This past Sunday I preached at Bay Harbor Church in Bay Harbor, Michigan. The weekend was a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Bay Harbor and our worship was under a large tent set up next to the harbor. Susan sang for the service, as well. We enjoyed worshipping in the outdoors in a beautiful setting, but at the same time we missed being with our church family and look forward to being back with you this Sunday.
This week in worship we will be challenged by Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Sometimes the parable is called the Parable of Dives (pronounced dahy-veez) and Lazarus, although Dives isn’t a name, but is the word meaning “rich” or “rich man” in Latin. In preparation for worship on Sunday, I encourage you to read the parable, which is found only in Luke’s gospel—Luke 16:19-31. Lazarus is a very poor man whose life is lived at the gate of a very rich man. He is covered with sores and hungry—longing for the scraps that fall from the rich man’s table. His plight is wretched. Even the dogs come and lick his sores. Day after day he lies by the gate and day after day the rich man passes him by. He has become one of the invisible ones.
I will save the rest of the story for your reading and for our time together on Sunday, but I invite you to think about this question that will be central to what I want to say in the sermon: Who is at the gate? This was the question that challenged Albert Schweitzer. He wrote that the parable of Dives and Lazarus had spoken to him in a powerful way. When he asked Who is at the gate? he concluded that Europeans were “Dives,” Africans were “Lazarus;” Dives had medical knowledge which he took for granted, while Lazarus suffered from illness and pain but had no doctors to help him. In response, Schweitzer spent the rest of his life in ministries of healing in Africa.
Who is at the gate? In one form or another, this is a question that echoes through the pages of scripture from beginning to end. In Genesis the question is Am I my brother’s keeper? (Genesis 4:9) In Exodus the question is How are you treating immigrants, widows and orphans? (Exodus 22:21-23) In the books of the prophets, the question repeats like the tolling of a bell. Isaiah’s questions are a good example: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7) In nearly every book of the Bible, in one form or another, there is the challenge to pay attention to the person at the gate. In our worship Sunday in the sanctuary, we’ll hear once again this challenge that is both ancient and contemporary.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday!
Grace and Peace,