Sermon - 29 09 19
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,
I was just here and it was a giant party
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?
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..
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 ..
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
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..
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..