(excerpt of sermon; Luke 16:19-31)
Lord, have mercy.
I can imagine both men crying this out to God at different times in their life. We hear it from the rich man while he is in torment of Hades. However, we never hear it from Lazarus…we actually never hear a word from Lazarus. That’s because what I imagine is Lazarus crying out to God every day he wakes up, and he realizes that he’s in the same place he was the night before. There are psalms that I can imagine Lazarus reciting…
Psalm 31:9-11 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away. I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
And I think this is where Jesus is leading us with this with this story. He uses the very same faith tradition to bring new understanding concerning the nature of God with his audience. And this is what I want to leave you thinking about and more importantly feeling.
Our scripture is a story of an ancient understanding of God who ultimately cares for even the poorest of the poor. To be honest, the Bible is filled with such teachings, most people simply look over them. But what I also see is not Jesus sharing only a teaching of torment and judgment for the wealthy, but a stern calling, and an opportunity, for those with such privileges to act today towards bringing justice to the sin of allowing such injustice to exist today, and in so doing, receive compassion as well.
This is the Good News that Jesus teaches us today, even hidden within a story of condemnation. We, because of our many gifts in this world, have the opportunity to become agents of God’s compassion for those who suffer today. And in so doing, God’s compassion is extended to us here today, and for eternity. And we have no greater example of this choice to live for God, than to reflect upon the selfless and compassion-filled life of Christ.
And now we can take new ownership of the previously troubling words ‘Kyrie Eleison.’ We are reminded that as we confess our brokenness to God, that God is indeed compassion, and we are already loved in Christ Jesus. And perhaps, we’re troubled with these words in a new, and healthy way. ‘Lord, have mercy,’ is not only a reminder of God’s compassion towards us, but an exhortation for us to use our gifts, our talents, our wealth, to share God’s compassion for the world. Amen.