Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Readings – Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6,14-16; I Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31
The Tortoise and the Hare, who remembers Aesop’s Fable? The Hare races forward, way ahead, and then he stops and takes a nap. The Tortoise lumbers toward the finish line, slow and steady. He passes the sleeping Hare and crosses the finish line first. The Hare finally awakens from his nap and sprints to the finish line, only to realize that the Tortoise has already crossed it. He finishes second. However, please note, not usually observed, that both crossed the finish line! They both completed the course.
Remember this passage from the Gospel according to St. Luke (13:29).
…people will come from the east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.
Again, note both the first and the last get to eat in God’s kingdom, both.
Now let’s turn to Jesus’ parable of the rich man, Dives in Latin, and Lazarus, Eleazar, “God will help”, in Hebrew. We are told that Dives ate sumptuously every day, seven days a week, with no sabbath day observance for his staff. As far as we are told, he did nothing to Lazarus. He allowed Lazarus to hang out by his estate gates so he could gather the scraps of bread from his table. However, he also did nothing to alleviate the poverty or suffering of Lazarus. Upon his death Dives is assigned to Hades. It is there he came to realize the error of his earthly neglect of Lazarus. He appealed to Abraham that his still-living brothers be warned about making the same mistake. Abraham reminds him that “they had Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them”. And where would they have heard Moses and the prophets regularly?
Hear, O Israel, [from Moses] Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [from the prophets] Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self.
They would hear Moses and the prophets at worship, at synagogue.
The Finish Line, the Goal Line, for us all is Loving God, and Loving Neighbor as well as loving self.
We have been reading portions from the 6th century B.C.E. prophet Jeremiah. Most of his writings are of the “woe is me” school, laments. Jerusalem and all of Israel were headed for disaster with the approach of the Babylonian armies. Yet as the short-term disaster approached, God instructed Jeremiah to perform before a host of witnesses an act that promised hope in the long term. Buy a property, publicly certify the transaction, and seal the document for safekeeping until better days arrive. One day Israel will be freed from Babylonian oppression, and the land transaction will be affirmed. While the short term was gloom and doom, it would one day pass. As God is faithful, a new day is promised and will dawn. God is the God of the long term.
St. Paul’s letter to Timothy picks up the same theme— “Take hold of eternal life”. Live the eternal values now and always. “Those who are rich” (and we are all here today considered rich by the world’s standards) are “to do good, to be rich in good works, and ready to share…take hold of the life that really is life”.
To sum up, today and every Sunday, we are reminded through Holy Scripture and through Holy Worship that the long view, the long-term finish line that is before all of us is
Love God, and Love Neighbor as well as we love ourselves.
All who keep their eyes on the prize will join in the heavenly throng of the saints who have gone before.
Those like the Tortoise, slow and steady, will get there.
Those like the Hare, sprinting and napping and sprinting again, will get there.
Though the first may be last, and the last may be first, all will get there.
The outstretching arms of our loving God await all who journey through good times and through challenging times living the eternal values.
Love God, and love neighbor as well as we love ourselves.