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poverty

Ordinary 26

Order of Service

Weekly Bible Study Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 26

Year C, Colour = Green

Lazarus and the rich man

Introduction

Today we have the story of Lazarus, which incorporates these blessings and curses. The rich man is dressed in purple and fine linen, both of these things indicate great wealth. Contrast this with poor Lazarus, who is reduced to a life of begging. He is not adorned in fine clothes rather the words used describe his skin covered in ulcerated sores, which would have made him unclean. His only companions are wild dogs. He is left at the gate of the rich man, the gate emphasising the size of the rich man’s estate and the separation which exists between them. If Lazarus had received even the scraps from the rich man he would have perhaps survived, the gates allowed the rich man to shut out Lazarus and prevent the needs of Lazarus from becoming his concern. People build gates on their homes not because they want to be kept in, rather because they want to keep others out. They wish to remain protected from the world beyond. The gate is very symbolic and challenges us all to consider whether we are remote and isolated from the needs of our wider society. Every day the rich man would have gone past Lazarus, yet he might never have even noticed that he was there. How many times are we just too preoccupied with our own lives that we fail to notice those with great need?

Opening Verse of Scripture

If you make the Most High your dwelling-- even the LORD, who is my refuge-- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, and so bring us at last to your heavenly city where we shall see you face to face; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.   Common Worship

Gracious God, you call us to fullness of life: deliver us from unbelief and banish our anxieties with the liberating love of Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

Gracious God, you give the water of eternal life through Jesus Christ your Son. May we always turn to you, the spring of life and source of goodness; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Methodist Worship

Father of all, you gave your only Son, to take upon himself the form of a servant and to be obedient even to death on a cross. Give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus that, sharing in his humility, we may come to be with him in his glory; for he lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading 

Amos 6: 1a & 4—7 6:1a Woe to you who are complacent 4-7 You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.

Second Reading  1 Timothy 6 : 6 - 19

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Gospel Reading Luke 16: 19 - 31

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'  "'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Post Communion Prayer

Lord we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Commentary


We have a parable from Jesus today which tells about a rich man and a poor man, how one lives in luxury whilst the other one suffers miserably. When they die the rich man looks from afar at the poor man who has been welcomed by Abraham. It’s a pearly gates type story, but make no mistake this is not about who gets into heaven and who doesn’t, it is about redistribution of wealth.

In the minds of the Jewish leaders who heard the words of Jesus, the parable today would have been shocking and offensive. They believed that after death there would be a reversal of fortune, the righteous Israel would be exalted above those who had opposed them. To have been a child of Abraham would bring great reward. There are many different pictures in scripture of what happens to us when we die, but Jesus uses this idea of reward in the after life as a means to make an important teaching about this life. This is not a teaching about what happens when we die, it is a challenge about how we live in the here and now. Jesus is using one of the pictures in the minds of his hearers as a means of teaching us about our possessions. This is not confirmation that Jesus believes lots of people will be tormented in hell when they die, it is reminding us that many people suffer from poverty today.
Luke in his Gospel keeps coming back to the teachings of Jesus about possessions and their use, throughout his gospel, the poor have a special place. Luke recalls Jesus telling the Pharisees that they are ‘Lovers of Money’ (16:14) and Jesus makes clear that he has no time for those who exalt themselves or make show of their wealth without care for the poor. There will be a bipolar reversal of rich and poor, the proud and humble, such as that announced in the Magnificat in the first chapter of the Gospel.

In the story the rich man is not portrayed as a bad person, let alone an overt evil-doer. His crime is simply one of his self preoccupation which prevents him from caring about others. The man is very rich and very privileged, wearing garments of purple suggests some link with royalty and having a gate and a wall implies a large estate. The man goes about his life and he just fails to notice the plight of the poor man Lazarus who is a beggar in desperate poverty. The only attention paid to Lazarus is by dogs who lick his wounds. Much has been made of the healing properties of dogs saliva, but those hearing the teaching would be mindful of the fact that dogs were considered unclean. It is another interesting contrast that the only ones who bother with Lazarus are animals considered unclean.

