Eat, Drink & Be Sorry / Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 16:19-31

He said to him, ’If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’

There’s a parable about a wild pigeon. The pigeon lived happily from season to season enjoying its freedom to come and go as it pleased. One day it landed on the roof of a farmhouse, observing some domestic pigeons sheltered within a cage the farmer had built for them. The wild pigeon watched the farmer returning home at the end of the day, stopping on his way to feed the pigeons.

As the pigeon flew away, it occurred to him for the first time that he didn’t know where his next meal would come from, or that he would always have a shelter over his head. For the first time he wasn’t completely satisfied with the freedom with which he flew from open meadows to the upper most branches of a tree. “How much better,” he thought, “to have meals served to me in my very own house.” When no one was looking, he flew down from the roof of the farmhouse and squeezed his way into the pigeon pen. That evening as the farmer returned from the fields, he reached into the pen and took the wild pigeon. Inside his house he prepared his supper of pigeon stew.

The pigeon wanted comfort, ease, abundant food, and a nice warm house to live in. He was willing to give up his freedom of flight for these things, but instead he gave up his life.

Our gospel lesson this morning is about a man who also was comfortable, who had abundant food, and a warm house to live in. This man lived a very comfortable, easy and rich live. He had it made. But when his life on this earth ended, he was willing to have given up all his riches for just one drop of cool water because in the afterlife he was living in anguish the flame of Hades. What was this man’s sin? Why did he end in eternal hell, while the poor man Lazarus was in the comfortable bosom of Abraham? What was Dives sin? We can call this rich man Dives for it is the Latin word for rich. By itself, wealth is not a sin. God’s blessing often rains down in material as well as spiritual ways. You and I don’t need to be embarrassed about all that we have. We do have the highest standard of living in the entire world. Instead, we ought to recognize the Giver and look for ways to express our thanks for His grace toward us by sharing a portion of it with others. The rich man’s sin wasn’t simply his great wealth. It was his belief that he had the right to do with it as he pleased. His sin lay in his choosing to ignore the poor man Lazarus who was laying right at his door.

His sin can be seen in three different ways. One, he didn’t see Lazarus sitting or lying at his door. He was so wrapped up in himself, that he couldn’t see beyond the end of his nose.

Years ago, a woman in Brooklyn, New York, willed her eyes to the eye bank. When she died, her eyes were flown to Philadelphia where the corneas were transplanted into the eyes of a man. However, something far more wonderful than new corneas happened in this man’s life. His problems with his eyesight had made him bitter toward life and people. He had lived in fear that his resources would never be adequate to care for him and his family. He was a man all wrapped up in himself, until he not only received the new corneas but with them, a new vision of life. Today that man is a very generous person. He helped send young people in the community to college, and in a host of quiet ways has used his new vision to spread the love of Jesus Christ to those in need.

Dives sin wasn’t what he had done to Lazarus, his sin was what he hadn’t done to Lazarus. Dives never saw Lazarus. He was so caught up in his own world he never took notice of the other person. He needed new eyes. Eyes that could focus not on himself, but on others. Eyes that could see the pain, the brokenness of this world and shed of tear of compassion, care and comfort.

How is your eyesight? Do your eyes see the pain and brokenness of this world, or are they only focused upon your own navel, upon your own wants, pleasures, and comfort? Can you see the brokenness of someone in sorrow, can you see the pain of someone living in a broken relationship and wanting someone to listen to share the pain? Can you see someone dependent upon drugs or alcohol and wanting someone to assure them that they’re worthwhile people, special people in the eyes of God? Can you see the hungry people throughout the world who are crying for the means of learning how to successfully grow and harvest their own food supply? How is your eyesight?

Not only did Dives not see the poor man Lazarus sitting by his front door, but he was so harden to the plight of this poor man that he could not even feel the hurt of his sores, the pain of his hunger, or the heart break of this rejected man. Even if he saw for only a few fleeting seconds the plight of this poor man, Dives had no feelings, no compassion, no love for the plight of this outcast of society. He was more than just indifferent, which is bad enough, he was calloused to the cries of pain and suffering he tried to block out in his world of comfort and ease.

Dives never felt the pain of the brokenness of life, he never felt the anguish of this poor man outside of his door. Dives prison of non-feeling is symbolized by the great chasm that separated him from Abraham.

How are your feelings? Can you empathize with those who are feeling the brokenness of this world? Can you in some small way walk in the footsteps of those who are crying out for someone to care? Can you feel the pain, the sorrow the hurt, the hunger, the loneliness, the guilt, the rejection, o those who are trying out for someone to care, for someone to touch them with a hug of compassion and an embrace of love? How are your feelings?

A story is told about Leonardo da Vinci when he was working in Milan on his famous canvas of the Last Supper. He spent many hours mediation in the chapel. The monks in that little church, it seemed, resented these idle periods and chided da Vinci about wasting precious time and money. But Leonardo answered, “When I pause the longest in prayer and hear the words of scripture calling out to me, I make the most telling strokes with my brush.”

What kind of brush strokes do you make upon the canvas of life? Are they small and ineffectual, or are they bold, daring and telling because they have been backed up with the foundation of scripture and the grace of God as seen through the incarnate life of Jesus Christ? DO you take the time to hear the scripture calling to you, calling to give your life directions, meaning and purpose? Do you see and hear in the scripture concerning the way of life Jesus calls each of us to live as incarnate body now in this world? Do you hear the scripture calling to you to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself?

And finally, the third sin of Dives was that of not hearing. He tells Abraham that he should send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them concerning the kind of life they are now living, and what kind of life will be in store for them in eternity if they do not change their ways. But Abraham tells him that having the scriptures is enough. He says, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

Scripture is enough. It says in Deut. 6:5 “that one should love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind. And in Lev. 19:18, it says you should love your neighbor as yourself.” Abraham knew Dives had all he needed in the scripture, but his problem was he didn’t hear the words of scripture calling out to him. He was too busy listening to his own voice calling him to get more and more out of life. He didn’t take the time away from his enslavement of getting more and more to listen or read in the scripture the calling of God to direct his life.

The sin of dives wasn’t his great wealth, but this lack of seeing the troubles of those around him who were caught up in the brokenness of this world. His sin was not feeling, not being about to walk in the footsteps of those who were pleading for someone to reach into their lives with a touch of love. His sin wasn’t taking time out to hear the call of God through the scriptures concerning how God wants His children to be His incarnate touch in this world of brokenness and pain.

Are the sins of Dives your sins or can you see, feel and hear?

I would like to close with a story about a congregation who was able to see feel and hear.

A congregation in one of the many suburbs of a large city was having a special congregational meeting to approve borrowing money from the hank to buy some things for the church. The building committee recommended that a new carpet, a stained-glass window, and a new kitchen be added to the church. It would cost around $10,000.00 This was explained to the members gathered and then suddenly, a voice from the rear of the church spoke up: do we really need these things to be the church? I believe we should borrow the money to help feed the hungry of the world!

No one ever questioned the wisdom of those who were in charge. Another voice’ spoke up saying: let’s borrow the money and help purchase an electric generator which would supply power for bringing water from a well in Africa. Another voice said, let’s borrow the money and give it to a mission school that our denomination runs on the American Indian reservation.

The vote was taken. And there wasn’t going to be new carpeting, nor a new kitchen, nor a beautiful stained-glass window, but the group decided to borrow $50,000.00 and use it for all the mission projects mentioned.