7/28/2019 – Luke 16:19-31

by admin on July 28, 2019

7/28/2019 Wrap-up Message Audio

 

I Wish Jesus Wouldn’t Have Said That—4.

Luke 16:19-31

28 July 2019

 

Tuesday Questions

 

You heard the one about the Pope?  He dies; goes to heaven……crying…”There’s an R….” It’s celebRate…

 

Every generation has stories, takes, nervous jokes about someone who dies, meets St. Peter, goes to hell, crosses the Styx, and then find a big surprise.

 

What makes these stories work is the assumption of “divine judgment” and some kind of living afterward with that eternal decision.

 

The Pope discovers the letter R and is now left with an eternity thinking of what he, and others, missed.

 

I think when Jesus told this story about Lazarus and the rich man he was recycling a story already out there on the circuit.  But instead of laughing, his audience was cut to the core.  Why?

 

We’ve often heard this story read and preached about concluding with the moral: rich people are in deep trouble; poor people are morally righteous; let’s now take up the offering.  It’s not quite that easy.

 

Think of how much our world has changed in the last 20 years.  Much of the taken for granteds have dissolved, many new political alliances have evolved, and another sort of Cold War has developed.

—Flying has taken on a new dimension.  Now it’s a major undertaking to even get to your flight gate.

—People look twice at you if you even have dark hair, eyes, and skin.

—The cross, the Bible and the flag have been married.

—And your political badge has become an icon of your religious faith.

But something more important has changed. 

 

Suddenly the question concerning the garage door being open, or who left the lights on in the basement, or why wasn’t this report done on time pales in comparison.

 

Someplace last week I heard a news commentator reflect that now we all were grabbed by our lapels by the great questions:

            Life/death

            Good/evil

            Meaning/despair

Now the usual sayings of “have a nice day” and “hey, no problem” were nothing more than litanies of banality.

 

It’s been a long time since mortality and finitude have had such a hearing.

 

Jesus told this story to a bunch of people who had life, the market, the world—even God—all figured out.  And they had the Bible to back them.

 

And then one of their own dies and finds out—-surprise, surprise—that the things that you’re liable to read in the Bible, just ain’t necessarily so.

 

Complacency, entitlement, self-absorption, and the dogged conviction that you’re always right—these are the attitudes that block off closeness with God.

 

So, what’s up with this Gospel? 

The rich man finds out too late that the word is “CelebRate” not “celibate”; that his life has missed the mark; and that there’s plenty of warning if only heeded.

 

What’s that warning look like?

A couple of years ago I read Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.  Every Tuesday for several months he went to visit his old Prof. and to have class: to hear, to investigate, and then to take to heart.

 

Morrie asked “Tuesday Questions.”

  • What is the purpose of my life?
  • Is what I’m doing really what God want me to do?
  • How can there be peace in the world?
  • What are my core values?
  • How will I live this side of my death?

 

Tuesday Questions are the only real ones that matter.  They are asked when we ponder the meaning of our lives in light of the way our world is self-destructing on so many levels.

 

One of the greatest lessons Mitch Albom learned from Morrie was that accepting one’s finitude makes for humility and openness to listen to different perspectives, different voices, and different ways of life.

 

When Jesus told this story he was really inviting his hearers to ask and answer Tuesday Questions in their own lives.

—Could they actually relish their good fortune when hundreds of people were starving in the shadow of their gated development?

—Could they actually conduct business with the ruthlessness of Machiavelli while their employees were all part time with no bennies?

—Could they actually be on the synagogue council, run the religion school, show up every week for worship, and still walk home absolutely untouched by God?

 

Don’t be fooled Jesus said, there will come a time, a judgment, when suddenly all this doesn’t matter.  But what does matter will be how deep that relationship with the transforming God was.

 

Only too late does the rich man try to answer these Tuesday Questions for himself.  The answer Father Abraham says lies in the Law and Prophets—the Scripture tradition of ancient Israel. There is contained not only a plan for holy living, but a holy hope that God’s inclusive plan for creation will come to fruit.

 

But the biggest Tuesday Question of all centers not around Lazarus, nor the rich man, nor Abraham, not even us—the biggest question to be asked centers on the storyteller, the man whose ministry this story comes from.  That man, of course, is Jesus.  And here’s the question begging to be answered:  Who is Jesus? And why does he matter?

 

I recently heard the story of Gerrit tenZythoff, Religious Studies professor at SW Missouri State. 

As a young man in Holland he joined the Resistance against the Nazis, was imprisoned, tortured, and made a slave—all at the ripe age of 19.

 

After the war when he returned home he discovered that his parents had taken in two children, orphaned, children of Nazis.  He was infuriated, yelling at his parents “I won’t be under the same roof with those ______!”

 

His mother pleaded a different reality:  You are wrong, Gerrit.  You and I, we are not Nazis.  We are Xns, and we will stand with the innocent.

 

His life changed from that moment on.  Why?  Because he could have answered that Tuesday Question differently.  He could have responded to the evil events in his life with bitterness and cynicism.  And in this way, he could have become a singularly Un-remarkable man.  But——-he didn’t.

He found his answer in Jesus Christ.  “We are Xns,” his mother said. 

 

Why does Jesus matter? 

The NT says Jesus fulfilled the Law and Prophets.  In fact, the Gospel says that God did what Father Abraham did not do.  JC was raised from the dead, that his apostles were sent as witnesses, to call Israel to repent on the basis of both the Scripture and one raised from the dead.  God does not give up easily on finding the lost, even us.

 

So, how will we answer our Tuesday Questions?  ML: we groan: In the midst of life we die.  God answers: Nay.  In the midst of death we live.

 

This morning we all have the opportunity of a lifetime; an opportunity the rich man didn’t take, but Gerrit tenZythoff did.  And that opportunity is to let JC be the surprising answer on Tuesday and every day thereafter. 

 

 

 

 

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