The poor man dies and is carried to Abrahams bosom. The rich man also dies and is buried and finds himself in Hades which is a Greek place of the dead, the nether world of shades. The importance is not the geography of death but the unexpected reversal of fortune. God has changed the place of these two individuals. It is meant to be another one of those shockers which Jesus uses to wake up his audience.
He is telling those who ignore the poor to watch out !

It is significant that the rich man is not named. That's not unusual in Jesus' parables, whose main characters are just called, "a sinner," "a sower," "a woman," "a merchant of fine pearls," "a master" "a servant," etc. However In this parable something unique happens, the poor man is given the name, Lazarus, which means ‘God has helped’. The one who in his lifetime is ignored, not worth a second glance (except by those dogs who had more pity on him than the humans in the story), is the one who is singled out and named.

If the status of Lazarus before God was measured on his possessions then he would have been ignored. However the parable shows us that, despite what seemed to be a cursed existence of extreme poverty he was indeed favoured by God. This is a really important message - even though the world may consider some life to be cheap and unimportant, God notices the poor and he cares about the conditions in which they live and how they are treated. In the parable in another reversal, the rich man asks Abraham to get Lazarus to help him. He recovers a concern for others, albeit limited to the male members of his own family. Of course the message of the parable is that the time for caring is now, not when we are dead. The words which we should heed are those of Jesus, the one who has proved the truth of his words by his death and resurrection.

Of course some of this can come as a disappointment for us religious folk. We believe that God wants our prayers, our worship, our religious observance. It is daunting to think that our favour with God is not based on our creeds but on our behaviour towards to poor. We are invited today to take the place of the brothers in the story. We are given a chance which was not afforded to the rich man in the story. We can listen to the one who was raised and take heed of the warning which he gives that we must care for the poor. Although we sometimes have real problems balancing our personal budgets we are nevertheless excessively rich compared to 10% of the world population who earn less than $2 a day. There are also those like Lazarus in our own community who feel ignored and left out. This parable is about the destructive apathy and neglect which creates a chasm between rich and poor. There is no clear prescription of exactly what we are to do with our money and our possessions. Jesus called some to leave everything behind and follow him. Others had houses where they were able to offer hospitality. In the passage today the challenge is simply that it is not acceptable to ignore the poor and those in need. There is no room for indifference. Each one of us will have to examine ourselves to see how we respond, but none of us can be complacent about our possessions or our wealth. Charles Royden

St Teresa of Avila wrote in The Interior Castle:
'Our Lord asks but two things of us: love for him and for our neighbour. . . I think the most certain sign that we keep these two commandments is that we have a genuine love for others. We cannot know whether we love God, although there may be strong reasons for thinking so, but there can be no doubt about whether we love our neighbour or not.'... 

Meditation

The psalmist reminds us of the inseparable connection between loving God and caring for the poor. There are many reasons to care for the poor and the vulnerable, but our ultimate motivation is based in the character of God himself. In three short verses Psalm 146:7–9 reveals the tender action of God for people in trouble. Notice the different vulnerable groups of people mentioned:

  • He upholds the cause of the oppressed
  • and gives food to the hungry.
  • The Lord sets prisoners free,
  • the Lord gives sight to the blind,
  • the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
  • the Lord loves the righteous.
  • The Lord watches over the alien
  • and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
  • but he frustrates the way of the wicked.

