The Gift of Enough

A Sermon on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost (9-22-10)
Luke 16:19-31
19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Children’s Time: Show an alarm clock with a “snooze button”? What happens if you push this button too much? You’ll be late. Did you know we sometimes do this with people? We forget to pay attention to the hurting. We get too distracted with our own problems, that we ignore others when we really could help them. In our Bible story today, Jesus tells us about a rich man who never took the time to help others who were less fortunate. Every day he walked by a poor man, Lazarus, at the main gate. But in the end, it was he who was all alone and Lazarus who was rich. Let’s not be people who fall asleep on the job when there’s work to be done and people to serve. God is counting on us! (credit: sermons4kids for this idea)

Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I’m a pretty hopeful guy – I mean, I like to think there’s always hope that things will turn around. Isn’t that part of our “job description” as the people of God? To have faith in what we cannot yet see? A future where people’s lives are changed for the better? So, if you ask me, I’m someone who believes in the saying, “It’s never too late.”

That’s what makes reading today’s lesson so hard for me, because for the rich man, IT IS too late. He’s dead and gone and there’s not a thing he can do about his situation: a great chasm lies between him (in his hellish fate) and Lazarus (in the lap of Abraham) that cannot be crossed. It’s simply too late.

Another reason this parable bothers me is because I want everyone to end up in heaven. Who needs more polarity or another chasm to divide us in society? Isn’t God bigger than even our divisions? Already the political ads are in full swing: “Who’s side is she really on?” “You can’t trust so-and-so.” Well, the gospel of Luke is pretty clear: Jesus sides with the poor and the lowly, every time. There’s no getting around it that divide.

Give me the story of the thief on the cross any day over this one. Here’s a scene where it’s never too late for repentance. In his dying breath, the thief begged Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. “Truly I tell you,” says Jesus, “today you will be with me in paradise.” And maybe that’s the difference: at least the thief felt sorry for what he’d done.

The rich man feels sorry for himself. There’s no repentance, no remorse. In fact, he has the audacity to ask Lazarus to serve him some water! Time and again, Jesus said “the last shall be first.” Do you smell tax cuts for the wealthiest 4% of Americans? (There, I’ve gone and made another chasm.)

My intent is not to lay a guilt trip on you today – but to simply let this story speak for itself. The Bible clearly teaches that money is NOT the root of all evil. It’s the LOVE of money that leads to selfish intentions. It’s the lure of the luxurious lifestyle that hits the snooze button of our soul time and again until we realize it’s too late.

In their book, Passing the Plate, Christian Smith & Michael Emerson examine the giving habits of American Christians and their findings are troubling. Quote: “American Christians are among the wealthiest of their faith in the world today and probably the most affluent single group of Christians in two thousand years of church history. … And yet, despite all of this, American Christians give away relatively little money to religious and other purposes. A sizable number of Christians give no money, literally nothing.”

According to their findings, between 1959 and 2000, while the financial giving by American Christians was declining, the personal consumption expenditures of Americans increased for eating out in restaurants, toys, sports supplies, live entertainments, foreign and domestic travel by U.S. residents, lottery tickets, casino gambling, photography, sports and recreation camps, and other entertainment expense. (Passing the Plate, 63)

We are in a position to do an enormous amount of good… and that great chasm between the rich and the poor is ever widening. Yesterday’s newspaper reported that in the U.S. “one in seven Americans, and one in five children, is living in poverty.” (StarTribune, Sep 25, 2010) …and “as a direct result of unemployment, fewer have health care: 51 million were uninsured at the end of 2009, up from 46 million a year earlier.”

And yet, some Americans are managing quite well, all things considered. According to the Greater Twin Cities United Way, “when polled this summer, 63% of Americans feel they are no longer in harm’s way” of the Great Recession. “They have dodged the bullet and feel fortunate. They may not be as well-off as a year ago, but they know how amazingly well-off they are in comparison.”

So, what does all this mean? If you can give be generous, whatever means you may have to work with. In the Bible, God commanded the people of Israel to set aside a percentage of their income for the Lord’s work. It’s called a tithe. Does anyone know what the percentage is? It’s a 10% tithe of your possessions. You can find examples of this in Numbers 18:26 and in Leviticus 27:30 we read:

30All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord. …32All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.

This stewardship season we’re going to ask you to make a pledge to give away 10% of your household income. Probably the easiest way to figure this out is to simply pull out last year’s tax return, find your adjusted gross income and take 10 percent of that. Obviously, we’d like the church to be a part of that 10%. Maybe consider giving half of that pledge to the church and the other half to other charities that are important to you.

We’d like to do the same thing on our church council – to increase the giving we do as a congregation to that 10% tithe… but that can only happen when each household makes a conscious decision to do their part. So I challenge you to grow in your giving and not hit that snooze button today. The point here is not to try and dictate to you how you should spend your money… but to create a climate of caring for those less fortunate by improving our habit of regular giving.

The sin of the rich man wasn’t just that he’d been lulled to sleep in the lap of luxury. It’s that he just didn’t care about anyone except himself. This same thing happened in our first lesson for today, from the book of Amos. See how the people of God came under judgment, not because they had wealth – but because they had grown not to care anymore:

4Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; 5who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; 6who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! 7Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.

You really do reap what you sow.

Here’s a little gem I found in this week’s Christian Century, in an article by Kristin Swenson. She’s quoting John C. Bogle telling “how Joseph Heller responded when someone pointed out that his billionaire party host made more money in a single day of hedge fund trading than Heller had ever earned from his book Catch-22. Heller replied: ‘Yes, but I have something that he will never have: enough.’” (Christian Century, Sep 21, 2010)

And that one little word, enough, has stayed with me this week as I’ve been preparing these thoughts. What a liberating thought – to know in your heart that you have enough of what you need – that God knows what you need before you even ask for it – and will provide in due season… enough.

That’s my wake up call for you today. And to make sure you don’t hit the snooze button I’d like to close with a little song about staying awake. It’s a little bluegrass tune from 1979 called: Fire on the Mountain.

FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN by Randy Palmer

There’s a fire on the mountain tonight
No place to run, no place to hide
(Tell me now) would you be alright
If you had to die tonight
There’s a fire on the mountain tonight

1) Moses, he led the pack
Once he started out, no turning back
With old Pharaoh at his heals,
The Red Sea began to swell
But he crossed to the other side safe and dry
(chorus)

2) Elijah, he cried out from the trees
He said you’re living life in sin and misery
They said, “Hey buddy you must be blind!
We’re all havin’ a good time!”
But Elihah held his head and cried from grief.
(chorus)

3) Simon Peter, he denied our Lord
Three times, until finally he swore
But then the cock began to crow
And he said, “How did you know?!”
And from that moment, Peter was a rock.
(chorus)

4) Jesus he died upon the cross
And for our sins, he paid the cost
Now he’s inviting you to choose
It’s your chance to win or lose… (so don’t hit the snooze!)
But it’s your decision, your gain or loss.
(chorus)

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3 Comments on “The Gift of Enough”

  1. Gloria Hardy Says:

    I have the words to “Fire On The Mountain” but I don’t have the tune. Do you know where I might find it?

    Like

    • bluejeremiah Says:

      Hi Gloria, and thanks for your interest in this song! I put a recording of it on YouTube, since the only other versions I could find of it online were a bit sketchy. So, here’s my version, for what it’s worth. I do not own the rights to this song (and I edited the ending just a bit). Hope you like it!
      John

      Like

  2. damiana Says:

    it is inspiration for godly people world

    Like


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