RCL C Proper 21 Complementary
Amos 6:1a and 4-7, Psalm 146, I Timothy 6:5-19, Saint Luke 16:19-31

If you want to see clearly the perspective of Saint Luke the Evangelist, you have to look no further than today’s parable, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. But I do not want to start there.

Let us look elsewhere. Let us look at the Song of Mary, the Magnificat, that is a kind of thematic statement for the entire Gospel. If you will, open your Prayer Books to page 119.

And there you see the Song of Mary, Saint Luke 1:46-55. It is the song that Mary exclaims when she visits Elizabeth just after Elizabeth tells her that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, which is John the Baptist, leaped for joy at the presence of Mary and the baby in Mary’s womb, Jesus Christ. The song is Mary’s exclamation upon hearing Elizabeth say to her, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”[1]

Look down a little more than halfway, and you will see, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, * and has lifted up the lowly.”[2] That in a nutshell is the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

You remember that the Rich Man dressed in purple and feasted sumptuously every day while Lazarus lay at his gate covered with sores. But in a reversal like that of the Magnificat, Lazarus dies and is carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham while the Rich Man dies and is tormented in Hades.

The moral of the parable is that it is a blessing to be rich in the things that are God’s—the very things that Lazarus had: poverty, humility, and forbearance. Forbearance is the ability to endure a difficult situation without becoming angry. And Jesus through this parable teaches us that if we are blessed to forbear the difficulties of this life, we shall likewise be blessed in the life of the world to come. And I find that to be good news.

But also I put it to you that our circumstances are more like those of the Rich Man than they are of Lazarus. We do not sleep on anyone’s doorstep. But there are those who rely on us just as Lazarus longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the Rich Man’s table. We have the freedom to belong to God and to be rich in the things that are God’s. That is our mission, and the sacrament of that mission is the Seasons of Love Dinners that we host twice a month. The more we give to those dinners, the richer we become—not like the Rich Man but rich toward God.

[1] Saint Luke 1:42. NRSV.

[2] BCP, page 119.

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