediness as a church? 

 

I think it is worth thinking about – doing people a favour, by depending on them.

 

I used to think it was not good to put people out, to accept their kind offers of this or that.  But actually, it is a good thing to allow people to love us, and to show ourselves in need of them – we are in need of each other.  Of course one could abuse this, but I think we often err on the side of not depending on others enough and so not really loving them.  This is a kind of radical love isn’t it, not quite what we expect, something for us to think about more.  But God doesn’t want us to live in isolated cells completely self sufficient next to one another – worlds open up when we collide through our depending on one another. 

 

Maybe we have to get rid of the idea of shame at being needy – the fact is we are!  This is the case in human relationships.  It is the case if we would ever fall in love, it is not wrong to need another person.  This is especially the case if we are to open ourselves to the greatness and goodness of God.

 

If we would ascend this ladder to God, we start by recognizing our utter dependence, our neediness of His love,

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love him, because he first loved us. 

 

Even more than our need to depend on our neighbour’s love is the need for us to depend on God’s love.  If we would ascend to the heights of heaven, we must begin by waiting at His gates.  We must begin by desiring the crumbs which fall from our master’s table.  There is a deep humility, a total dependence, that must accompany our journey upward. 

 

We know that love by ever holding before our eyes the Cross – not to make us feel guilty but to embrace the mercy offered to us there.  And we continue close to Jesus – dependent, receiving his Word written, receiving the Word made visible in the Sacraments, being filled with that love and being moved.

 

We have come here this morning to worship God but in part because we are waiting for something more.  We are beggars of God’s grace.  If we are honest we acknowledge that we have sores that earthly medicines cannot touch.  We are at the entrance of the gates of a great city, the heavenly city.

 

We are like beggars, like Lazarus, but God is the rich man who does not withhold the treasures of heaven from us but freely gives.  Soon we will partake of His love, and God would have us love others likewise – freely we will receive, now, ever more freely, give.

 

Amen.

 

 

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