Today we continue our Fall preaching series that will focus on DISCIPLESHIP ... And you already know that making disciples is why Christian Churches exist ... so, we continue with the third part of our series entitled: DISCIPLES know the Christian faith.
When we think about the Christian faith, it seems to me that G K Chesterton expressed it best when he proposed that Christianity had not been tried and found wanting … rather it had been wanted and never tried.
Gandhi too, when asked once why he rejected the religion said simply: Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.
Surely, if the indictment fits …
Some have suggested that even the most cursory glance at the historical engagement of Christian churches in public life shows that the love of enemies, forgiveness and turning the other cheek urged by Jesus has been conspicuous by its absence …
· What about everything else?
· What about the little things?
· What are the basic principles of the Christian faith?
· Are we compliant or do we reject them?
· Where do we have room to improve?
The passage today from the book of Amos 6:1-7 is challenging. Amos and the other prophets prayed and prayed for Israel and were heard, at least initially. Amos twice prayed successfully on Israel’s behalf, but finally God overruled him.
The context is clear: Israel’s lack of faith led, as it must, to a false security. They were comfortable in the twin capitals of Jerusalem and Samaria, but their ease was built on the dis-ease of others. They were clever and enterprising and had made it to the top in the economic heap but had turned their backs on God and one another. Their faith in Yahweh had dimmed.
· Gone was their commitment to him who owned all things and who gave them their land.
· Gone was their belief that they were called to be a unique nation.
· Gone was their memories of all that God had done for them.
Unlike others, who were dedicated to the principle of power, they were to be Yahweh’s own people, dedicated to a love of him and to a care for each other. But they had abandoned their call. Therefore, severe loss, death, or exile was to be their lot.
The Old Testament passage from Amos begs the question: as disciples of Jesus today, have we grown comfortable and complacent? Has our light for the Lord been dimmed? Have we abandoned our fundamental call?
The Gospel gives us the well-known story from Luke about Lazarus. It seems to me that the real sin of the rich man begins with the fact that he did not see Lazarus. Or at least he did not see him as more than an extension of himself and his own needs --- particularly at the end. For if he had seen him for all that he was: once an infant and a boy, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather. If he had seen him as one with hopes and hurts, dreams and disappointments. If he had seen him as one beloved by God, then perhaps this story would have ended differently.
Lazarus was alone … abandoned … hoping to be seen … to be found … to be loved and helped.
Too, too often, others are simply invisible to us. As Lazarus was to the rich man --- and no doubt to countless others --- as he sat and begged at the gate. The name "Lazarus" actually means "God is my help." And without a doubt, in the end God was the only help Lazarus had. But the parable is meant to speak to us the truth that this is not how it is meant to be.
The parable of Lazarus reminds me of Dear Evan Hansen the novel and Broadway show that tells the story of a young man who was in so many ways invisible to those around him. He suffered from social anxiety disorder and really just yearned to be seen …
He was so desperate to make a connection with his peers that it caused him to fabricate a relationship with a deceased student to become closer to the boy’s family. When a classmate commits suicide, shy Evan Hansen finds himself at the center of the tragedy and turmoil. In a misguided attempt to comfort the boy’s grieving family, Evan pretends that he was actually good friends with their son. He invents a fabricated email account to “prove” their friendship, and when a fake suicide note makes its way online, Evan finds himself the unintended face of a viral video about loneliness and friendship.
In so many ways … we can be like Lazarus … or Evan Hansen … invisible to others … and we all want to be seen … acknowledged and found.
Jesus teaches today that all of our lives are caught up with one another in ways that have consequences now and consequences into eternity. But first, before anything can be done, we must see, we must truly see the other. Perhaps that can be the start of living in a way that acknowledges the truth that we all belong to one another ... in this life ... right now.
Disciples know the Christian faith. That knowledge leads us to know Jesus. Knowing Jesus inspires us to see others and more so to see him in others. Let’s work a bit harder this week to try and do that …
And let’s find consolation in the message of Jesus, that regardless of our state in life, you will be found … [song]