Weekly sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship based on two RCL lectionary readings
Sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship
by John Watson
Sunday 29th September 2013
1 Timothy 6:6-19 and Luke 16:19-end
There is no let up this week from the RCL as we continue to look at wealth as the key topic in both NT readings today. Luke keeps piling on the pressure as we continue into chapter 16 with the great reversal that is common place in Luke. The promise of the poor being blessed and the rich being sent away empty (see the words of the Magnificat in chapter 2:46-55 - which I think acts as an anchor for Luke’s presentation of Jesus and the Good News he shares).
Jesus addresses this parable to the Pharisees “who were lovers of money’ (v14) - perhaps we can hear an echo of Jesus earlier words in chapter 6 as well (‘blessed are you who are poor’ and ‘woe to you who are rich’ vv20,24). The great reversal will be spelled out in the words to come. In the world the powerful and prestigious get the fame and glory - in the kingdom the meek and poor are named and honoured.
This is the only place in the Gospels where a character in a parable is named. It is the not the rich and powerful either - but the poor man- Lazarus - who gets the name and the history marker, even though his voice is never heard. Usually the poor are the anonymous mass - here Jesus makes a figure of the poor, personal, named, and blessed. It is not surprising then that the history of the use of the parable sees an attempt to name the rich man (Dives - latin for ‘rich’) - but we must let the parable refuse the name - and raise Lazarus (!) to a place of importance in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus wants us to see the great danger in ‘loving money’ - it can take over our lives, it can stop true human growth, as we become stunted by misplaced desires and short term gain. The figure of rich man reminds us never to take that path of life. Lazarus calls out to us from this parable and challenges us to redefine what we do with money. If we use it wisely and for the kingdom - all can have enough.
Yet so often we ignore that path. So often we fall foul of the snares of wealth and let the concerns of money choke us (Mat 13:22 and 1 Timothy 6:9). How do we move on from this way of life? By re-imagining a vision of the good life. The way society gives us a vision of what the good life means is different to what the Bible says the ‘good life’. Jesus message brings about a reorientation of desire, a refocussing of our energies and reinterpretation about what and who wealth is for.
Which is also the warning and advice we read in 1 Timothy - you who are blessed with money are to be generous, not proud or selfish. It reminds us of last week when Jesus said you cannot serve two masters - serve God and let wealth serve you - not you be its servant. Use it for God’s glory; honour all and ‘pursue righteousness’.
John is the Vicar of St Paul’s, Tupsley and St Andrews, Hampton Bishop in Hereford Diocese. He’s also currently doing Doctoral Studies at Kings College London.