Sermon for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 21, Year C

September 25, 2022

Amos 6:1am 4-7                                Psalm 146                            1 Timothy 6:6-19                               Luke 16:19-31

          Ouch! Most, if not all of us gathered here can identify with the rich man more than we can Lazarus.  We have more than our fair share of wealth.  We may not be wealthy by some standards, but we have more than many, many others in our communities and in the world.  Some of the people we serve on Wednesday nights are homeless, many people in the world live in homes with dirt floors.  People all around us are sleeping on the ground or in cars.  Without a doubt, by comparison, we have been blessed with an abundance. 

On far more than one occasion, I confess I have walked past a beggar without offering as much as a dime.  It is easy to do, given the number of people who beg for money in order to get their next fix.  Giving them money does not help them.  I was once a social worker.  I know that to truly help these individuals it is better to offer them food, a place to stay, and health care.  I also know that although more places that do these things are needed, there are places that do offer tangible support.  I may not give individuals money, but I do try to help where I can and where I believe my help can make a different.  I know, however, that it is not ultimately up to me as to whether or not my gifts make a difference.  I can and should give in abundance because I have received in abundance.  And, I sometimes waste the gifts I’ve been given when I should be sharing them for others.

The parable from Luke is about neglecting people in need.    The rich man was blind to Lazarus and his needs.  When in Hades he sees Lazarus, he asks Abraham to send him to his aide.  Still, he sees Lazarus as of less value than himself and ask for Lazarus to come and serve him.  The rich man had lived his life in comfort while Lazarus slept by his gate and suffered.  I pray that by coming to St. Paul’s on Sundays the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see those in need.

We can read this story and think it is about helping others so that we might be welcomed into heaven, or we can read this as a lesson about understanding the old adage, “we’re all in this together.”  Paul taught us this lesson by saying that we are all part of one body, the church, and if one of us suffers we all suffer.  If we view the blessings we have received in this life in this light, it says a great deal about sharing what we have with others. 

In 1st Timothy, we heard: “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” 

“Godliness combined with contentment.”  Feeling free to give begins with contentment.  If we are content with what we have, if we believe we have what we need, and if we recognize that we have more than we need – then we can give to the spread of God’s kingdom with a grateful heart.  Today’s lessons should help us understand this is what we are being called to achieve in this life. 

We live in a society that encourages spending on ourselves.  It is difficult to be content when the latest and greatest is always on the horizon.  I confess I suffer from these temptations.  The Bible teaches me, however, to give out of the first fruits of my work.  My great-grandfather taught my father a lesson that I think is worthy of sharing:  give away 10%, save 10%, and live on the rest.  Giving from our abundance includes more than giving to our local church, it includes giving to causes that help build the kingdom of God – on earth as it is in heaven. 

          Heaven for me is where we share what we have and everyone has enough.  Heaven for me is being here with you in this sacred space, supporting one another, and worshiping God.  Yesterday I preached at the Eucharist at Camp Mitchell held for the Board of Visitors.  Looking out onto the valley below Camp Mitchell reminds me that I am only a small part of God’s creation.  It usually does. 

It also reminded me of what I know to be true here – our gifts, no matter how small or large, help St. Paul’s be a place where people can come to be accepted, supported, and love.   Our gifts make it possible for us to be here today worshiping in this sacred space.  We are the stewards of this space.  It is ours to take care of and it is ours to share.  I pray that you, too, find yourselves challenged and refreshed so that when you leave you will go forth to love and serve the Lord.

Today will we acknowledge the call of one of our members to do just that.  Peyton Olson is about to leave to serve in the Peace Corp. This morning at the 10:30 serviceI will call her forward to commission her for this ministry.  She will experience the world as few of us here have seen it.  She will be teaching at a school for the deaf in Africa.  What a blessing she will be; what an example she is for us of someone who takes God’s call to service so very seriously. 

Let us pray.

          Lord, we give you thanks for your boundless love.  Help us to see in our lives all the ways that we have been blessed, to be content with what we have, and to share our gifts with others that your name might be glorified.  Be with Peyton as she shares your love with others in real and tangible ways.  We offer our prayers at the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.