September 25, 2016

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi L. Baron, 19th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, Luke 16:19-31

“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Good morning… friends, neighbors, honored guests!
I have to tell you: That one sentence from the gospel has haunted me all week. No matter where I was, or who I was with…there it was.
“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
You see, for me, I hear those words from Jesus and I think, “Crap! It’s my turn to preach on Sunday and Jesus is talking about the sin of hard-heartedness…”
This walk, through Luke, has been brutal for your new Co-Rectors! I’m telling you!
So, there it is. I stand before you with this very difficult question and hope that the Good news of God’s Love and Grace comes through these words.

We have to ask ourselves who are Moses and the Prophets telling us to pay attention to?
Who are they telling us, is our neighbor, and who we should we share a meal with?
This morning’s gospel is a parable seemingly about two strangers who knew nothing of one another… but really, I think, it’s about the Rich Man’s brothers… who are still living.
On the surface we may want to think we have it easy, we get to look into the story and see the glaringly obvious lessons, but then Jesus pierces our hearts with that line…
“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Why? Why do you think the Rich Man’s brothers won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets?
Is it greed?
The passage doesn’t answer it for us.
And I think THAT is the good news for us this morning!
We, you and me, we the People of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Beulah Michigan, get to write the ending to this story.
We get to answer the question about whether or not we will listen to Moses and the Prophets,
to WHAT scripture invites us to consider and to
WHOM we pay attention to.
We get to decide if we will learn from the Rich Man and notice the needs of those who stand at our gates and respond to them.
And whether or not to bring heaven here to earth, right now, through how we view our “stuff”.
Our money, our homes, our cars, our time, our love… our…everything.
We get to ask ourselves, “Is this MINE or is it all from God?”
If it’s mine, no one gets to tell me how to do anything with it, right?
And that’s the message our culture sends us…
But if it’s God’s to begin with, well then we have a different set of questions.
If “everything (does indeed) comes of Thee O Lord”, then what does God ask of us in how we manage his gifts?
What needs of the world must we meet… with what we’ve been given?
Who is at our gate begging for our scraps, just a morsel?
Who would eat our scraps to survive one more day?
Who needs to be invited to the banquet?
The sin Jesus addresses in today’s parable is un-belief, heard-heartedness, contempt and disgust of the poor, judgmental attitudes about the poor, over-consumption in the sight of extreme poverty.
It’s brutal to confront the sin in our hearts that deal with human relationships and connection.
But the hope revealed is that if we listen, if we open the ear of our hearts, we will notice Jesus… when we… feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, care for the poor. We will bring heaven… HERE… on earth when we bring the world a little bit closer to justice… for the one who has no voice.
We will know Jesus when we invite the stranger to dinner and view our neighbor as our friend.
Because, my friends, if we read ahead, to the end of Luke’s gospel, we read of two people’s hearts finally warming, on the Road to Emmaus, we get to peer into the hearts of two men entertaining a stranger and inviting him in, to eat with them.
Remember, It’s not until they were breaking bread with the stranger that they recognized the stranger as Jesus, one whom they knew so well. Their best friend… risen from the dead.
So as a parish… we will continue to share our space… for groups that don’t contradict the mission of this place… as good neighbors…. We will share our time…. As we volunteer through organizations like BACN…. As good neighbors… We will share our resources… through the baby pantry and through our charitable giving and outreach…. As good neighbors… And we will share this altar…. God’s table… to those who want a taste of justice… of true freedom… of Grace…. As good neighbors.
And we shall share the gospel of Jesus Christ… the good news… with all around… because God’s Kingdom is here… right now… and we want to invite others to participate in it…