Sept 25, 2016: To Follow our Faith…

(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Luke 16:19-31; The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.[a] The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.[b] 24 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.’ 25 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. 26 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.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’31 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.’”

Please forgive me for getting political… I usually stay away from politics on this blog, but I feel very strongly about this election, so I am breaking that rule today.

Like any parent, as single parents, we too want our children to inherit a decent world from us, a place where they can thrive, and enjoy the freedom that we have come to take for granted as Americans.

However, as has often been said, freedom does not come without responsibility.  Just as we are called to nurture and care for our children, so too are we to care for this gift of freedom, a gift inspired by God’s gracious love for us.  Therefore, one of our responsibilities is to vote in the coming Presidential election.

Unfortunately, our choice is not all that easy this time.  More and more it seems as if there are no good choices, and that it is not so much who we are voting for, but who we are voting against.  While it can be hard to explain this to our children, there will probably come a time when we will have to tell them who we voted for and why.

When that time comes, I am sure you want to be proud of your choice, and not have to feel the shame of making an irresponsible choice for a foolish reason, like “I don’t like her voice” or for a more serious reason, because you find yourself questioning our ability to trust.

Speaking for myself, I feel that as a Christian my choice is clear:  I cannot live according to my faith, to fulfill the call to be Christ to the world, nor can I share this gift with my child, if I cast my vote for someone who goes against what Christ has taught us.

With today’s parable, Jesus teaches us that the lack of compassion, and disdain for the poor, can cause serious consequences.  It can create a chasm between people, breaking our relationships, causing resentments and teaching selfishness.  It is this selfishness which can not only separate us from each other, but also from God’s Grace…just as the rich man, who was trapped in Hades and unable to receive relief from Lazarus, who would have wanted to help, but could not.

Now, it is not as if God had turned away from the Dives, instead, he had closed himself off from God’s love by not sharing this with others.

In the Jewish faith, rather than a “Hell” filled with fire and brimstone, there is a belief in Sheol, an empty place, where God’s grace cannot reach us.  This seems even more torturous than being poked with pitchforks for all eternity, for Jesus tells us that Dives can gaze across the abyss and see the beggar Lazarus in Paradise with Abraham, but cannot reach him.  He calls for help, and although Lazarus wants to help him, and even Abraham has pity, the chasm is too far across.

It is too late for Dives, he has already made his choice, but he wants to save his brothers from the same fate.  Abraham again is sorry, but cannot help, saying that they have already been warned time and time again, and that even if someone came back from the dead they would not listen.  This may be true…even for us, but we have good news…as always:  While we may not always listen to what Jesus teaches us, in his resurrection Christ is a bridge across the abyss of sin that can separate us from God and from each other!

As followers of Christ, we are called to tear down the walls that separate us, to bring people together, not to pull people apart.  This is why, as a Christian, I cannot vote for a candidate who shames the poor and the sick, calling them “losers” and mocking them.  I cannot vote for someone who spews hurtful lies and rhetoric that put others down, and causes them pain and emotional distress.

I cannot vote for someone who calls himself a faithful Christian but promotes fear and division, who calls for the registration of those he deems to be threats because they are ‘different’…yet who are we to judge who is “different”, who is worthy of God’s love…who is a “winner” or a “loser”?

While I am not crazy about either candidate running, in order to ensure that my daughter has a world left in which she has the opportunities she needs to thrive, I know who I cannot vote for, not if I am to be true to how I practice my Christian faith.  Not if I care about future generations and what kind of world we will leave them…

We have been warned, not only through the teachings of Christ, but also on the anvils of experience; as when people are afraid of change, of the ‘different’ they often make poor choices, that may have the trains running on time, but that threaten our very souls and widen the chasm between us.

As Christians we are called to share God’s love with the world, and to teach our children about sharing that love, by reaching out in compassion to help those in every kind of need, even to those who are so broken that they have closed themselves off from God…they may not get our votes, but they can still get our compassion, as no matter how wide the chasm the light of Christ can always reach those who may find themselves in darkness.

So, for the sake of our children, and for all those who come after, I am asking that those of you who live in the United States gets out to vote, and to vote according to your faith and conscience…do what is right, do what Jesus would want us to do.

Let us Pray:

Dear God, help us to follow your path in our lives and in our choices.  Help us to live according to our faith, to what you have taught us: to show compassion for all those in need, and to share the light of your love with all those who live in darkness: of poverty, illness, violence, and ignorance.  Let us teach our children compassion and love, showing them our faith in action as we strive to be your healing presence in this broken world.

Amen

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