Date: September 29, 2019
Bible Text: 1 Timothy 6:6-19, Luke 16:19-31 | Rev. David A. Douthett
It can be really annoying sometimes when a friend or family member comes to you and tells you, with love, about some of your character flaws and defects. You know they're right, but you hate to hear it and you hate to admit. It's annoying because once you admit it, then you either have to change or live with the truth that you are living hypocritically. Jesus in Luke's gospel is that friend or family member, and we seem to be on a stretch of stories where he delights in pointing out the things that catch us up. But the truth is, Jesus takes a lot more delight in our willingness to listen and to change, not only for our own good, but for the greater good of humanity. So this week we will do our best to listen to Jesus' parable about Lazarus and the rich man with an open heart.
Notes from the Preacher
In case you are unfamiliar with the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, which I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon, here's a link to a plot summary. SPOILER ALERT: It gives away the ending.
The Beast and the rich man in the parable from Luke 16 share an unfortunate view of the world that treats others as objects. This mindset, made all the more unfortunate as it is shared by virtually all humans, is described by Martin Buber in I and Thou, published in 1923. As Buber describes it (or in my interpretation of Buber), when we are in our sinful way of being, we think of the world in terms of “me” and “it.” Anything that is not “me” has value only in what “it” can do for “me.” Not until we have a transforming experience of the Holy One, who will be “it” for no one and can only rightly be addressed as “Thou,” do we reorient ourselves from “me” to “I” and our relationships from “me-it” to “I and thou.” It is the "me-it" relationship we see both in the rich man of Jesus' parable and for those described in 1 Timothy who are lured by the love of money. For them and for all such people, it only leads to all kinds of evil.
In the sermon I spend a fair bit of time talking about the development of the ego during infancy, around 9 months of age, when a child is experiencing separation anxiety. I've talked about this before, but this time I neglected to mention that I learned this in a developmental psychology course at Princeton Theological Seminary taught by Dr. James E. Loder. This was one of the most influential classes of my academic career. The spiritual importance of ego development at this stage of life as a self-correcting error is explored in Dr. Loder's book, The Transforming Moment. He describes the psychological and spiritual process by which we experience transformation as a life-changing explosion of world view that radically reshapes our engagement with ... well, everything. Sadly, this does not happen for the man in the parable. However, it might yet happen for us because of the parable.
Otherwise, we will continue on with all kinds of evil, as we actively oppose the will of God. We will choose security instead of faith, control instead of obedience, and recognition instead of worship and love for our neighbors. And it won't end well for anyone. So, as the young people say, "Can we not?"
The video above is cued to the start of the Gospel reading and sermon, but a fairly significant experience in this worship service was the segment, Our Mission Together, wherein we heard from Donna Fortier from Mobile Hope Loudoun. This is a ministry that we are supporting this year that seeks to help homeless teens and young adults. Donna shared a bit about the need and the response, but she also shared her testimony of how she came to start Mobile Hope. It's a powerful story that really fit with the theme of the sermon. So I'd encourage you to back up to about 11:55 in the video to hear what she had to say.