Homily for September 30

Here's a house rich in love and hospitality where "Lazarus"
is always welcome: Lazarus House in Lawrence, MA

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – C September 30, 2007

Amos 6:1a, 4-7 1 Timothy 6:11-16 Luke 16:19-31

This past week I was out to dinner one evening
with a friend who is also a pastor.
As often happens, the question came,
“What are you preaching this weekend?”
We had a helpful discussion about the texts we just heard proclaimed
and I came away with some helpful insights.

I’m embarrassed to tell you that it was only later
when writing my homily,
that I realized our conversation took place
over just the kind of repast Amos railed against
and the kind of dinner the rich man regularly had
but from which Lazarus got not so much as a scrap.

How insulated we can become from the realities of poverty
such that we can discuss them over a table set for fine dining
and yet not “be made ill by the collapse of Joseph…”

These scriptures are not easy for us to hear
because the level of our comfort and assurances of it
are so much a part of our lives.

Perhaps if we look at some of the details in the gospel story
we’ll get within striking distance of Jesus’ message for us.

When Jesus says Lazarus was lying at the rich man’s door,
we should picture the gate of a 1st century compound of dwellings
in which the rich man and his family and servants lived.
A kind of scriptural precursor of the “gated community.”

That door was both the portal
through which the rich man had outlet to those in need
and also the door that kept Lazarus from eating
even the rich man’s garbage.

Where are the doors in my life and yours
that give us outlet, access to those in need,
beyond our compounds of plenty,
and how do those same doorways keep the poor at a distance,
keeping us from meeting them, knowing them, serving them?

Our parish has programs specifically designed
to help us get beyond our threshold of comfort
and face to face with those in need:
- on Sunday nights, groups of our young people
go to Boston to serve meals at the rescue mission;
- our summer service trips for our young people
take them even out of state to serve the poor;
- we even bring food to a place called: Lazarus House!

Jesus is calling us in just that direction:
to open the doors that maintain the “chasm”
between us who have so much and those who have so little.

Who is in need just on the threshold of our hearts:
in our families? in our neighborhoods? in our parish?
at school? at work?

Whose needs are kept from our notice
because we are so intensely focused on our own and family’s needs?
Do families not need to serve those in need?

Notice that the rich man, when he dies, refers to Lazarus by name!
A further indictment of this wealthy man.
He was NOT unaware of the man at his door – he knew him by name,
but still neglected his needs.

Who is at our doors?
It might be someone we know by name,
or by a nation’s name, or by a group’s name:
the homeless, the hungry, the third-world…
So many have a claim on my heart
and on my life’s overabundance of material goods and wealth.
Will I bridge the chasm that separates me from them
or risk the chasm for which there is no bridge?

The rich man not only knows Lazarus by name
but even in DEATH,
the wealthy man expects the poor man to serve his needs:
“Father Abraham, send Lazarus to bring me a cool drink!
Send Lazarus to warn my household of this torment!"

The rich man simply expects Lazarus to be his servant.
Someone is supposed to serve his needs…

Who are the people in my life who serve me?
Do I think of them servants because I might pay them?
Do I forget that they are brothers and sisters?
Do I take them for granted?
Do I expect that others should wait on me?
Do I ever expect that I should wait on others?

These are, indeed, difficult texts
for us to hear,
for me to preach
and for us to wrestle with.
Is there any good news here?

In a curious way the good news is this:
right now, in this place, we are guests of the Lord.
We are the recipients of his generous invitation
for us to join him at his table.

He will not throw us scraps from the table, but rather,
he will offer us the finest food and the choicest drink:
he will offer himself as our nourishment,
we will feast on his life, given for us.

For Christ has crossed the threshold of our humanity
and dwells within us even as he invites us to dwell within him.

May the hospitality and welcome we receive here
open the doors of our hearts
that we might cross the thresholds of our own comfort
to go out, to meet, to invite in and to serve the needs of Christ
who hungers, thirsts and lives in our neighbor,
at our doorstep and around the world.

- Rev. Austin Fleming

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