Monday, October 1, 2007

Sermon: September 30

After I dropped the kids off at school, I was jumping through my list of radio stations when I caught a song*…

Hey girl, you know you drive me crazy
[One look puts the rhythm in my hand]
Still I'll never understand why you hang around
I see what's going down

I thought, oh just another alternative rock band singing about love, but wait, the lines of the chorus got my attention…

Do you feel like a man
When you push her around?
Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground?
Well, I'll tell you my friend, one day this world's going to end
As your lies crumble down, a new life she has found

The song is about abuse, domestic violence, and we know from statistics that one in four women will experience such abuse in their lifetime. It is a frightening statistic, that no woman or man should ever experience. That this rock band brings it up in a song and then focuses on the new life that the victim has found is impressive. But what really struck me was its moral understanding of the consequences of our actions…

A pebble in the water makes a ripple effect
Every action in this world will bear a consequence
If you wade around forever you will surely drown
I see what's going down

They got it right. It is our actions (or lack of action) that will bear a consequence, but they also point out that it might not happen in this lifetime as a line from the chorus rightly points out…

Well, I'll tell you my friend, one day this world's going to end
As your lies crumble down, a new life she has found

About 2,000 years ago, a rabbi was making a similar point by telling a parable…

There was a rich man who sumptuously lived, dressed richly, eating the best foods. He must be blessed. There was a poor man too. His name was Lazarus. Dogs lick his sores and he longs to be satisfied with the food scraps from the rich man’s table. He must be cursed, lying at the rich man’s gate.

But their fortunes are reversed at their deaths. The poor man is carried by angels to be with Abraham, the rich man is in Hades. The rich man begs Abraham to send someone to his brothers to save them from such a fate, to which Abraham says they should listen to Moses and the prophets, for if they won’t listen to them, they will never listen to someone risen from the dead.

The implication is that those who do not listen, accept, take on what Moses & the prophets say, who have told the people to take care of the least among them, will never understand Jesus & his ministry, even when he rises from the dead. The rich man was in a way blinded because of all his stuff, he did not or would not see the poor man Lazarus who was at his gate. It sounds as if his brothers are the same way. It would have been hard to miss Lazarus, although easy to ignore him.

As St. Paul says, “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Life is lived with our hope set on our God who has so richly loved us. Things will happen in our lives, and the riches we have one day, may be gone the next, but God will not be gone the next. Our God is with us every step of the way, whether its welcoming a new child into a family, or battling cancer, celebrating a raise or getting out of an abusive relationship.

Our eyes need to be open to seeing our God at work in the world about us, & at work in our lives. But often are eyes are blinded because we can’t look past the stuff we have, too worried about what we might lose, we often sacrifice people, God, even ourselves before we lose our things, but it is then that we have truly lost what is worth so much.

As Jesus said, "you cannot serve God and wealth;" and the life of the rich man is the perfect example. who failed to understand the consequence of his inaction toward Lazarus, living his luxurious life and only in the end trying to save his brothers after his death. We are blessed in so many ways, but our truest blessings are from our interactions with one another. And those of us who have riches in this life, are not to put our trust in them, but to be generous in our giving of them & putting our trust in our loving God.

There are lots of ways for us to be generous in this world, to be rich in good works, or in the words of John Wesley of the 17th Century:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

To the Lazarus at our gate, to the victim of abuse, our actions are to help them find that new life, by doing all the good we can…

Or as St. Paul puts it, “We are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for ourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.” Amen.

*The song is called Face Down, by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Video can be found here and lyrics here

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