Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday 4 October 2013 ~ Roxie

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is
Today's scripture focus is Luke 16:19-31

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

This is a story that I have always found a wee bit harsh...but I have to remember that hell (or the grave or the pit or everlasting separation from God) IS harsh, whether one believes in its existence or not.

On with the parable...

This story, told by our wise Lord, begins by describing the two main characters: one, a very wealthy man, so wealthy, in fact that he would wear fine linen AND purple as his every day wear...(now I am smiling, thinking about wearing my wedding dress to feed my little herd of motherless calves) and the other so poor, so lowly, that he longed to eat scraps like the dogs of the house would eat as crumbs feel from their master's table...but was more like a scrap himself as it was the dogs who came to lick his own sores.

I find it interesting that it is not the wealthy man in this story who receives a name, but the poor man. I wonder how the Pharisees who were listening to Jesus speak reacted to this. In their minds, the wealth of the first man would have been a sign of blessing while the poverty of the other, a sure sign of sin. Yet, the poor man is called by the name of Lazarus. According to an article by Alyce McKenzie, Lazarus not only means "God helps", but "In Greek the name Lazaros has the same root consonants as the name Eliezer" which the Pharisees would have recognized the name as a fabled messenger of God who's mandate was to walk the earth and report back to God the treatment the poor, the orphans and the widows received from the wealthy. Perhaps another clever little dig by Jesus that we have lost in cultural translation?

The story continues...

Both Lazarus and the wealthy man die. Lazarus is taken by angels, no less, to heaven, right to the side of Abraham. While the wealthy man...well..."is buried". It seems quite the insult to the earthly "importance" of the man. No pomp OR circumstance. No tales of a eulogy spoken through tears and sobs of his beloved family and friends. No days long feast in honour of his life. Just buried. 

...and then we find out to where the wealthy man has gone: "Hades" which means the grave or the pit or the place of departed spirits. I know there is a huge debate among those of the faith community about the existence of hell and my intention is not to dredge up this debate (although anyone who wishes to comment on it, be my guest!). I did, however, read a very long, but interesting article by Dr. Robert A. Morey that discussed the words used in the Bible (both in the Old and New Testaments) regarding the afterlife, if anyone is interested in reading it as well. To me the words used do not matter...and even translators are human in their occasional inability to find just the right word. "Right words" aside, this parable describes a separation between the righteous and the wicked after death. Who am I to dispute the words of Jesus???

Anyway, the wealthy man is bemoaning his tormented state and worrying that the rest of his family may end up in "Hades" as he is. Looking up, he sees the poor man, Lazarus standing in the company of Abraham and he cries out for mercy, which Abraham denies. And then comes the next request that piques my interest...or maybe even my conscience. 

 ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

"...send Lazarus to my family..."

Send the poor man, now comforted...would the family even recognize him? Send a man, dead to that world, back to warn them of the potential torment in the afterlife??? Abraham's reply is absolutely logical to me:  ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ From birth until old age, Jews were taught about God, the Laws, the promises, the judgements. Their festivals, their daily, weekly, yearly routines centred around these things. So how did this rich man end up in Hades??? How did he wander so far from the path of righteousness?

The distractions of wealth...the comfort of wealth. It surrounds us, distracts us, pulls us away from being Jesus here on earth, lulls us into a false sense of security. Am I listening? Can we hear through all the stuff; all the constant busyness; all the incessant noise that envelops with barely perceivable voices speaking comfort, ease, superiority...and selfish aspiration?

May we look past the wealth we accumulate (maybe even learn to live with open hands) and open our eyes and ears to hear the call of the Prophets...and to see Jesus.

Monday's scripture focus:
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:


Roxie said...

So so sorry, everyone! The site would not let me publish yesterday though I tried several times at different times of the day. Once again so sorry!

Have a nice weekend!

Miriam said...

This takes me back to the "treasure on earth" vs. "treasure in Heaven" conversation. Great post.

Tammy said...

I think, too, it was almost a nonchalant pride - of course he was going to heaven, God had obviously been blessing him, he was a good person, he presumed upon the grace of God.

As to the hell debate - I don't see how any Bible believing Christian could possibly conclude that hell does not exist, not without ignoring pretty huge chunks of the Bible! My 2 cents :)