Sunday, June 6, 2010

Trinity 1: A Devotional Commentary

Genesis 15:1-6 After these things the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Abram said, “Lord Yahweh, what will you give me, since I go childless, and he who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram said, “Behold, to me you have given no seed: and, behold, one born in my house is my heir.” Behold, the word of Yahweh came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir, but he who will come out of your own body will be your heir.” Yahweh brought him outside, and said, “Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” He said to Abram, “So shall your seed be.” He believed in Yahweh; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.

1 John 4:16–21 We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother.

Luke 16:19–31 “Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish. Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ He said, ‘I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’”

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is not a moralistic tale. Jesus is not saying all the poor people get an automatic ticket to heaven and the rich who fail to care for them go straight to hell. The parable is all about death and resurrection.

Lazarus was a walking death. He was disgusting to look at. He was a loser that just sat around and begged all day. He didn't have a real job. Every day he was reminded what a filthy loser he was when the rich man's dogs would come and lick his sores. And then he died and went where all losers go--straight to heaven.

The rich man was a winner. He was well respected by the religious community and lived it up. He was a dead man walking but he sure didn't look that way and he didn't think so. One day he dies and the next thing he knows he is in the pits of hell. But even then he's not willing to admit that he's dead. He's still thinks he's much more important than Lazarus. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus as a servant to bring him some water. Abraham refuses and the rich man tries to talk his way out of this mess and still doesn't get it. He still thinks Lazarus is his servant and asks Abraham to send Lazarus to talk to his brothers, hoping to earn some brownie points with God by display of mercy towards his brothers. Abraham tells the rich man that his brothers have all the information that they need--they have Moses and the prophets. The rich man says that his brothers will believe if someone rises from the dead but Abraham tells the rich man that if they don't believe Moses and the prophets they won't believe if someone rises from the dead.

Lazarus is Jesus. He lived a life of humility and suffering. He is the complete fulfillment of the law and the prophets. All of the law and the prophets are about Him. And what happened when the religious types who spent their days studying the law and the prophets met Jesus, they wanted to kill the law and the prophets and eventually they did. They killed God Himself. Did they finally believe when the fulfillment of the law and the prophets rose from the dead? No. They had no interest in someone fulfilling the law and the prophets for them. They were only interested in keeping the law themselves. They wanted to be looked up to and respected just as we do today. They wanted to be able to show that they were better than poor beggar because they had a more profound theological knowledge than he did.

We are all like the rich man in this parable. We think that we can do it all on our own and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But in reality we are all beggars. We have nothing of our own and can do nothing of our own. We are disgusting sinners. We are so damaged by sin that the dogs come and lick our sores. Only when we are given the eyes of faith can we see how miserable we really are. We are poor beggars and God gives us salvation as a gift. As a gift we are carried up to Abraham's bosom. Abraham's bosom is only for losers and beggars. The fires of hell are for the winners. By faith we are united to Christ and become partakers in His resurrection. The resurrection is only for dead losers. By faith we see that God is love and can serve our neighbor in love, instead of serving our neighbor to earn our ticket to heaven.

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