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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 16, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Pentecost 19 Proper 21C RCL September 29, 2013

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Psalm 91:1-6.14-16

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 16:19-31

In today’s reading from the Book of Jeremiah, Nebuchadrezzar II, King of Babylon, is besieging the city of Jerusalem. In 597 B.C., Nebuchadrezzar had placed King Zedekiah on the throne of Judah, but now, in 587 B. C., the Babylonians are on the attack. They will now reduce the temple to rubble and will deport the leaders of  Judah to Babylon, where they will spend almost fifty years in exile.

The people had comforted themselves with the thought that, no matter what they did, God would protect them from foreign invasions, Jeremiah had told them that this was not so. King Zedekiah branded Jeremiah as a traitor and put him in prison.

In the midst of this disaster, God guides Jeremiah to buy a piece of land, to invest in the future hope for God’s people. Jeremiah is very careful to follow every provision of the law and to preserve the documents regarding this transaction. In the darkest hour, there is always hope. In 539 B. C. the people returned home.  King Cyrus of Persia, now Iran, conquered the Babylonians. He had a more benevolent policy toward those who had been deported and allowed them to return home.

Last Sunday, Jesus told us that we cannot serve God and money. This Sunday, we have the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. This is not the brother of Mary and Martha, but another Lazarus.

The rich man is extremely wealthy. At his gate, very near the rich man’s home so that he can see him every day, lies Lazarus, covered with sores, who longs to eat the crumbs from the rich man’s table. Both men die. The rich man goes to Hades. He looks up from his torments and sees Lazarus at the side of Abraham. Now we find out that the rich man actually knows Lazarus’ name, because he asks Abraham to tell Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and bring it to him, but Abraham says that is not possible.

The rich man saw Lazarus at his gate every day. He even knew his name. But he never dipped his finger in water to help him. He never fed Lazarus or tended to his sores.

Herbert O’Driscoll summarizes the point of this parable in these words, “Our Lord’s parable is about one who lives an utterly self-centered existence for which a terrible payment must be made.”  (The Word Among Us, Year C, Vol, 3, p. 117.)

As Christians, we are called to care about our neighbors, and, as Jesus points out in another parable, everyone is our neighbor.

Walter C, Bouzzard, Professor of Religion at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, points out that “the verb translated, ‘to satisfy his hunger’ appears elsewhere in Luke at 6:21, the beatitude about how the hungry will be filled.” Bouzzard continues, “That beatitude’s promise is previewed in Luke 9:17 when the hungry crowd is satisfied with the loaves and fishes Jesus provides.” Bouzzard writes, “ The satisfaction of hunger is clearly a sign of God’s reign. Moreover, in this parable, that aspect of God’s reign and will is just as plainly something the rich man might have advanced from the things that, in his opulence, he simply wasted. …There are consequences for the willful neglect of our neighbor.” (Bouzzard,  New Proclamation Year C 2013 Easter through Christ the King, pp. 185-86.)

Jesus powerfully calls us to love God and love others. We cannot be self-centered or self-involved if we are to live a Christian life. The whole life and ministry of our Lord show us an example of one who is constantly reaching out to others. In the Judah of Jeremiah’s time, one of the great tragedies was that the rich were getting richer and the poor were suffering. That is happening in our own day as well. Those at the very top are doing great, and the rest of us are losing ground. As Christians, we are committed to helping those who are in need and finding ways to correct this inequality.

I recently heard an interview with Will Rapp, the founder of Gardeners Supply, who has gone on to work on sustainability issues around the world. In the interview, he posed a question which provides a window into the kingdom, the shalom of God” “What would happen if we put the well being of people ahead of the production of stuff?”

This is a great question. As a psychologist and as a Christian, I believe that something happens to us when we become self-centered to the point of ignoring the needs of others as this rich man did. We become hard, uncaring. We think that we have achieved our wealth through our own efforts and that we deserve to keep it all. We give no credit or thanks to God for our good fortune. We really don’t care. Something dies within us. We become a closed, self-absorbed system.

Once again, I feel that I am preaching to the choir. I don’t know anyone at Grace who would do as this rich man did. One of the reasons that I love being among you is that you live your faith. You do care about people and their concerns and problems. You do reach out and help.

However, as we look at the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of us in this country, I hope we will all think about this parable and about Jesus’ teachings on wealth. I hope we will continue to keep in mind that we are called to take care of those who are less fortunate. As our epistle says, we are called to set our hopes “on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment…[and] to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for [ourselves] the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [we] may take hold of the life that really is life.”

May we love our Lord Jesus, and may we love and care for others in his Name.  Amen.

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