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Do We Ignore the Radical Call of Jesus?

September 28, 2019

This past week we took a friend of ours from Florida up Trail Ridge Road. I spent some time sitting amongst the rocks waiting patiently for Pika to appear. This little one didn’t disappoint me. We shared some time together and I was able to receive some beautiful photos. As I have learned, you have to be attentive and keep your eyes open. Isn’t that also the way of faith?

The Gospel Reading from Luke 16:19-31 and the Epistle Reading from 1 Timothy 6:6-19 are challenging in today’s consumer driven, capitalist economy. An economy where more is better and, in the words of a saying I heard years ago–“The one who has the most toys in the end, wins.”

Jesus’s story about the rich man and Lazarus (which incidentally comes from the Hebrew word Eleazar which means “God has helped”) should give every one of us pause. In a nutshell, the rich man while he was alive ignored the beggar at his gate and I doubt that he even bothered to find out his name. Upon his death, he cries out from the flames of torment to Abraham. Is it a cry of regret or sorrow? Nope, he asks Abraham to order Lazarus to bring him some cool water. Even in death and torment the rich man was bossing around Lazarus and somehow believed that he was far superior to the poor man. He didn’t recognize Lazarus as a fellow human being or as one of God’s beloved children.

How often do we walk by or walk over others in our quest to be “successful” and make it big? How often do we avert our eyes from the Lazarus’s of the world because they either make us uncomfortable or feel guilty?

There is a lot to unpack in this parable and a lot to make us wonder. Is Jesus challenging us regarding our priorities? What is more important in our lives? Wealth? Position? Power? Privilege?

In Paul’s letter to Timothy we may well find some answers and more challenges. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” (1 Tim 6:10-11)

I remember being challenged by a Colonel in my first assignment after I preached a sermon from this Gospel lesson. He said it isn’t money that is evil, it is how we choose to use it that can either be for good or for selfishness. We were discussing semantics when instead we should have been looking at how we live our lives and use the gifts God has given us. Later on, as we got to know each other better and worked together in Chapel activities, we both learned from each other. And we saw the challenge of serving without the trappings of rank and power getting in the way.

While I often take issue with some of Paul’s theology, this little gem offers me some insight as I seek to follow the radical call of Jesus. “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like Micah’s call to “Do Justice, Love Kindness and Mercy, Walk Humbly with God?”

Dear reader, as we seek to follow Jesus, may we seek the courage to go against contemporary definitions of success. May we learn from the rich man who was rich on possessions and worldly matters but poor in spiritual matters. Perhaps then we can take on the challenges of being Christ-Followers.

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