Dogs in the Biblical and rabbinic traditions are almost as unclean as pigs. Both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures are clear witnesses to this. Dogs are kept as guard dogs (Isaiah 56:10), never as pets. Only those who feed them dare approach them. A rich man needs such dogs because they are his "home security system." The story assumes that the guard dogs are fed the scraps Lazarus longs to eat (cf. Matthew 15:27). Lazarus goes hungry. The dogs are fed. Yet, those wild guard dogs, whom no one but their handlers dare approach, realize that the weak, sick man by the gate is their friend. They lick his wounds. The saliva of a dog's mouth is sterile. The ancients discovered that when a dog licks a person's sores or wounds, healing occurs more rapidly. Archeologists in Aschelon, Israel have recently uncovered a center where 1300 dogs are buried in individual plots. The site has been identified as a Phoenecian semi-religious center where the sick could go, pay a fee and have trained dogs lick their wounds as medical treatment. In this parable the master refuses to help the poor sick man outside his gate - but his wild guard dogs will do what they can. They will lick his wounds. Their master will not help Lazarus. They will. Lazarus' quiet gentle spirit breaks through their violent hostility to humans and they care for him knowing that he cares for them.   Taken from  Kenneth E. Bailey, Author and Lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament Studies Research Professor of NT at the Ecumenical Institute, Jerusalem (Emeritus) Canon Theologian of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh


Hymns

  • to God be the glory
  • I will enter his gates
  • Be thou my vision
  • The Kingdom of God
  • Fill thou my life

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

  • Lord, thank you for this building
  • Where we come for cleansing,
  • Where we gather around your table
  • Where we sing aloud your praise
  • Where we proclaim all that you have done for us Lord
  • we love the house where you meet us,
  • the place where your glory dwells
  • In the assembly of your people
  • we stand and praise the Lord. Amen.
  • From Psalm 26

Your are never tired, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of doing you service. But as you have pleasure in the well-being of your servants, let us take pleasure in the service of our Lord and abound in your work and in your love and praise evermore.

O Lord our God, under the shadow of your wings we will rest. Defend us and support us, bear us up when we are little, and we know that even down to our grey hairs you will carry us. St Augustine

Gracious father, we pray for peace in the world: for all national leaders that they may have wisdom to know and courage to do what is right; for all men and women, that their hearts may be turned to yourself in the search for righteousness and truth; for those who are working to improve international relationships, that they may find the true way of reconciliation; for those who suffer as a result of war: the injured and disabled, the mentally distressed, the homeless and hungry those who mourn their dead and especially for those who are without hope or friend to sustain them in their grief. Baptist peace fellowship.

Across the barriers that divide race from race: Across the barriers that divide rich from poor: Across the barriers that divide people of different faiths: Reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross  (World Council of Churches Vancouver Assembly)

 

Additional Resources

 

Opening Verse of Scripture Psalm 91:91-10

If you make the Most High your dwelling-- even the LORD, who is my refuge-- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Collect Prayer for the Day - Before we read we pray

Father of all, you gave your only Son, to take upon himself the form of a servant and to be obedient even to death on a cross. Give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus that, sharing in his humility, we may come to be with him in his glory; for he lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Commentary

Through Luke we have been hearing Jesus speak about the dangers of money and once again today Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, who were rich men about the dangers of wealth. The dangers of wealth are so important that one out of every seven passages in Luke is about money and wealth. We need to remember that 95% of people in Palestine at the time of Jesus were desperately poor. It was a huge social and economic problem and Jesus doesn’t dodge the political challenge. The contrast which Jesus makes in Luke is so stark that it seems difficult to imagine these words on his lips


Blessed are you who are poor, 6:21., Woe to you who are rich 6:24.,
Blessed are you who are hungry 6:22., Woe to you who are well fed. 6:25

Today we have the story of Lazarus, which incorporates these blessings and curses. The rich man is dressed in purple and fine linen, both of these things indicate great wealth. Contrast this with poor Lazarus, who is reduced to a life of begging. He is not adorned in fine clothes rather the words used describe his skin covered in ulcerated sores, which would have made him unclean. His only companions are wild dogs. He is left at the gate of the rich man, the gate emphasising the size of the rich man’s estate and the separation which exists between them. If Lazarus had received even the scraps from the rich man he would have perhaps survived, the gates allowed the rich man to shut out Lazarus and prevent the needs of Lazarus from becoming his concern. People build gates on their homes not because they want to be kept in, rather because they want to keep others out. They wish to remain protected from the world beyond. The gate is very symbolic and challenges us all to consider whether we are remote and isolated from the needs of our wider society. Every day the rich man would have gone past Lazarus, yet he might never have even noticed that he was there. How many times are we just too preoccupied with our own lives that we fail to notice those with great need?

