COCU58C.29thSeptember2019

Readings
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15: In spite of his prophecies of the destruction of Judah, Jeremiah buys his cousin’s field and proclaims God’s word that people will again buy property in the land of Judah.
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16: God promises refuge, protection and long life to those who trust in God.
1 Timothy 6:6-19: Followers of Christ are encouraged to be content with what they have, not to strive after wealth, and to share generously with others.
Luke 16:19-31: Jesus tells a parable about a wealthy man who failed to share with the poor beggar outside of his gates, and who finds himself in torment after death, while Lazarus, the beggar, finds himself in comfort.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/670721

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…

—Luke 16.19-20
If I believed in a literal hell I would have to take note
that here and in the great judgment of the sheep and goats,
the one criterion for being sent up or down
is how we treat the poor.
Of course I give to the poor at the food bank.
But I still keep them outside my gate, don’t I?
And what of the socially homeless, the wounded,
the lonely, the scared, the trans, the different?
How do I cut myself off
from the hurting outside my gate?
How do I shelter myself in my privilege?
How do I love that gate?
What shields me from other people’s suffering,
from other people’s vulnerability?
Today will I even notice it?
What can I do today to open the gate,
to invite them in, or to go out?
Only when the gates are open can they become
the gates of heaven.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Reflection – from Gifts in Open Hands
In the second scene —
the one with the one percenter(*)
pleading with Abraham —
not a really good choice for mercy, that,
(but it does follow a lifetime
of not-good choices
when it comes to heaven).
I would have gone for Jonah, Aaron,
or maybe Leah,
someone who seemed to have everything
except what she wanted.
But, anyway, this one percenter
of any gender hopes to rescue siblings,
but denial is swift —
“they have the prophets,
and they should listen to them.”
That’s where we come in
and receive a hidden commission
in the middle of a story
about compassionate dogs,
the uncaring privileged few,
the disparity of human situations —
go, be a prophet,
be persuasive enough to change
the hardest heart —
after all, you know how —
(look at your own echocardiogram)
at least tell them someone is coming
who loves everyone
and is raised from the dead. (Source: Maren C. Tirabassi)
(* the 1%, refers to the top 1% wealthiest people in society that have a disproportionate share of capital, political influence, and the means of production, resulting in wealth inequity. In 2018, 1% of the world’s population held over 47% of the global wealth. According to economist Edward N. Wolff, Federal Reserve data suggests that the top 1% of U.S. households claim more wealth than the entire bottom 90% of households combined. The 1% is derived from the 2011 Occupy Movement’s slogan, “We are the 99%”)

Sermon: A terrifyingly simple parable by Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones
Gustavo Gutierrez*: It is no longer possible for someone to say, ‘Well, I didn’t know’ about the suffering of the poor. Poverty has a visibility today that it did not have in the past. The faces of the poor must now be confronted. And we also understand the causes of poverty and the conditions that perpetuate it.
It’s at this point that today’s simple parable becomes so complicated. We know what causes poverty in Australia. It is primarily the appallingly low level of social security payments. Most people living below the poverty line in Australia rely on social security as their main source of income. The lowest of those payments are the Youth Allowance and Newstart. When single parents were moved onto Newstart from the Parenting Payment in 2013 the rate of poverty among unemployed single parents rose from 35% to 59%. Poverty in households relying mainly on Newstart rose from 61% in 1999 to 78% in 2015. Yet our current Prime Minister has ruled out any increase to Newstart as ‘unfunded empathy’.
Australia is a wealthy country, more than able to adequately support all its citizens. There is no need for any Australian to live in poverty. As economist Richard Dennis writes:
Australia … is rich beyond the imagining of anyone living in the 1970s or 80s. But so much of that new wealth has been vacuumed up by a few, and so little of that new wealth has been paid in tax, that the public has been convinced that ours is a country struggling to pay its bills.’
This is why today’s parable is so complicated. It is no longer enough to expect the rich man to share what drops from his table with the beggar at his gate. Today, the rich man must be told to hand over a greater share of his wealth in tax to allow the Newstart Allowance to be increased. And that is not the way philanthropy generally works. It also takes the church out of the safe realm of biblical interpretation and theology into the scary realm of economics and politics. We could quite easily be told that questions of taxation and social security are none of our business. But we are in the Year of Luke and Luke, as I’ve already said, had no qualms about bringing socioeconomics into religion. Maybe we can too.
(*Gustavo Gutierrez: Essential Writings, Orbis Books, 1996, p. 313)

Reflection
Abraham called the rich man “child”. He doesn’t remember his name as he does Lazarus’ which must irk him as he was sure everybody must know how topdrawer he was.But then I remember that Abraham is father of the nation so every one here is a child of his, so much so that poor Lazarus is hugged to his bosom In all his previous brokenness.
The rich man still is a child of Abraham but so plutocentric was he that all that remains is the knowledge of descent without the spirit even to his fellow Israelite Lazarus according to the Deuteronomic Code so being left out of the Abrahamic fellowship becomes his self-inflicted Hell.
I think what Jesus means that if we don’t realise we belong to one inclusive family in every way, we sentence ourselves to be left in unrelenting isolation.
(Source: Christopher Ridings, Facebook post, 29 September 2019 )

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
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