Circle the Stories: Parables of the Great Parabler

Friday, April 8, 2022

The Rich Man and Lazarus, by Christine Hides

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:19–31

Reflection: The Pharisees, who “love” money, heard “all this” (the last parable about the dishonest manager and the statement, “You cannot serve God and wealth”) and ridicule Jesus. So he tells them a parable about a rich and powerful man inside his gated home and a man just outside who too weak to shoo the dogs away, yearns for a crumb from the man’s table. In life and in death the two men are close but separated, first by a gate and then a great chasm.

The refrain of pregnant Mary’s song echoes through Luke’s gospel, “he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” We who are taught that money is not a subject of polite conversation might be uncomfortable with the blunt reversals in the text. But deep down, do we know how easily our attachment to material things can get in the way of our life with God and relationship with neighbors?

This parable confronts us with a “great chasm” pressing us to see what is life-giving and what deadens our spirits. In her last book Wholehearted Faith, the late Rachel Held Evans wondered “whether we’re playing at death and calling it life. Maybe we’re playing dead when we refuse to ask the big questions…. Maybe we’re playing dead, when others are suffering, and we choose to remain ensconced in our comfortable denial.” As we approach Holy Week, we are invited to consider what keeps us from being convinced of the life-giving power of the one whose arms reach across the chasms we have made.

Risen One,
open the gates we build. Reach across the chasms of our making. Bring us to life. Amen.

April 10, 2022

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