Remember that we are not told in this parable that the rich man had done anything wrong. He was not necessarily somebody who had stolen, indulged in financial exploitation or whatever, his crime was simply one of indifference. Like us he failed to get angry at the plight of those who suffered and in this he created a wide gulf between himself and those in need. As our country suffers from the belt tightening exercises caused by our debt crisis, there will inevitably be those who suffer and often the burden falls disproportionately on the poor. Recently I visited Furniture Link in Bedford to learn about the invaluable work which they do in our community. I felt strongly that organisations such as this which provide a lifeline to those who have not got huge wealth will be increasingly important in the coming years.

We are told that Lazarus dies and the angels carry him to the bosom of Abraham. No doubt he would have had little ceremony at his passing, yet despite the manner of his funeral, he goes straight to "the bosom of Abraham." When the rich man dies he would undoubtedly receive a fine burial, but this is ineffective and he goes, to Hades, the place of the dead. Hades is a Greek term, like the Hebrew concept of the "underworld," or sheol. It brings to mind the understanding of the world in very primitive cosmology as the earth in the middle, heaven above and the underworld below.

This should not be read as story of heaven and hell, rather the fulfilment of the blessings and curses which we have read about in the beatitudes. The poor Lazarus goes not to heaven but to Abraham and is fed, the rich has the tables turned and is deprived. Jesus exhalts Lazarus by using his name, (which means ‘the one God helps’) the rich man in kept anonymous, as he were of less importance.
The rich man understandably pleaded with Abraham and calls him, ’Father Abraham’. We cannot read this without thinking back to Chapter 3:8-11 where John the Baptist berates those who claim to have Abraham as their father but fail to look after the poor. The rich man pleads for mercy but Abraham is unable to help because of the great divide between. The plea for mercy made by the rich man, echoes the lack of mercy which he had shown to poor Lazarus.

The story should not be read a theological exposition of what happens when you die, rather as a warning of how you should live. In scripture there are conflicting ideas represented about what happens when you die. In this story there is a choice of Abraham and Hades, whilst on the cross Jesus gives assurance of paradise on the same day, and in the New Testament there is also described a general resurrection of the dead when bodies are raised from sleep. Nobody knows what to expect, but the teaching is the same, prepare now in this life for what will take place in the next. Those who work to support groups like Furniture Link, Emmaus, Bechar etc. These people are wise, for Jesus himself encourages us to make friends with the poor so that when we die they will make representations on our behalf and allow us to have a heavenly home (16:9). I notice that this week in Partnership News there are requests for volunteers to help with Clubhouse at St Mark’s for those with learning Difficulties and Prebend day Centre. The needs are endless. It has been said that if Hitler is saved it will be through the prayers of the people he killed. Who knows, if the rich man had been a better neighbour, would Lazarus have been able to shout out to Abraham to show mercy ? Charles Royden

Commentary

Luke seems to think that judgement takes place soon after we die. It is he who tells us that Jesus promised one of the thieves on the cross that he would join him in paradise that day. John's gospel and Hebrews also appear to assume that people will enter heavenly glory directly after death and it came to be the common view in Christendom. Other parts of the New Testament assume a judgement day after a period of sleep. Jesus will appear, the dead will be raised and all face judgement. Then comes the transformation, the new creation. I start by saying this, to draw attention to the fact that there are in scripture many pictures about what happens when we die. Jesus is using one of those pictures as a means of teaching us about our possessions. This is not confirmation that Jesus believes lots of people will be tormented in hell when they die!

