Sermon - 29 09 19

Sermon - 29 09 19

# Sermons
Published on Sunday, 29 September 2019 20:32

Yvonne's sermon, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

So this chap.. 

lets call him John 

dies and goes to heaven 

John arrives at the Pearly Gates. 

St. Peter greets him 

and tells John that he has the unique opportunity 

only open to the very few

and that opportunity is 

to take a look at Heaven AND Hell 

and when he’s taken a look around 

it’s his decision to make 

as to where he wants to spend eternity.


John realises this is a wonderful opportunity

so he takes a little stroll around Heaven. 

Nice puffy clouds, 

people hanging around playing harps, 

smiling, peaceful. He thinks, “that looks pretty nice” 

and he hops on the escalator and nipped down to Hell.


once down he jumps off the escalator 

and the devil shows him into a big room… 

with the most amazing event happening 

People dancing, singing, laughing, 

having an amazing time

WOW… thinks John...

What a party!

 “this is the way to spend eternity!


So having made up his mind

He jumps back on the escalator

runs to St. Peter

announces that whilst Heaven is indeed lovely. 

Hell seems to be just one awesome party 

and that is where he wants to spend eternity ..

St Peter bids John farewell 

John jumps back on the escalator 

getting excited to party

the doors open 

and John is shocked there are flames all around 

there people screaming with fear and pain

people desperately thirsty and calling for water. 


John quickly runs to find The Devil and says, 

 “What happened? 

I was just here and it was a giant party

what’s happened 

Simple,” replies The Devil. 

“Before you were someone with choice

now you’ve made your choice

I have revealed the truth of hell.. 


And that’s a bit like our world today

we are promised all sorts to lure us away 

from the kingdom of heaven

the kingdom of God.. 


We see so many lies

so many temptations..

to which we all respond in our own way

often from our weakness rather than our strength.


And our decisions our responses and reactions 

can make us think ... 

 “How did I get here?”


And I’m sure that is what the rich man thought 

when he found himself 

at the other side of the chasm

to Father Abraham.

the chasm seen to be between heaven and hell..


I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven and hell recently..   

and we all have our own thoughts on heaven ..

is it the place John saw 

with angels with harps and fluffy clouds?


Hell too... 

we all have our own thoughts on hell..

is it a place of torment?





We have all heard this old example 

of heaven and hell given by Rabbi Haim

who speaks of two groups of people

each given a banquet of delicious food 

yet the only thing to eat the food with was 

were long forks.. 

these forks were too long to lift to ones mouth

so one group chose to starve and moan 

the other chose to feed each other

thereby each other being the one who cares for and sustains the other.


Do we see of heaven and hell today from the parable 


a parable is a way of telling a moral 

or spiritual truth.. 

Yet sometimes in the past, these parables have been taken as literal truths rather than metaphor      

So please don’t hear this story 

as being about the wealth of the rich man 

it is certainly not about his wealth

This parable is about attitude 

the rich man’s attitude to others and his attitude to God.. 

This parable has also previously been used to tell us 

how eternity will be for those who don’t use their time

their gifts their money wisely..

how they will end up in hell for all eternity


Yet I struggle with that interpretation of this story..

Once again, 

we must head back to the translations, 

interpretations and assumptions 

made by many over the years 


Let’s begin right back at the beginning 

as we look at Adam and Eve placed in the garden

to care for it and to live a life of equality.


The one thing they weren’t to do, 

was to eat of the tree of good and evil 

 “for if you do.. on that day you shall die.. “said God


What God doesn’t say is 

“if you eat of the tree of good and evil 

you shall be punished for eternity

he says “you will die..”


and did Adam and Eve die when they ate of the tree

no... they lived on 

but their peace ... their innocence... were dead

they hid from God because they were ashamed.

they felt that separation brought about by their sin 

that separation has opened their eyes and minds to evil

their hearts saw themselves in a way 

which could not be unseen 

and from that “seeing differently”

they judged themselves..

They saw their nakedness as wrong 

they felt shame,

they felt fear and they felt anguish.. 

they hid from God..


