Dives and Lazarus:

Women’s weekend

Enriching the world in which we live

Hymn: God’s spirit is in my heart 315

Opening prayers:

Heavenly Father, we come humbly seeking you.

We are ready to hear your word, we want you to speak to our hearts, we want to learn, we want to grow, and we want to draw closer to you so we can serve you better in our world.

We come giving ourselves into your hands, to ask you to do with us what you will.

Come release the power of your Spirit upon us and make us new, and empower us.

Thank you for your endless love, shown to us so completely through your son Jesus; thank you for the many times you have demonstrated that love to us, when we have least deserved it. Come move among us.

Amen .

Choir: What a friend!

Hymn: I heard the voice of Jesus say 136

Readings: 1 Tim 6.6-8

Luke 16. 19- end “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

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.’

“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.

And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

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

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

”‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“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.’”

Drama : Dives and Lazarus by Sheila Hamil (see Drama Link)

DIVES AND LAZARUS

Rich Lady:

I wouldn’t, I shouldn’t, I couldn’t, but I will.

Twist my arm, won’t do any harm.

I simply cannot do without so large a car.

I use my Lamborghini when I don’t go quite so far.

I love my period furniture, my antique telephones,

and I really do believe in OUTdoing Mrs Jones.

For our holiday this year, we’re just sailing in the yacht,

so we can have sufficient cash to buy a hat for Ascot.

What do you buy for birthdays when the kids have everything,

or when Christmas comes round yet again, my head is in a spin!

(doorbell sounds).

What is it you want? My Christian Aid envelope? Just a tick!

I’ll try to be quick. That’s the third COLLECTOR this week.

Thank you. I beg your pardon! I’ve forgotten to put something inside!

Just a tick, I’ll try to be quick.

Do-gooders make you sick.

The kids won’t mind, they’ve got to learn to be kind.

Thank you. (Hands over the envelope once more).

Of course I give to charity,

what do you take me for?

I give them all the SPARE coins I have,

do they expect me to give more?

I live in the lap of luxury,

I cannot tell a lie. And I intend to live this way until the day I ….

DIE…so begins a drama I once wrote based upon today’s reading from Luke 16…

What a strange parable to choose for an address this morning, for a women’s weekend

But I must be honest and say that when I realized which reading was set out in the lectionary for today, I wondered, ‘Should I not choose a different one for a women’s weekend?’

We should be having a light-hearted theme or one about celebration, not one that might make folk feel too challenged or uncomfortable.

I don’t know about you but it makes me feel very uncomfortable. . . but whenever I am asked to preach I always like to go with the set reading for the day. I’ve found time after time it speaks the right word for the right moment.

This theme today reminds me of a question that was asked by a very sincere elderly Christian at a mission I was part of last week…the kind of question that makes us feel~challenged.

He asked the panel, which was comprised of one or two experts and some lay folk.

‘When we come before Jesus at the judgement day, how will we ever reconcile ourselves to the fact that we have lived like the man who in the bible was known as the rich young ruler. i.e. in relative luxury, while out there so many others have nothing at all?’

I was not one of the panel answering the questions, it was a men’s evening, but I was there.

But I found myself mulling the question over in my head, thinking what I would say if he had asked me.

I do feel that Jesus most definitely needed people who had some wealth to help him in his ministry, one gave him food, another lodgings, one rich ointment for anointing … Even Zaccheus was not told to give all away, but to put right the debt he owed because of his dishonesty, and be generous to others.

Nicodemus was able to provide a tomb for his dead body.

Was it not more probable that the rich young ruler surely wanted to join Jesus’ inner core of followers, be one of the close disciples (rather like monks and nuns do today)

There that was my pat answer to the question, had I been on the panel.

But today’s reading gives out a clear warning not to be selfish, wasteful and greedy; it tells us that to ignore the impoverished of this world brings God’s judgement upon us! Its message is simple and direct.

But what else can we glean from this well known parable?

But first of all let’s look at the kind of people Jesus was talking to…

He was talking to religious leaders who were not ‘walking the Talk’. They did not practice what they preached. They tested him every way they could, ignoring those on the fringes, the outcasts, the unlovely. They had a different kind of wealth …that of knowledge and understanding in their minds; they had such wisdom at their fingertips but their treasured books of law had not reached into their hearts.

The disadvantaged were poor indeed, but very rich in matters of faith, and in their acceptance of Jesus. But here these people were rich in many ways, but very poor…

Could Jesus possibly have been telling this story to make the religious leaders see how blind they were to their situation?

I wonder what it was that prevented Dives responding to the poor beggar lying at his gate?

(We can’t use the excuse he didn’t know he was there, because when their situations were reversed, and they had both passed on into eternity, it was Lazarus’s name he called out to, expecting mercy that he never afforded to him in his lifetime.)

But I’ve been trying to imagine exactly what was going through the rich man’s head?

In studying WHY he ignored Lazarus, we might be able to understand the minds of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and age better, and why they reacted as they did,

. . . AND LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT OURSELVES IN THE PROCESS..

Perhaps he reasoned with himself…

‘I have a reputation to live up to…it wouldn’t do for me to lower myself to his level! I am respectable, virtuous and successful, I am above him! I am by far a better class of person’ ( Pride)

Haven’t you ever thought like this? I have…

(I’m not going down there to be prayed for, I’m a teacher!)

What if I give to ONE, I’ll have ALL the beggars in the city hammering at my door! Like sparrows, feed one and hundreds will follow!’ (Anxiety)

Haven’t you ever thought like this? I have(

Where will all this take me, this Christian commitment, I hope God doesn’t demand too much?)

