This upcoming Sunday's reading finds Jesus closer to Jerusalem, and telling another story, but this time seemingly less hopeful than those of the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son.
In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the paths of the two characters diverge after death. Father Abraham, with Lazarus in what appears to be a place of salvation, offers little hope to the rich man who calls up to Abraham from Hades. The man, who becomes aware that his disregard for others led him to his fate, asks for Lazarus to go back to warn the rich man's brothers to change their ways, but Abraham denies the request.
The story is hopeless if we take it at face value, or as a story that asks what's the point of coming back from the dead. But when we read it as a story for the sake of those who hear it, then it becomes a story that reveals God's liberation from our past and an opportunity for new life through the one who lives, dies, and comes back for us.
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.
And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.
The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.
He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.'
But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.'
He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house--for I have five brothers--that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.'
Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.'
He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
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