IT WAS NOT GOD who judged them

God knew what the knowledge would reveal

He told them not to eat of the tree

God did not judge them

God explained the consequences of their actions

before they even ate of the tree  

and then afterwards he reiterated those consequences  

because you did this.. this will happen.. 



Every action has a ... REACTION 

And I think this is what our parable is about today

to the rich men God is saying 

because you did this

because you Pharisees ..

it was the Pharisees in Jesus’ time 

who would wear the purple and white linen royal robes

“you teachers of the law who will not care for others

there are consequences.”   

“You are not caring for the needy, you are not caring for others, and because of your selfishness, you are separating yourself from my plans for you, you are separating yourself from me you are stepping into a ‘hell’ of your own making..    

Hell... lets get back to our question.. 

what is Hell?

Hell in the Old Testament is always

a translation of the word Sheol.. 

and sheol in the Greek means Hades

and the word Hades 

means darkness ... 

and it is to this place of darkness where all the dead go, 

the dead who are both righteous and those who are unrighteous, those who stay in relationship with God 

and those who choose not to do so.

So Hades.. is a place of darkness 

a place of the dead..

a place of stillness 

Tom wright describes this place as a sort of motel

a place we go to rest and recuperate 

renew and refresh after we die.. 

 and until the kingdom of God is brought in ..

Hades.. Sheol..

psalm 139 tells even if we make our bed in sheol

we are never separated from the love of God 

Sheol is a place where we are restored 

renewed and meet face to face with our Father God.

And God ..

our God the Lord of heaven and earth 

God NEVER lets us go..

 It is we who let go of God’s hand

yet God always follows us ..looks for us 

to return home to him..

in the same way as the prodigal son 

was being looked for by the father day after day.

Father God looks for us to turn to him..

And it’s not God making us return

it’s not God forcing us 

We have Free will 

God gave us free will 

But by giving us free will God saying off you go

what we have in free will are choices

just as Adam and Eve had choices

choices to turn to God 

turn to him ... ask him to shape our will..

turn to him 

praying for the light of Christ to be within us

turn to him and pray for the revelation of God

the truth of God to be revealed within us..

In the baptism service one of the questions is

do you turn to Christ.. 

that turning is about repentance

that turning is about guidance

because God is always there 

 ready to guide and forgive us.. 

Remember the words of Paul to the Romans..

they are not just words

they are truths

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, 

nor angels, nor rulers, 

nor things present, nor things to come, 

nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, 

nor anything else in all creation, 

will be able to separate us from the love of God 

in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And that is I believe this parable is actually about

Its about Jesus reminding us to love God and love our neighbour as we are loved.  

Because when we don’t.. 

we die to the love God has for us  

we are separate from him.. for a time..

the time it takes us to turn again ..

see the truth of our actions 

and step back into the love 

and the plans God has for us.. 

There is nothing we can do to change that love.

We can however change our love for God and for others 

we can separate ourselves from God

we can separate ourselves from the nurture

and nourishment we receive from God 

which in turn we share with others..

remember the long spoons

and the sharing of food 

people feeding each other 

nurturing each other 

this is what we are about..

Not just physical feeding

but spiritual feeding too.. 

how many of us need to be constantly 

spiritually renewed and feeding by God 

sharing his love one with another.? 

I know I do.. 

And as I head off on my holiday 

and then on my Sabbatical 

I will seek that renewal 

that rest 

that stillness 

to be restored 

ready for my return..

And as I seek I ask you my friends.. 


please care for one another

love one another

care for those who are in our communities 

in our parish..

work together 

encourage one another....

see and respond to one another 

each others needs

each others joys 

and remember it is only we 

who separate ourselves from the love of God

God never lets us go

God holds us in the palm of his hand if we let him

he guides us 

he calls to us 

just as he called Adam and Eve in the garden   

God calls us to be his sons and his daughters

he calls us to be Good News

to share his Good News

to live his Good News

God calls us to share all he has for us

God calls us to share in his kingdom

here on earth 

and in heaven..