FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK
There are many things we could discuss about this long and difficult parable about the rich man and Lazarus. But today I would like to focus on its stark and somewhat disturbing ending. I believe that the ending has something important to say about the way that we live.
You remember how the parable unfolds. There was a rich man who feasted sumptuously every day, not a care in the world, as happy as he could be. But then he died, and he discovered to his dismay that he should have lived differently. He was in torment, whereas the blind beggar who once sat at his gate was in glory with Abraham. The rich man realized all too late that there was nothing he could do about his situation. But he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers so that they could change and avoid his cruel fate. Abraham says, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.” The rich man says, “No, they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets. But they would listen if someone were to rise from the dead.” And here comes the disturbing ending. Abraham says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead.” Abraham’s statement is a warning, a warning to us. We should listen today or be sorry tomorrow.
What should we listen to? To Moses and the prophets. Who are Moses and the prophets? To the Jewish people and to Jesus they represented all that God had revealed, all that God had told us throughout the scriptures and throughout history. The same is true for us. Moses and the prophets are for us is all that we find revealed in the Bible and all that the spirit reveals in our hearts as we live our lives. God is speaking to us. God is trying to get our attention. God is speaking through the scriptures and through the events of our life. We should listen today or be sorry tomorrow.
What should we listen to? It varies with each one of us. I cannot tell you what God is speaking to you today, but here are some possibilities: God might be saying that there are issues in your marriage which you need to face; that there is someone who has hurt you and you need to reconcile and forgive; that you are unhappy in your job and it might be time to change; that you are spending your time in the wrong places, and you need more time with your children and grandchildren; that there is someone in your life who needs help and is waiting for your assistance; that there are people who care for you, and you need to celebrate their love. Each one of us must ask, what is God speaking to me? What is God telling me I need to do? We must listen and we must listen today.
Why is it that we don’t listen? There are two principal reasons: time and fear
We often do not listen to what God is saying because we presume there will always be more time. We say to ourselves, “I know what God wants me to do but I’ll face that tomorrow. Today, I’m doing what I want to do. I’ll get around to God wants me to do.” The problem with the excuse of time is that it often betrays us. What is possible today might not be possible tomorrow. The opportunity we can seize now could evaporate with a change in ourselves or in someone else. The window of opportunity can all too quickly close. That is why we need to listen today.
The other excuse is fear. We know that if we listen to what God is asking us to do, it might be difficult. We might be afraid to face it. Here is where faith is important. If we really believe that what is being asked of us comes from God, then we need to believe that God will be trustworthy. God will not ask us to do something and then lead us out into the desert to die. If a direction really comes from God, then we can follow it with confidence. We do not need to be afraid.
We believe that God is speaking to us all the time, that God is communicating to our heart. Therefore, we need to listen. We need to listen now; we need to listen without fear. The only danger is to go on with our lives as if everything is fine. We must not be like the rich man in the parable, feasting, moving along without a care in the world, when in fact, something needs to change. We cannot presume that God will send an angel to tap us on the shoulder. We cannot presume that God will raise up someone from the dead to tell us what we must do. God is already telling us what to do. Listen and respond today.
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