First Sunday after Trinity
O GOD, the strength of all them that put their trust in thee, mercifully accept our prayers; and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping of thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 St. John 4.7-end
BELOVED, let us love one another: for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us; because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen, and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgement; because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment: he that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.
St. Luke 16.19-end
THERE was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried: and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
They say rich people are rich because they know how to hang on to their money, and not spend it or give it away. In this country, and indeed in this village, we are many of us clearly well off, and should therefore particularly heed the teaching on Money which Luke reports in chapters 15—17 of his gospel.
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man anchors a series of parables — the lost coin (15:8-10), the prodigal son (15:11-32), and the dishonest manager (16:1-13) — each of which deals with money, with wealth, with the economy of a right-relationship with God and one’s fellow human beings.
There’s not much comfort for us in these parables. God may not be asking each one of us to give away all we have to the poor, and come and follow him, but there’s no explaining away some of the messages that are found in this part of Luke’s gospel.
Each of the parables addresses the issue of money a little differently, one celebrating an extravagant expense, another addressing the allure of wealth at the cost of human relationships, and one challenging the listener to faithfulness, whether in much or just a little.
The sequence of parables each addresses an aspect of the significance or love of money in spiritual matters. The culminate in chapter 17 with the words of Jesus: “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom they come!” (verse 1), and again, “Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it” (verse 33).
So it’s our handling of wealth, what we do with it, how we use it and teat it that is the important message, and not our possession of wealth itself. Neither in the Hebrew scriptures nor in the new testament is wealth itself condemned as such. No—its the danger of being comfortable through reliance on ourselves and our possessions. We can so easily, like the farmer who built bigger barns, become uncaring, complacent, or self-righteous. Like all good gifts from God—for that is what material possessions are—they can become a snare for us and not a benefit to ourselves and more crucially the world around us. For we are blessed with these gifts not for ourselves, but we are charged to distribute these blessings to those in need of help, on behalf of the one who endowed us with his grace and goodness in the first place.
In the Lazarus parable, the rich man is not in torment because he was rich, nor the poor man in paradise because he was poor in this life. It’s not a question of comeuppance. But the rich man was the one who neglected his duty, day in, day out, to help the poor man who languished every day in the dirt at his gate.
The point of this parable, and indeed of this series of parables, is to address the “occasions for stumbling” that may confront us in our wellbeing. We are called by this story to remember during our lifetime the life that Christ has prepared for us all, the wealthy and the poor alike, and to live presently in the promise of that life to come. Amen