A green-thumb I am not, but my attention has been drawn to what will be familiar to some of you gardeners – leaf miners! A few clicks of the mouse button led me to discover that leaf miners are insect larvae that live within leaf tissue. They feed within the tissues of the leaves themselves forming tunnels that reveal their presence and activity.
It was this quote from Annie Dillard:
Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of
This, I mused, is what Luke’s gospel is trying to tell us in its presentation of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
It’s a fascinating story that raises a number of questions when we hear it for the first time.
Who is Lazarus? Why is he named and the rich man not? What was the rich man’s fault – after all he provided the means for Lazarus to survive by embracing his society’s “trickle-down” economy, did he not? Perhaps, like the leaf miner, the rich man was not able to lift his eyes to recognise or even relate to Lazarus. Yet he recognises him in the afterlife. But it’s too late – the horse has bolted. Then there is the rich man’s last ditch plea from Hades (which is not what is commonly understood as hell, by the way – it is the place of non-being, a shadowy space of non-existence in the Greek underworld) – send Lazarus back to warn my brothers.
I am pondering this morning whether the front door into this story is from the end rather than the beginning. ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’
Annie Dillard challenges us to rise above the leaf miner like preoccupation with the faint tracings of our lives to take in a wider view in order to really see what is going on around us.
Most often, like the one who lives well behind closed gates, we are not aware of Lazarus eking out his existence at our door. Lazarus is aware of us, he knows that it is our gate where he has taken up his post. He knows where the crumbs upon which he subsists come from. But do we know Lazarus, are we even aware of him? This is what the parable asks.
I invited him to send some thoughts. Here are some of them.
There is a fair amount to be made I think of the status of the resurrection – put simply the resurrection (whatever that is – I think this ties in to Luke’s post-resurrection events, particularly the Emmaus story –recognising the stranger/hospitality etc seeing Jesus in others) is meaningless without the faith/works to back it up. For anyone who doesn’t follow the path of justice, compassion and mercy, there was no resurrection (of Jesus) and will be no resurrection of us.
Steve touches on the kernel of what the whole early Christian community struggled with. What are the implications of Jesus’ resurrection for how we live together and in the context of a society that promotes and lauds self-centredness?
Alan Culpepper, in his commentary on Luke’s gospel, also draws attention to the Emmaus connection. This story is at the end of the gospel section of Luke’s documentary, acting as a kind of bridge into Acts, the story of the first Christian communities seeking to live the resurrection life.
This, Luke’s story suggests, is the only way to fill in the chasm that separates the kin of the rich from the kin of Lazarus.
So we engage with and throw ourselves at the task of preparing the way of the Lord by buiding bridges across human made chasms.
2 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Harangue”
I liked the way you brought Emmaus into the story. It was a very interesting way of turning the rich man’s story around.
I think I would question whether Lazarus actually receives the crumbs from the table as Annie Dillard implies (or as you interpret what she implies? 🙂 ). It says in Luke that Lazarus longed for the crumbs. I think this has profound implications for our own government and those of other western developed nations, in that the poor in our world would be more than happy with the leftovers from our excess, and yet as a nation, and as part of the wider developed world, we give very little from our excess, let-alone give to an extent which challenges our commitment. The old ‘give up 1% of the defense budget for a year and solve the world’s food shortage for a long time’ (or something like that) comes to mind.
Hmmm…That’s not Annie Dillard’s take – it’s me getting carried away and exercising preacher’s privilege to use hyperbole to make a point! Yours is more accurate however and offers a more salient observation. Will we ever begin to even approach the millennial project targets, I wonder?