Luke in his Gospel keeps coming back to the theme of possessions and their use, throughout his gospel, the poor have a special place. The rich man is not portrayed as an overt evil-doer. His crime is his self preoccupation with which he prevented himself from caring about others as he cared for himself. The man is very rich and very privileged, wearing garments of purple suggests some link with royalty. Having a gate and a wall implies a large mansion. Have you noticed that the rich man is not named? That's not unusual in Jesus' parables, whose main characters are just called, "a sinner," "a sower," "a woman," "a merchant of fine pearls," "a master" "a servant," etc. In this parable something unique happens, a character is given a name. The one who in his lifetime is ignored, not worth a second glance (except by the dogs who lick his sores-what a touch, dogs had more pity on him than the human in the story), is the one who is named, singled out, given center stage, called Lazarus. The name means: 'God has helped' - no one else was going to! If Lazarus judged his status before God based on what he had, he would have had no tangible sign of God's favor. But the parable shows us that, despite what seemed to be a cursed existence, he was indeed favored in the eye of God. The world may be deaf and blind to us, but God never is. The rich man asks Abraham to get Lazarus to help him. What a reversal! Give him credit, the rich man then recovers some concern for others, but limited to his own family, his brothers (we can only hope that he had no sisters!).

Although we sometimes have real problems balancing our personal budgets we are rich as the world sees it and knows it, and Lazarus is at the gate. Lazarus is at the gate here in this community, and he is at the gate around the world. This parable targets the violence of apathy and neglect which is widening the chasm between rich and poor. Luke never really gives us a clear prescription of what exactly we are to do with possessions. Some, like Jesus' disciples, must leave all behind to follow Jesus. Yet it is clear that Mary, Martha and Lazarus didn't, since they had a house in which they offered hospitality to Jesus and his disciples. Zacchaeus, the reformed chief tax collector, is lauded for giving half of his possessions to the poor. He didn't have to give all. With thoughtful consideration, each of us will have to make up our own mind how we respond. Certainly this gospel will not leave us complacent about our possessions or our wealth. They can be used to help the poor or they will be a stumbling block in our following Christ. There isn't much room for manoeuvre. Is it possible that our possessions, which many call a "blessing from God," may indeed be what blinds us and keeps us distant from God? Charles Royden

Meditation

The 'Pink Panther' comedy films starred Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, with Herbert Lom as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. Clouseau, speaking with an outrageous French accent that leads people to query what he is saying, bungles all that he does and creates trouble for everyone around. Yet he always wins through and captures the criminals who sometimes find him so frustrating that they give themselves up. At the start of the 1976 film, 'The Pink Panther Strikes Again', a real-life French-man is quoted. Émile Coué had recommended to patients that they recite some words up to 30 times a day, and it is these words that are quoted in the film: "Each day and in every way I am becoming better and better." Coué's idea was that this would be a way of getting people to realise that, if they are positive about life, they have the potential to be able to help themselves in some ways. In 1922, whilst on a ship approaching New York, a 100-miles-an-hour gale made most people very sea-sick. It was reported that Émile Coué was not sick, but was repeating to himself in his own language: "Each day and in every way I am becoming better and better."; Let us pray:

Lord God, keep in me a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at myself. Lead me always to be positive, looking for the best in people and in situations. Each day and in every way may I grow in the love of the Father and the presence of the Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead.

Let your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, O Lord, be our defence. Let your mercy and loving-kindness in Christ Jesus be our protection. May your kind and faithful Word be our instruction and guide; and may the grace of your life-giving Spirit be our comfort and strength, to the end and in the end, now and for ever. Amen. John Knox, 1513-1572

O most loving Shepherd, in the deepest of all waters we will trust you. In the darkest of all valleys we will rejoice in your presence. In the worst of our days we shall rest at peace in your arms. In the most troubled of our nights we shall be comforted by your saints. Amen. Archibald Campbell Tait, 1811-1882

Hymns

  1. O worship the Lord
  2. The trumpets sound
  3. We cannot measure
  4. Glory to God
  5. I will sing the wondrous story .