Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Danger Ahead

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

September 29:

Call:    1 Timothy 6: 11-19
Text:    Luke 16: 19-31
Prophet: Jeremiah 32: 1-3a, 6-15

            Danger Ahead

What a difference a week makes!

Last Sunday,   I didn't like the story portion of our text
            I didn't like it at all
            I could not believe that Jesus told that story
            I could accept it only when
               I concluded it was not a parable
               And that it was a contrast to set up the
real lesson in the verses that followed.

This week, however,  I love the story
            I have always liked it
            I am glad that Jesus told the story
            I can accept and understand it
               It is a parable
               And the contrast is in the story itself

Last week my response was,
   "What?"  and   "That can't be the case."

This week my response is,
   "Right On!" but also    "Thank you for the warning."

Let's get to this great - at times even graphic - story.
[Luke 16: 19-31]

The first character we meet in the story is the rich man
   The one with the purple robes
   The one with the gated home
   The one who feasted sumptuously every day.

The second character we meet is the poor beggar
The one who lay at the rich man's gates
The one who apparently had no home
The one who feasted not at all
   And longed for the crumbs of the rich man's table

And to top it off
   The poor beggar was inflicted with sores
      [I kind of shiver in discomfort when I read that.]

Interestingly enough though,
   We know the poor beggar's name,  Lazarus
   But the rich man remains nameless.

In a tradition where we are convinced that God knows our names
   This is significant.

   Both of our characters die

Christ tells us
   That Lazarus was carried away by the angels
And taken to the bosom of Abraham.

Christ tells us      That the rich man was buried.

Then we discover the rich man in Hades being tormented
   By the absence of comfort and nourishment
      The very things that he had in abundance during his life
      The very things   that Lazarus did not have during his.
We hear the rich man begging  [Isn't that an ironic twist]
   He begged Abraham to send Lazarus with a tiny bit of water
And Abraham refused
   Saying that the rich man had had those things during his lifetime
      Adding that a great chasm had been fixed
           Between the places of Lazarus and the rich man
      So that those on neither side could pass to the other

The rich man seemingly accepted his own fate
   But he was concerned about his five living brothers

So, he again begged
   This time for Abraham to send Lazarus to those brothers to warn them

And again Abraham denied the request, saying,
   "They have Moses and the prophets
   They should listen to them."

The rich man, however,  knowing how easily and how often
he had ignored Moses
and   he had ignored the prophets
while living a life of self indulgence
   Feared that that his brothers would do the same.

He badly wanted to help them.
He thought that if someone returned from the dead
   It would be so dramatic
   And such a powerfully conveyed message
      That his brothers would listen.

But in what to me seems ominous,
Abraham closes the conversation with
"If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets
   neither will they be convinced
   even if someone rises from the dead."

It is a great story!

It is no wonder that instead of scrunching up my face and asking,
my response this week is,  "Right on!"

for the tables have been turned
   and the poor beggar Lazarus is now in comfort
   and the rich man - now in discomfort and thirst -
has become the beggar.

Our positive response comes from
our hearts going out to Lazarus
   And our relating to him as we hear the story.

But there is no way that you and I are Lazarus.

Although we have all suffered at times,
Most of us have never suffered to the extent he did.
   Although many of us have been needy at times in our lives
      Most of us have never been so poor that we had to beg.

You and I are actually much closer to being     the rich man.
   Most of us dress well
   Most of us eat well
   Most of us live in comfort.

But still I don't think we are the rich man
   Our lives are not over
   We still have a chance

And therefore, you and I are the brothers of the rich man
   The persons for whom he had become concerned.

You and I have to read this story as those brothers.

Like the five brothers,
We do have the story, the example, and the words of Moses.
   Do we listen to him
   Do we take him seriously?

Like the five brothers,
We have the story, the example, and the words of the prophets
   Do we listen to them?
   Do we take them seriously?

And unlike the rich man's brothers,
We have the story, the example, and the words
of the one who told the story
   that guy from Nazareth whom we claim to follow
   that guy from Nazareth who
did come to us from the dead.

Do we listen to him?
Do we take him seriously?

Or was Abraham in Christ's story
correct when he said
that if we don't listen to Moses and the Prophets
we won't be convinced
   even if someone rises from the dead.

When we hear this story    these questions haunt us.

That is why, in addition to "Right On!" my response is also
"Thank you for the warning."
When we try to answer these questions
we come to see, understand and experience
   That this scripture - like many others -
is a traffic sign warning us of  danger ahead.
It is a traffic sign posted on the highway of our life's journey
   And designed so we might have a chance
To be saved from that danger.

"Bridge out"   "Construction One Mile" "Slippery When Wet"

And now:    "Luke 16: 19-31"
   A sign that warns us    "Self Indulgence Has Its Price."

But it is easy to read a sign and then ignore it

If we do that when the bridge is out we need to turn around
   Or we might find ourselves "up the creek w/o a paddle"
      And that's if it is a creek and not one of our North Country rivers

We know how the "Bridge Out" danger sign applies to us.

Likewise we understand what
"Construction One Mile" and "Slippery When Wet" mean
and we understand what we must do to avoid those problems.

But Luke 16?

Does it mean that if we are to live a godly life,
we have to give up all that we have?
Does it mean that all who have riches
   Including those of us who don't see ourselves as rich
can never make it into Christ's kingdom.?

Does it mean that to follow Christ
   We must live penniless and destitute of worldly belongings?

John Wesley says "No."
   Even though he lived simply and without ostentation

He concluded that:
"It is no more sinful to be rich than to be poor
But it is dangerous beyond expression"  [sermon 112]

It is dangerous,
   Because it is "Oh so easy" to let our riches
      Replace our God

Wesley's observation - like our text - is a "Danger Ahead" sign
   Neither it nor the text
      chastise us for what we have
   Instead both of them warn us
so that we can do something to avoid danger
         something like turning around
instead of driving into the creek

It appears that Paul would agree with Wesley
For in the portion of his first letter to Timothy that called us to worship
Paul described what our response to riches must be, writing:

   "As for those in the present age who are rich,
command them not to be haughty,
or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches,
but rather on God who richly provides us
with everything for our enjoyment.

      They are to be rich in good works,
generous, and ready to share ..."

In other words
   as we encounter this "danger Ahead" sign

We must never
think we are better than those who have less;
We must never
   set our hopes on, or draw our self worth from,
 what we have in material possessions
we must, however
   set those hopes on, and draw our self worth from,
      our relationship with our God
a relationship built    on love and on trust

Relationships like Jeremiah had with God
   A relationship of so much love and trust
      That this prophet
      Understood the dangers ahead were temporary
   And thus purchased his cousin's land
         Even as Babylon besieged Jerusalem.

This marvelous story in Luke 16: 19-31
puts a big, hard to miss sign in front of us

This sign is lit by dozens of powerful lights
It has a sound tract that bellows the message to us
   "There is danger ahead.  Be careful."

That sign and sound tract are meant for us.
What are you going to do to avoid  that danger?
What am I going to do?

What are we going to do - together, as a part of Christ's church?