I grew up with Bernice. Okay, not literally. However, she was a fixture in my hometown for as long as I can travel back in my memories. You would see her pushing her shopping cart around town and digging through the garbage to see if she could find any cans to return. Did I ever talk to her? Not that I can ever remember. We are so often in the position of the rich man from our parable this morning that we don’t stop to think about it.
Now, this is not just any rich man. This rich man in Jesus’ parable appears to have so much money that he can feast sumptuously everyday. Imagine being able to eat at the most expensive restaurant day in and day out, not just for one meal but for all of them. He is so self-consumed in what goes on within his gated community that he shows no regard for Lazarus, the poor man sitting outside the gate.
Lazarus in our parable this morning really is not much different from the Bernice that roamed around my hometown while I was growing up. I am sure every town has a Bernice, and you may be very well of who that is in your town. Poverty is a real thing that we are surrounded by and we usually do not even know that it is there. Not everyone is like a Bernice that pushes her shopping cart around town collecting cans. Not everyone is like Lazarus looking for crumbs outside the gates. Did you know that the poverty rate in Macomb County in 2014 was 18.3%. Or perhaps you did not know that 42.6% of children in Macomb County are receiving free or reduced prices for school lunches. Before you go thinking that most of those that are seeking assistance come from the southern part of the county, it truly doesn’t matter. When we look beyond our own country, we are truly some of the richest people in the world, even if we have an entry level paying job. How do we choose to use our riches?
Perhaps it is even more amazing that what was considered dirty in Jesus’ time, dogs roaming the streets, are the ones who showed compassion for Lazarus. In the licking of his sores, the dogs showed a greater compassion than the rich man and his family. This could possibly even be seen as a form of healing as they cared for Lazarus. Often times we overlook these little actions. It is also in these little actions that we can witness Jesus working in our midst. Aren’t we told that it is a child that will lead us.
We have done a great job of making divisions among ourselves that we fail to see them, unless we have eyes like children. Those divisions are what lead to our perceived inability to help those that are in need. In the parable this morning the rich man managed to place a division between himself and God. This is not just any division. This is a division so great and deep that it is a large chasm. Imagine going to the Grand Canyon and being at the part that is farthest away from the other side. This is the chasm that the rich man has found that is separating himself from God. And yet, he still has the nerve to ask Lazarus to serve him.
Among the chasms that we have constructed in our own society is between the rich and the poor. We use terms like, “those people.” We walk on the other side of the street because we are afraid. We fail to take the time to listen to their stories. While we are called to serve our sisters and brother, we do not have to bridge this chasm on our own. It has already been done for us.
The chasm has been bridged though Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is through the cross that we experience God’s grace and God eliminates that chasms that we have developed in this earthly world. Because of the bridging of this chasm Jesus is in our midst. We are all invited to feast sumptuously at the Lord’s table.
Trinity has a history of being hospitable and welcoming in all people. We have the opportunity this next month to share love as we open our doors to 30 men in the MCREST program. These men have stories to share. These men are not much different from the homeless you witness on our streets today. These men are not much different from us. This is an opportunity to give of ourselves, our time and resources. It is also an opportunity for us to share love and receive love.
I’d like you to think about this. As we open our doors next month, are we welcoming the homeless, or do we welcome Jesus Christ?