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The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell[a]from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

Jesus Heals a Great Multitude
17 And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, 18 as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. 19 And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healedthem all.

The Beatitudes

20 Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:

“ Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.
22 Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

Jesus Pronounces Woes

24 “ But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation.
25 Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.

 

The Beatitudes

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

Holy Father,
I thought I was having a bad day
because someone used
all of the hot water and
we were out of my favorite cereal.

Help me to get beyond
the minor inconveniences
in my privileged life.

Open my eyes and
help me to see the places
that I can bring comfort,
ease pain and
show compassion.

Unstop my ears and
let me join those
crying out for justice,
for righteousness,
for You.

Amen

When  I taught a Bible study this summer, I was amazed at how it deepened my understanding of various passages.  Things that I had always understood at a superficial level became more meaningful.  I jumped at the opportunity to study the Beatitudes with my church’s women’s circle.

The topic for the most recent class was “Blessed are those who mourn/weep,” Matthew 5:4 and Luke 6:21b. We started out considering why people mourn.  The obvious answer is loss – the death of a loved one.  But, as I learned this summer while studying parables, Christ always had a deeper meaning.  It just takes a little more work, and often a knowledge of history, to reach it.

When Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount, Rome occupied Palestine.  Palestinian food crops were shipped out to feed the people of Rome, making food in Palestine more expensive.  But Rome also taxed farm land heavily.  If you couldn’t pay the taxes, you lost the land generally to someone who was already wealthy.

Loss of land.  Loss of homes.  Food prices rising.  If you’re up on current events, you know this leads to hunger, illness, and death.

Then the study guide (Confessing the Beatitudes by Margaret Aymer) brought in the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).  Lazarus begs at a rich man’s gate.  The rich man takes no notice of Lazarus even as the poor man sickens and dies.  When the rich man dies, he winds up in hell while Lazarus is among the blessed in heaven.  When the rich man asks if he can return to Earth to warn his brothers what fate awaits them, he is told no. They have the prophets but they choose not to listen.

Again, the simple interpretation would be that Lazarus was blessed because he had already suffered poverty while the rich man lived a life of luxury and excess, ignoring the need sitting at his gate.  But I suspect that Jesus was telling us something more.

Blessed are the mourners for they are the messengers.  Who are the mourners in the world today? They have tried to warn us even as they mourn a child who dies from hunger or as the result of a beating.  They have called attention to the troubles of our society, even as they ask for coins to buy a cup of coffee.

They let us know all is not well if only we will open our eyes and unstop our ears.

–SueBE

Fear stops the heart,

panic, the hands,

more efficiently than hypothermia.

Lord, there are snares concealed in the snow.

One snap at my ankle, and I freeze:

Lot’s wife, with a lower sodium content.

 

Blessed are they who carry anti-freeze in their veins.

I am not their kind.

Teach me to bear the cup

through Winter’s deepest chill.

To move forward, like Shackleton’s men,

even when the very whiteness blinds.

 

I just spent another night wakefully fretting. I know it’s bad for me. I know it does no good. But all the reasoning in the world doesn’t seem to stop me. Here’s the thing: I know it’s wrong not to trust God to take care of me. I know it’s a strike against my faith to worry. On the other hand, however: Where’s the line?

Which line? You may well ask. The line between what I can control, and what God will. I’ll explain. I’m going on a trip soon, and I’m fretting about it. Now, obviously, there are things I can and should do. I can’t just leave home and hope that God will provide for my pets. I have to hire a sitter, ensure there is plenty of food, make sure the house is clean and well stocked. These are things I should worry about. But at what point do I let go of what I can do and leave it up to God? At what point is my responsibility absolved? When does it start being pointless to plan and worry?

Perhaps this line is well delineated for most people. But for me, it’s fuzzy. Have I really done everything I can do? Have I come up short on the “God helps those who help themselves” side of the equation? That’s what keeps me up at night.

Is this a normal conundrum? How do you find the line? And what is the right amount of worry? You think about it. I’ll be in the kitchen getting myself some warm milk.

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.

Last year was crazy/busy for me.  Some days, three writing deadlines fell on one day and my clients needed my full attention.  At the same time, my son was in distress and needed my full attention.  To boot, my dog was sick and needed my full attention.  Finally I realized, God was trying to get my attention.

With all the deadlines and life changes last year, God taught me how to work.  He showed me that it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you stop asking “why?” and simply keep going.

All the while I thought I was carrying everyone in the family and the weight of the world, and it turns out Someone was carrying me.

If last year was about learning to persevere, this year is about learning to listen for God’s leading.  Even though it doesn’t seem like an actual skill, now I’m learning how to wait.  I’m not sure where this path is taking me, but what God’s telling me is that in the interim, I should situate.  That is:  Sit.  You wait.  I’ll tell you when it’s time.  For now, breathe. Restore your soul.  Be in repose.  It’s not time for the next step yet, so wait on Me and pray.

So for now, I’ll hold my horses.  Cool my jets.  Put the car into idle.  If that’s what it takes to get wherever I’m going, it’s time to be still and situate.

I admit it. I used to feel guilty about praying “too much.” God surely had to be sick of hearing from me all the time. I can imagine Him rolling his eyes (heavenward? How does one roll one’s eyes when one is in heaven?) and thinking, “Not her again!” Seriously, with all the noise he must be getting from sports fans, why on earth would He want to hear from me?

I came to the conclusion that prayer isn’t something we do for God at all; it’s something we do for ourselves. After all, God already knows what we want. He doesn’t need to hear it. So why do we do it? For us — to prioritize our needs, to solidify our hopes and wishes, to be in touch with our emotions. Or, that’s what I thought.

It took my perceptive friend Karen to right my wrong thinking. What if, she posited, we do share a sort of Jungian shared unconsciousness? Putting positive, prayerful thoughts out there would certainly add to the positivity of the universe. It would be like doing God’s work. And surely He wants/needs that.

Dang! She’s right! We share this world. Putting positive, hopeful, prayerful words out there can only add good things to our shared collectivity. Prayers paint the world a cheerier color. They further the cause of hope against despair. You cannot pray too much. To refute this would be like saying you can smile too much. Not possible. Love is the “It” of this world, the be-all and end-all; anything that adds to it is to be encouraged.

So pray away! I, for one, won’t be feeling guilty about it anymore.

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