Our class couldn’t help noticing the relevance of the story Jesus tells in Luke 16:19-31 to our own world.
Today, as then, some people interpret material success as a sign of God’s favor. Today, as then, some people believe that anyone who’s destitute, suffering, sick, whatever, is that way because they’ve made bad choices, because they made their bed and now they need to lie on it, because they deserve it. It’s not far from that attitude to “who sinned, this man or his parents?” (John 9:2).
The principles of Biblical justice are clear enough: “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 58:7) … Lack of clarity isn’t what keeps people – us – from taking the appropriate action.
An implication is that we need to notice, not ignore, the people who wash up on our actual doorsteps. Another is that, since we get to participate in a larger political order, at least for now, we have responsibilities there, too – not to get on Facebook and complain about things, but to take action when and where we can on behalf of the least.
More often than not the themes that crop up in Sunday school echo or relate to what comes up in worship. This morning was like that.
Our pastor preached on Mark 4:35-41 – Jesus “stilling the storm” on the Sea of Galilee. He pointed out that the disciples ask two questions: (1) “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” and (2) “Who is this??” And that, although they didn’t really know the answer to that 2nd question, they stuck around … maybe, to find out.
And really, in this story, it’s Jesus’ “Yes!” to that first question that leads the disciples to ask that 2nd awe-struck question, because that “Yes!” takes such an unexpected and dramatic form.
And then he said: people don’t seem to ask that second question all that much today. But people ask that first question A LOT. Because people go through storms. We know people who are going through “storms” in their lives – we have a prayer list full of those people. And then there are all the people we don’t know personally, but we know about. And that question – “do you care?” – we answer that the way Jesus did, presumably, which was “Yes!” and that “Yes!” was not just theoretical or distant, but active, and practical.
Or, maybe, we don’t answer the question that way … But how we answer that question, that is what the world around us hears Jesus say, hears as Jesus’ answer, since the voice and the activity of the church really is the voice and the activity of Jesus in the world … the church being the Body of Christ and all.
Unless it isn’t, unless the answer we give isn’t the answer Jesus gives, isn’t that “Yes, I care …” in a really unmistakable way. In which case, we might need to ask ourselves if we are still the church of Jesus Christ.
He used two concrete situations. He talked about 17 year-old Antwon Rose who was shot on Tuesday night, noting that he was running away, that people will say “well, if he was running away, there must have been some reason for that,” but noting also that a 17-year-old black man has a lot of recent evidence that standing still is not any safer. “Do you care that we are dying?” What’s our answer?
And he talked about families. What sustains a family, what makes a family a family? It seems that it’s children, that without the children a family stops being a family, really dies. So when families lose their children, they may say “Do you care, that we are dying?” What’s our answer?
We’re called to give Jesus’ answer to these questions.
Of course, we may have to grow into that. It was a challenging sermon. The good kind.
And then, because we are still working on the website, and because today was the day we were supposed to paint rocks for the #HCR project, there were things to do after that sermon. Progress was made on the topnav. Many rocks were painted. Various stories were told around the paint table and we learned a little more about people’s tastes in fiction, and practiced not coveting one another’s talents at painting rocks. All the paint cups and brushes and tables and pizza boxes were cleaned up. It turned into a long day.
The good kind.