Monday, September 27, 2010

Lazarus at your gate

Being a Christian means different things to different people.
Some Christians are politically conservative.
Some Christians are politically liberal.
Some Christians are neither.
And some like Lutherans are not really sure.
We see this all the time in any one of a number of issues.
Pro-choice versus pro-life, Anti homosexual versus pro-gay rights, Guns versus non guns, etc….
Not only on political issues but on theological issues we see a wide range of opinions.
We see Christians that baptize babies and those that baptize adults.
We see born again Christians, and main line Christians.
Some Christians believe that Communion is just a remembrance, and some believe that the elements of bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
There is a wide spectrum of belief and practice within Christianity today.
And it has always been this way, and probably always will be.
But there are two things that all Christians of any political ideology or theological position can agree on.
Whatever else Christianity may mean there are two things that all Christians believe in.
One is that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.
No matter what denomination you are in, no matter how your Christian understanding is played out politically, theologically, or practically all Christians say that Jesus is their Lord and Savior.
All Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins.
And the second thing is that all Christians believe in helping the poor.
One cannot be a Christians without this being part of who they are.

This morning we see in our three readings just some of the overwhelming Biblical evidence that calls us to help the poor.
The Bible sometimes will say contradictory things about modern day subjects.
For example, the Bible is contradictory on whether or not a woman is allowed to be a leader in Church.
In some places, in the Bible, women are told to be quiet and not speak.
Like in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 where it says, “women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.”
But in other parts it is clear that women are taking on leadership roles in the Church in Romans 16 Paul commends a list of women as his fellow workers in Christ.
So on that issue we can use our modern day brains and our reason to come up with the best practice based on what we know now.
But this is not so with the issue of poverty to be a Christian, to follow Jesus Christ means to be concerned about the poor.
The Biblical witness is overwhelming.
We see it in the prophets of the Old Testament.
Amos tells us this morning that those “who are at ease” will be the first to go into exile.
Those who are rich and think they have no worries; those who see nothing wrong and do nothing to fix it are the ones that God calls to action now.
In the letter to Timothy the rich in church are called to share what they have and do good.
The church is told not to make riches our goal, but the kingdom of God.
And finally in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus Jesus warns in a parable about seeing the need of the people at our door and helping them.
The problem with the rich man is not that he is rich.
It is that he does not see his fellow human being begging at his gate.
The rich man takes no account of Lazarus or his pain.
And therefore does nothing to help the one who begs at his gate.
It is not that he has riches, but that he does not use his riches to help others.

For all of us here this morning we are rich.
We have more then we need.
Sometimes it might not feel that way.
I know that it is a monthly struggle for my family to pay the bills, but the truth is I have more then I need.
God has given me riches beyond measure.
I have a roof over my head, three meals a day, clothes to wear.
Beyond this I have money to give away, I have money to buy luxury items, I have money to go on vacation.
And it is my responsibilities to help others were I can.
I am rich.

In fact if you go to the website and put in your income it will tell you where you are in comparison to other people in the world.
I put in our families income and we are in the top .8% of the richest people in the world.
You all know what I make it is no secret.
It was shocking to me how much I make in comparison to the poorest in the world.
You see I am the rich man.
And the question that I have to ask myself is who is the Lazarus sitting at my gate?
Who are the people I ignore?
Who are the people I take no notice of?

One thing we can know is that Jesus never loses concern for the poor.
Jesus asks us not to be apathetic, or hopeless.
This is the attitude of the rich in all our readings, but especially the rich man in the Gospel.
There is no need to act, or do anything for the one who is in need.
I think that this is one of the great spiritual problems of our day.
We are all a little angry and tired of dealing with politics and politicians.
I don’t like the way they express themselves, but we can all understand the frustration that lies beneath the tea party movement.
We all know that it seems hopeless in this world to try and do anything.
After all we will always have poor people.
Not to mention that the statics are overwhelming.
1.1 Billion people are forced to survive on less than a dollar a day.
Consider that the avg. salary for a worker in the US is $91.00 a day.
Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes-one child every five seconds.
11 million children die of preventable illness- that is one every 3 seconds.
These are children whose lives could be saved with simple medicines of immunizations, if their families could afford them.
But these are just numbers and we have all to some extent become numb to numbers.
In fact, we have all become numb which has only fueled our complacency.
But if we take Jesus parable seriously this morning complacency about the poor is really not an option.

I believe we all can do something.
I believe that we all have the power to make some real powerful changes in the world.
Yesterday, our congregation once again participated in the Concord’s CROP walk.
We walked with 25 other faith communities and about 150 other people.
We raised $12,266.
What I loved most about yesterday was the attitude it takes to come out on a Saturday, raise money, and walk.
Forget the numbers what matters more is that all the people that walked believed that they could do something in this world for someone else.
They had hope that the simple act of walking would make the difference to someone that they did not know.
More than anything the CROP walk is an act of defiance against hopelessness and apathy.
It is an act that says I care about people all around the world suffering from the effects of poverty, and I can and will do something about it.

Did it end poverty?
That will take more walks and more time.
But what it did was stop us from becoming complacent in our lives.
We can say to Jesus that we did care, and we took steps (literally) to do something for the Lazarus at our gate.

Our congregation is working hard on these issues.
We do care about the poor here at Concordia Lutheran Church.
There are many ways for you to get involved for you do something that will show that you too are hopeful and are taking action to help the poor.
I am proud to be part of this congregation that will not stand ideally by and watch people suffer.
We will do something.
Because we are Christians and that is what Christians do.
We believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and we take care of the poor.
We follow Jesus therefore we act to help those in need.
We will see the Lazarus at our gate and act to help because we believe in Moses, the prophets, and most important Jesus Christ.

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