Where charity prevails.

between us and you a great chasm is established

Welcome and thank you for joining us this day in our worship of our Lord and fellowship in His Holy Name.

There are several things to consider today: The way we live our lives; The need for repentance i.e, change where necessary; and The reality of the Hell we build if we close or limit ourselves toward the other. All of this is summed up in the gospel as the “great chasm.”

Jesus uses the story of Lazarus and the rich man pointing to the necessity of living a life of love, for a life of love converts us fully, brings us most fully to the likeness of His Heavenly Father. This is the life we are called to, to be the model of God in the world exemplified in love.

Now, the confusing part is our perception of what love is. We mess ourselves up by quantifying and qualifying our love toward others.

The Greeks had it a bit easier for the word Agape means a love that is complete charity, total self-giving. This is the complete love Jesus speaks of and requires from His disciples. We are to live and practice, without quantifying, self-giving toward all we encounter. That powerful love, so often unseen and unexpected in our world, when shown, breaks down barriers and brings people into the Kingdom.

The rich man had none of that. Factually, his love was completely self-centered and could not even contemplate self-giving. He existed is a loveless great chasm, a place of emptiness, a hollow place. He made that chasm impenetrable, uncrossable, and a place of blindness toward anyone else. He never even saw or heard Lazarus under his window.

Could he have repented? Most certainly. The rich man could have opened his ears, eyes, and heart to Lazarus. He could have taken from himself and could have given, inviting Lazarus in to dine with him, not counting the cost. He could have offered his friendship to Lazarus and opened himself to him.

Yet, as we see in Jesus’ telling, the rich man could not even do that after death. There he was, in Hell, being tormented, crying out for pity – pity for himself. His self-centered life lived on into eternity, he remained in the chasm he built. Lazarus remained as nothing, just a potential water bearer and message carrier for the rich man’s needs. Not once does he look up to Abraham and Lazarus and beg forgiveness.

We must examine the places where we have built great chasms in our lives, where our love is less than the full giving Jesus requires. If there is a great chasm, let us work to close it. It is certainly not easy, it wasn’t easy for most of the Apostles and saints at first, but they got there. They closed the chasms of their lives and lived complete love as we must do.

Gut
check.

I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ

Today, the Holy Church in choosing its readings and Gospel, provides us with three quick punches to the gut, a real gut check.

Amos once again is prophesying against the failures of God’s people. Imagine, God Who loves His people deeply, is forced to look at the wholesale disregard, the coldness, His people live in. Their hearts grew distant, not just from Him and His love, but from their very neighbors. The world was falling to pieces around them. Leaders, faithless and self-centered. As long as they were comfortable, nothing else mattered. There was increasing disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor. God witnesses the glaring lack of social justice, a society living on corruption and the oppression of the poor and helpless. Even religion was corrupted, every belief and practice blended together to please the crowds. The wealthy and well-heeled thought that the superficial stuff they did could stave off economic failure, distress (for the rich), and invasion. They didn’t have to dedicate their whole selves to God; they only had to go through the motions. Amos points them to the natural and supernatural consequences of living that way. His words were echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King and others who call us back to covenant with God, to get out of our complacency and back to where we must be if we truly love the God who saves us. Gut check.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he reminds Timothy of his call in the fullness of the Apostolic Priesthood. No, the clergy are not exempt from living fully in Jesus, to being 100% witnesses to His salvation. He warns people like me to put aside all complacency: But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Gut check.

Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man runs a total of 295 words, with 21% dedicated to the set-up, and 79% dedicated to outcomes. As with anyone facing up to their consequences, the bed they made, all the bargaining in eternity makes no difference. Jesus tells us that if we are His we get it. We have listened and have not put off doing. Too late? No, but our gut check time is now. Let us set to work!

Even now
I trust.

Martha went to meet Him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

As we enter Passiontide we continue our focus on conviction and the kind of faith that shows we have not just accepted conviction but have been changed to people of deep faith.

Remember Jesus’ earlier encounter with Martha and Mary. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him teaching, filled with faith. Martha was busy in the kitchen and was annoyed – her sister wasn’t helping. Martha complained to Jesus and Jesus told her straight out that Mary had chosen the better part. Mary saw the opportunity of God’s presence while Martha was convicted for busing herself with less important things.

Now Martha’s brother is dead. He’s been placed in the tomb and the tomb is sealed. They had sent word to Jesus while he was still alive, but He didn’t show up. Now Jesus is approaching.
The woman who busied herself in the kitchen, who missed Jesus’ teachings, who chose the lesser part, comes running out …but Mary sat in the house. What happened?

What happened is that Martha got something deeper from that earlier encounter and conviction. She received a gift of faith so deep and powerful that not even death could diminish it. Not death, not disappointment, nothing!

In running out to Jesus and in speaking with Him Martha proclaims the depth of that faith gift. Listen carefully: “Lord, even now I know…”

Even now… Despite, nevertheless, notwithstanding. No matter what has happened, even now I know You are Lord.

The key is that Martha recognized there was nothing more powerful than God. Faith demanded that she lay aside all mistrust. While Mary listened to Jesus, what did she take away from that listening? Was her trust increased? How was her faith at her brother’s tomb?

Martha believed Jesus could have healed her brother – same as Mary. Yet her faith differed. She exercised a much more powerful ‘even now’ faith. She saw more deeply because she knew Jesus could see her heart. She trusted Jesus completely because He revealed what her true concern should be – not in the kitchen, but in faith. She accepted the gift and made faith active.

If we look closely, Martha did not think Jesus would raise her brother. She knew he was dead She even told Jesus – look, he’s dead, he’s rotting already. And that is the power of her even now faith. She is our example. Everything hasn’t worked out, yet even now I trust in You, Lord.