Creekside Church
Sermon of September 29, 2019

"Seen and Unseen"
Luke 16:19-31

Pastor
Rosanna McFadden

 

Good morning! It is good to be with you and good to back in the pulpit at Creekside. I am so grateful to Maryann Zerbe and the Worship Team who made arrangements for guest speakers and presentations for the past month so that I could be free to go to CA to be with my mom on short notice. I am especially grateful to Betty Kelsey who preached last week on what may be the most puzzling parable of Jesus in the entire Bible. The parable I’m going to talk about today is part of the same series, but is seems simpler by comparison. We’ll see if you agree with me in 15 minutes or so.

Lodema told the children last week that a parable is a story which is meant to teach us something. That is true -- but I would nuance that definition just a bit and say that a parable is a story from which we can learn something. In other words, the story doesn’t change, but what we bring to it can and does change. Part of the reason that parable are such a rich and important part of Judeo-Christian tradition is that their meaning goes beyond the simple and obvious. They are stories we can share with children, but they are also teachings we can come back to again and again as adults and not exhaust their message. Parables are true -- but their truth doesn’t lie in verifiable facts like we’d find in a news report; their truth lies in what they reveal about the character and the kingdom of God. Jesus knew more about the character and the kingdom of God than anyone before or since.

Luke 15 is a series of three parables about lost things: a lost sheep and the shepherd who leaves the rest of the flock to find it and bring it home; a woman who lost a coin, scours the house until she finds it and has a party afterward; and a lost son, who decides to return home as a slave, but is welcomed with open arms by his father, and with resentment from his older brother. Great stuff.

Luke 16 is a set of two parables about money, with a little Pharisee-bashing tucked in between. Last Sunday Betty tackled the story of the manager who cheated his boss and was praised for his shrewdness in looking out for himself. Lest anyone miss that these are teaching about money, Jesus says “You cannot serve God and wealth.” And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, ridicule him. Never a good idea.

So Jesus tells a second parable, the one we heard read this morning about a rich man and poor man named Lazarus. And right from the get-go, Jesus original listeners and we should know that something unusual is going on here. Characters in parables don’t usually have names: the shepherd, the woman with the coin, the prodigal son and his brother, their father -- none of these are named. Usually in the Bible when someone is named, it’s because they’re important -- either because of their relationship to Jesus -- followers like Peter, James, John, Mary Magdalene, or have positions of political or religious power -- such as Herod, Pilate, or Annas, the high priest. Lazarus is the only character in any parable who is named. And he isn’t powerful, or even wealthy: we’re told right at the beginning of the parable that he’s poor, hungry, and covered with sores. Right after we learn that he dies. Two pieces of information to tuck away as we learn from this parable: First, we know that Jesus had a best friend named Lazarus -- the brother of Mary and Martha. What did Jesus do for Lazarus? He raised him from the dead. Second: The Hebrew meaning of the name Lazarus is “God has helped.” Those might be relevant later.

Back to money -- because it’s always about the money, right?

 

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