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Last Sunday's Sermon: Rich man and Abraham

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The Gospel

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He 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.' But 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. Besides 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.' He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers-- that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He 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.'"

The Sermon

I believe that Jesus was attempting to make a point with this story of the rich man, Lazarus, and Abraham. In the first century, stories were told to convey a message, to make a point. He was telling his listeners, and us two thousand years later, that we are all important parts of God's creation. When we see someone suffering, then we address their suffering by doing what we can to help. He is telling us to not just throw crumbs at the problem but to really attempt to help.

Is this story an actual event? Probably not. Is there a place where bad people go when they die to burn for eternity? Unlikely. Is Jesus message that we need to look out for and care for each other an important message? Absolutely.

As I am writing this sermon I am also reflecting on the morning I spent at the food pantry. I had eleven people come to me and share their stories. Many of the people I met today have opened up their homes to others and they share with them what little they have. There was one lady who shared with me that she had brought into her house four people who just needed a place to stay for a couple of weeks. I mentioned something about her needing to stretch an already limited budget and her response was that she may not have much money but she has many people who care about her and love her. She said, “People may think I am poor but I am rich in a lot of ways.”

This lady who was by most measures poor, was doing what she could with what she had to take care of others.

I was truly inspired. The following is another short story of another rich man and his heavenly experience.

 You Can't Take It With You 
There was a very rich man who was just about to die and he wanted to take some of his wealth with him. So he started negotiations with God about the matter. God was not sure as it had never been done before and he did not want to set a precedence. Finally after long talks God reluctantly agreed to allow him to bring his wealth to heaven.
      Just a few days before he died the rich man converted all his money into solid gold bricks. He died and the funeral home made sure that the suitcases containing the gold bullion went with him. He arrived at the Pearly Gates with his suitcases and there was Peter. Peter told him he could not bring the suitcases into heaven. But the man said he had already spoken to God and God had said it was OK. So Peter got on the God phone and sure enough it was true. So, Peter was curious as to what was so valuable that the man wanted to bring it into heaven. Peter said, "Could I look in the suitcases?"
      So the man opened the suitcases and Peter exclaimed, "Why are you bringing pavement to heaven!"

So, what can we exchange for heavenly currency. It isn't gold bricks or any other kind of coin. It is the good deeds we have done in our lives.

There is a new television show called The Good Place. It is about a woman who dies and goes to heaven. It is a wonderful place where everything is tailored to their needs. Its perfect. Except, Michael, the manager must have made a mistake. Apparently only really good people get into the good place and this woman has her share of flaws. She hasn't done any of the things on earth that they think she has done and now she is trying to cover up their mistake. The last thing she wants is for them to discover the mistake and send her to the bad place. It is a very funny show and it takes a few pokes at religion and belief systems. Apparently in the good place it is impossible to swear so she is heard saying bull shirt a lot. She mentions the occasional fork as well.

I guess my message is that regardless of what heaven or hell is like, all of us on earth are here to help each other when we can, as much as we can, for as long as we can.

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