This morning as you entered the sanctuary you walked right by poor, homeless people. Can you describe what they looked like? How many of them were men? How many were women? How many were families? What were their ages?
I wonder how many times this past week, you and I, walked right by people just like these? I wonder how many people like these live in Walnut…and maybe we don’t even know. I wonder how many people we may have helped…but thought, “They’re just using the system. They don’t really need our help. They could find a job if they really wanted too. They’re just lazy.” These are the “poor.” And we don’t even notice them…or if we do we laugh at them or make fun of them or judge them.
And…who are we? Who am I? I grew up on a farm. My Mom said we were poor. I never felt poor. We always had food to eat. We always had warm clothes. We always had a roof over our heads. We always had transportation. And yet my mother said we were poor.
Who were you? What was it like when you were a child? Some of you here remember the Great Depression, the 30’s, when dirt poor really was dirt poor. People had land but it didn’t raise much of anything, dirt poor.
All of us kids wore hand-me-downs. My brother wore my old clothes and I wore the neighbor boy’s old clothes. They weren’t worn out and, to me, they were “new.” We’d go to Ray’s shoe store in Avoca once a year and buy a pair of shoes. Those were our “good” shoes and the old ones became our chore, work, shoes. Sometimes the sole was held up with a rubber band and maybe I’d put a piece of cardboard inside because the sole had a hole worn in it.
That may have been why Mom said we were poor because we wore hand-me-downs and home made shirts and dresses. Home made from feed sacks that Grandma washed and made for us. I never knew there were store bought shirts and pajamas until I went to school and saw what the other kids were wearing.
We didn’t have a lot but we weren’t begging and we weren’t homeless, so I didn’t think we were poor. Today, there are many folks who are homeless, who can’t work, who live on the streets or in their cars.
Compared to them I was “rich.” Compared to them right now I’m wealthy. Compared to them I am blessed.
In the light of today’s gospel who am I, who are you, the rich man or Lazarus? I haven’t stepped over anyone lying on my doorstep and I haven’t seen anyone begging downtown but we all know there are folks in our community and in the surrounding communities who need help, who may be close, very close to be homeless.
So, this has just been me talking to this point; what does Jesus say about this? What does he say we should do? Where do we find his words that tell us what to do?
Go to Luke 6:20-26 to see how he recorded Jesus’ words, or Matthew 5:3-12, or Matthew 25:31-46. Luke 6 and Matthew 5 say that the poor are blessed, the hungry are blessed, and God blesses those who weep. And there are more blessings when people hate you and persecute you and mock you and curse you because you follow Jesus, the Son of Man.
And…sorrow is waiting for the rich. Sorrow is waiting for the fat and the prosperous. Sorrow is waiting for those who are laughing now and those praised by the crowds.
We’ve always read how God turns everything upside down, how God sees things differently than the world does, than we do.
How is God speaking to us today? What impact are these words having on our hearts? When we leave here will we do anything different? What will change? Will anything change? Or will we keep doing what we’ve always done?
Maybe people don’t know what to do. Maybe we don’t know what organizations to trust. Maybe we’re so bombarded with junk mail from Catholic Charities, Open Door Mission, Native American Missions, Bread for the World, and others that we don’t even open the envelopes but just toss them in the recycling box. Maybe we’ve become hardened to the poverty of the others around us.
The lessons from the last few weeks were to help us understand who we are. The lessons were intended to be like these mirrors, to help us see ourselves more clearly and know who we are.
Friends, we know who we are. We are the rich, the wealthy. We have things we can share. The question for us is, will we? Are we able to share our riches with those we look on as the dregs of our society? Are we able to allow them to share in God’s grace? Are we able to see Jesus in these folks with mismatched clothes that smell a little odd? Are we able to sit and eat with them and talk with them? Are we able to invite them to share God’s peace and grace in the places we call home? Are we able to be the welcoming arms of God to these people?
Remember how the rich man, Fred, wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers about what was waiting for them? And Abraham said they’ve had plenty of warning from Moses and the Prophets. If they didn’t believe them then a man coming back from the dead wasn’t going to change their minds.
Friends, what is it going to take to change us? The lessons tell us that we can’t take our wealth with us. The lessons say that if we care for the poor and the hungry and the imprisoned and the naked that not only will they be blessed but so will we in ways that we can only imagine.
My friends God is calling us to be prepared for Jesus to come again. Have we done everything we could? Have we loved them and loved them again and loved them yet again?
Friends, may our hearts be broken and our eyes opened to those who around us who need our help…and love.Thanks be to God for his convicting grace. Amen.