‘I (or my servants) might catch something, he’s covered in sores! I keep a clean house.’ (Fear)

(Don’t you have genuine fears? Many times in ministry I’ve been afraid…sleepless night before a special service in prison)

He may have thought…

Ah but is he a genuine beggar? or is he there to make a killing each day from fools stupid enough to give to him. (Suspicion)

(How many times have we all heard that one said about asylum seekers or beggars on the streets for example?)

Or what about this excuse?

Now I deserve all that has come to me, I’ve worked hard and earned it, what has he done, lazy good for nothing?’ (Judgementalism)

(Do we ever judge? Are we good at putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and wonder how they came to be in that position? )

Perhaps he said to himself, ‘I really feel tearful about that man’s plight, I’ll see to him later, at present I have more important things to do? (busyness)

(Surely this is one of the biggest diseases of the modern age?

Don’t we ever procrastinate)

Perhaps he persuaded himself, ‘What can one person do?’

(Have we never said, ‘My opinion won’t make any difference?’)

Haven’t you found in Christian ministry that when you make some progress, you suddenly begin to think negatively or irrationally?, but if you actually go with your vision, and it really costs you, but you carry on…that you find yourselves more blessed than you could imagine?

I’m sad that Dives, the rich man, and those religious leaders never discovered such blessings.

I once heard a wonderful lecture by a lady called Anne Morisy. She spoke of an ‘Iron Cage’ that surrounds us when we want to move forward for Jesus~ it comes in the form of excuses and objections which hinder that progress. Like those I’ve just listed about the Rich Man…

And she spoke of a cascade of grace that happens when we are motivated by a love which reaches out and embraces a struggle on behalf of others. It is then that a graceful and often unexpected outpouring of surprises occurs!

She tells of a true story in Hackney, where homeless people needed night shelters, and the churches in the area were asked to provide….(See her book Journeying Out pp11-13)

* * *

Isn’t that what we should be about in Christian ministry? Not just being interested in our own personal salvation, and what we can get out of church, not just looking at the church as a waiting room for the hereafter…but viewing church as a launch pad for the here and now!

…for Jesus’ sake.

Isn’t true sacrifice all about, rolling our sleeves up and getting involved just like Jesus did, on behalf of the lost, the hurting, the dispossessed, the disadvantaged, and not making some small token or gesture, like the lady in the drama?

If we always looked to the model we have in Jesus, and follow his teachings and his actions in our daily lives then we would be rich indeed, and so would a lot of others.

THE P.C.C. MEETING. ‘What would our dear Lord Jesus say?’

There could have been such a cascade of grace upon the rich man Dives, if he could have stepped down from his pedestal, shown more of the love and compassion of the God who had gifted him in so many ways. If he had offered his real fears to God, he would have ridden upon new waves of trust and compassion.

His reputation in the community, would have grown, the quality of his mercy remarked upon.

Perhaps his family, his children, his grandchildren would have been so proud of him, they may well have chosen to follow his example.

There could have been such a cascade of grace upon those religious leaders in their dealings with Jesus, but they would not have it.

So …how do we as Christians ‘walk the talk’, in other words…put into practise what Jesus would have done if he had been here in our place?

It can be summed up in this reading from Luke 6….

‘Give,’ Jesus said, ‘and it will be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap’ etc

In other words pour it all out; don’t stop the flow!

But it can also be summed up in this beautiful meditation by Francis Ridley Havergal:

Extract below from : Still Dews by Frances R Havergal: Page 74: Fiona Castle

Begin at once; before you venture away from this quiet moment, ask your King to take you wholly into His service, and place all the hours of this day quite simply at his disposal, and ask Him to make and keep you ready to do just exactly as He appoints.

Never mind about tomorrow; one day at a time is enough.

Try it today, and see if it is not a day of strange, almost curious peace, so sweet that you will be only too thankful when tomorrow comes, to ask Him to take it also-till it will become a blessed habit to hold yourself simply and 'wholly at His command for any manner of service.

The 'whatsoever' is not necessarily active work.

It may be waiting, (whether half an hour or half a lifetime) learning , suffering, sitting still.

But shall we be less ready for these, if any of them are His appointments for today? Let us ask Him to prepare us for all that He is preparing for us.

And then the world around us will be rich indeed.

Amen

If time allows: ‘Christ as a light’ dance in a circle with mirror movement

* (Northumbria Community Track 4 CD Celtic Daily Prayer album)

Intercessions:

Hymn: The Lord’s My Shepherd I’ll not want

Collection

Choir : Is He Satisfied? (or after address)

Final Prayer.

Lord we want to get into the fray!

We want to play a role in the biggest adventure story of all time. Use each one of us to make a difference!

Use us to impact a young person for you. Use us to solve someone’s problems. Use us to solve someone’s pain. Use us to soothe someone’s pain. Use us to answer someone’s prayer. Use us to feed someone who is hungry. Use us to rescue a child. Use us to bring someone to you. Use us to ease someone’s loneliness. Use us to raise a godly family. Use us to deepen someone’s faith. Use us to cheer someone on. Use us to help a broken person understand that they’re precious in your sight. Use us to touch lives. Use us to build a living cathedral to Your glory.

(final prayer by Lee Strobel, page 399 Celtic Daily Prayer)

Read out hymn 652 as a blessing together

Lord dismiss us with thy blessing

Fill our hearts with joy and peace;

Let us each, thy love possessing,

Triumph in redeeming grace:

O refresh us:

Travelling through this wilderness.

Thanks we give, and adoration;

For thy gospel’s joyful sound;

May the fruits of thy salvation

In our hearts and lives abound.

May thy presence:

With us evermore be found. Amen

Hymn: Will your anchor hold? 689