“Commit to Community: Doing and Undoing” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

September 19th,2019 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter
Beloved Church,

What a week it has been. I don’t know about you but filling up the new fellowship hall with the laughter of children, the smell of good food, and the warmth of community really helped me envision the possibilities of our new space. As we prayerfully plan for next year, my mind and heart are filled with possible ministry ideas and new ways to engage our community. If you too envisioned ways in which we could use that fellowship hall let me know! I hope to see you this Sunday at 11 am for worship.

This week’s scripture is one of those stories that has a lot to teach us. So much so that it needs to be read multiple times. In service Pastor Kaji will be focusing on the first three verses but we also want you to know the whole story. I invite you to read the story through three times.

As you read each time, it is helpful to take a different voice from the story and see how their perspective changes the reading for you. The first time imagine yourself as the rich person. The second time imagine yourself as Lazarus. And then the third time read it and imagine what it would be like to be Sarah and Abraham. How is this story different from each of those perspectives? Look for places where you are similar and relate to that character and look for places where you are different. What else stands out? Let’s read together this story from the Gospel according to Luke.

“19 “Once there was a rich person who dressed in purple and linen and feasted splendidly every day. 20 At the gate of this person’s estate lay a beggar named Lazarus, who was covered with sores. 21 Lazarus longed to eat the scraps that fell from the rich person’s table, and even the dogs came and licked Lazarus’ sores. 22 One day poor Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to the arms of Sarah and Abraham. The rich person likewise died and was buried. 23 In Hades, in torment, the rich person looked up and saw Sarah and Abraham in the distance, and Lazarus resting in their company.

24 “Sarah and Abraham,’ the rich person cried, have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am tortured by these flames!’ 25 But they said, My child, remember that you were well off in your lifetime, while Lazarus was in misery. Now Lazarus has found consolation here, and you have found torment. “26 But that’s not all. Between you and us there is a fixed chasm, so that those who might wish to come to you from here can’t do so, nor can anyone cross from your side to us.’

27 “The rich person said, I beg you, then, to send Lazarus to my own house 28 where I have five siblings. Let Lazarus be a warning to them, so that they may not end in this place of torment.’ 29 But Sarah and Abraham replied, They have Moses and the prophets. Let your siblings hear them.’ 30 Please, I beg you,’ the rich person said, if someone would only go to them from the dead, then they would repent.’ 31 If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets,’ Sarah and Abraham replied, they won’t be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead!’” (Luke 16:19-31)

Did you find places where each of those characters resonated with you? Have you ever taken care of your needs over the needs of others like the rich person? Have you ever had to ask for help like Lazarus? Have you ever been given power or influence over something like Sarah and Abraham? How did you discern how to use that privilege? Every time I read this text, I come out of it with more questions than answers. But I also have more clarity because the text continues to speak to me. This time the “fixed chasm” stood out to me.

When you think of something fixed, it means that it won’t move or grow or shift. It is unchanging. And a chasm is a separation between two things that used to be connected. This chasm is a good image for sin. When we sin against our siblings in creation, we chip away at the relationship we have to God. That chip is there. We can’t take it back. But we also have the power to build a new relationship and new connections with God with each new act of love and grace. The chasms in our lives are inevitable, but they don’t need to permanently separate us from God if we recognize sinful systems and actions, deconstruct them, and build new healthy systems and relationships that are built on love, respect, and equality.

What is chipping away at your chasm and what do you need to do to address them? You don’t have to figure it all out now, and you definitely don’t have to do it alone. We are a community that is here to help you seek justice for your life and world. We are a community that sees resurrection and points it out in real-time, so we don’t miss it. No matter if we are the rich person, the Lazarus, or the Sarahs and Abrahams of that day’s story.

Shalom Y’all,
Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: God, help me not to miss anything you are showing me. Amen