November 2020

There Was Not a Needy Person Among Them

24th Sunday After Pentecost, November 15, 2020
Acts 4:32-25, Luke 16:19-31

– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –

Today is Stewardship Consecration Sunday when we discern how God is calling and equipping us to give of our time and resources to the ministry and mission of our church. Stewardship means taking responsibility for the care and maintenance of something that is important to you. Parents are stewards of their family and household. Government representatives and officials are stewards of our nation. And we, as members of this church, are stewards of one another and God’s creation. And in our awareness of the sacred dimensions of our work, our stewardship becomes consecrated or holy.

Now holiness involves comprehending the full landscape on which we minister, the mountains and valleys, hills and plains, urban, suburban, and rural settings, the people who inhabit them, and the conditions in which they live. Ignoring any aspect of this social and ecological environment for our own comfort and convenience amounts to sinful negligence and our fall from divine grace. This was the situation of the rich man and the landscape on which he lived that included the likes of Lazarus, whom he ignored.

The fascinating feature about the rich man in this story is that he is referenced only according to his wealth. He has no name, nor is he understood as one in relationship with another, as a father to a child, or an individual to a friend, lover or spouse. He is a single, solitary entity whose only worth is his wealth.

Such is the world in which we live where we are valued solely according to our financial worth. Whatever your net worth in the eyes of the world is of no significance in the eyes of God. And that’s why the rich man is nameless.

The other fascinating feature of this story is that the rich man reminds us of ourselves, who conveniently employ our financial gains to buffer us against the harsh realities of the social and ecological landscape about us, along with the less fortunate who occupy that landscape. This is not simply a treatise against the extravagant excesses of the super wealthy one percent, but anyone of us who strive to be one of them at the expense of tolerating a world where the poor and suffering and ignored are always with us.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the realm of God,” said Jesus. (Luke 6:20) They shall see God, and God shall see them. And that’s why the poor and ignored individual of this story is identified by name – Lazarus, which in Hebrew means “God has helped.”

Consecrated stewards, the holy helpers of God, are divinely commissioned to the task of transforming the social and ecological landscape in such a way that the earth is cared for and nourished, and provides the bountiful produce that feeds, shelters, sustains and cares for all; and where no one is in need.

Few pastors will preach about the cooperative church community of Jerusalem described in Acts for fear they will be labeled as Communists, Socialists, or anti-American. But the desperate situation that called for desperate measures in Jerusalem need not be the case elsewhere.

We need not sell everything we have from our limited resources. For if the world belongs to God, then the resources thereof are abundant and plentiful enough that there should not be a needy person among us.

In a world where individuals and nations squander more than they need, often in the name of a prosperity gospel that has nothing to do with God, leaving others in dire poverty, the consecrated stewardship of this church must be clear. We must provide a visible alternative that welcomes, enables and empowers all by the spirit that christens, commissions and consecrates us in Christ Jesus. Amen.