What stands out to you?
I mean, what catches your attention? What piques your interest enough that you have to do a double take just to see more? What captures you so completely that you can’t help but take notice? Maybe it’s a person, or maybe some kind of historic event, or maybe an emotion or need. Whatever it is, it stands out to us because they’re unique or different or special in some way.
But if you were to take a step back, you’ll see that perhaps those things that stand out for us might not be that unique at all. They might be one in a million and it’s just that the other 999,999 things exactly like this one has been left unnoticed, because maybe it just wasn’t brought to our attention, or maybe the media didn’t pick up on it, or maybe, just maybe they are so commonplace that they just blend into the background and are lost in a sea of ordinary, predictable, and sameness.
When things become ordinary to us, they become somewhat unnoticeable.
This is what I think Jesus is talking about in the parable that he shares with us today.
I think the point of the story is not the dangers of a literal heaven and hell and the deep chasm between them, but rather I think it’s the noticing or perhaps our tendency to not notice the things all around us. The rich man in the story, uncharacteristically unnamed, doesn’t even notice poor Lazarus sitting right outside his gate. I don’t know how many of you have had a homeless person sleeping outside your gate before, but I would imagine that would be something very hard not to notice. I mean, you’d have to be completely blind not to see someone sprawled across your doorway… either that or you just never leave through your door.
And maybe that is the case here, maybe the rich man never leaves his house. I mean why would he? He’s rich! He has people to go get food for him, do errands for him, and basically take care of anything he needs to do that requires him to leave his luxurious multi-million dollar Vancouver bachelor suite. So maybe he doesn’t even notice poor Lazarus because he literally hasn’t even seen him before. He may have had no idea there was someone in need just outside his door, because maybe he just never ventured that far out of his comfort zone, his safety, his own world in which he is the only one who matters.
Don’t we do that sometimes? Don’t we sometimes hole up in our homes and comfort zones in hopes that we block out the realities of the world? Don’t we sometimes not see things that might be too painful and we just don’t want to deal with them? Don’t we sometimes put up a gate, or dig a chasm around us to protect ourselves and keep the others out?
And I get it, sometimes we have to do that just to keep our sanity, especially in this crazy world that we live in. But the problem is when that gate gets too high, that chasm gets too deep, that separation we put between us and those we are called to care for becomes too great, we start to lose sight of others and we cease to notice. We cease to notice the hurts and pains that we can help with, the needs and brokenness that we can be present with, the loneliness and helplessness that we can shine a light of hope in. All those things will go unnoticed… until it happens to us.
And then all hell breaks loose.
And then we become like the rich man. The rich man who lived a life of luxury, all his needs met, but as soon as he comes across a bit of trouble, like living in agony in the pit of Hades, all he does is complain and wonder why people aren’t bending over backwards to help him.
And that right there is the sin that I see Jesus pointing out in this story. That sin in the rich man, that sin in the Pharisees that Jesus was telling these parables to, that sin in all of us. It is the sin of not noticing, the sin of being so self-absorbed that we cannot see past our own gates of privilege and power and how it affects others, the sin of recognising only our own pain and digging this deep chasm around us that no one can cross to get in, nor can we cross to get out.
But this sin of not noticing isn’t just around not noticing the hurts and pains of others, but it’s about not noticing the joys and blessings that we have received as well. It is like the rich man can’t see Lazarus livin’ large at the bosom of Abraham because he can’t even remember that he was livin’ large in his own home. He can’t get over the fact that he’s in suffering now that he can’t appreciate all the good that he’s already received and perhaps continues to receive. Jesus calls us to instead of just focussing on those times when our lives are rough, but remember when the times were good and be thankful and remember that God continues to bless, continues to be gracious, and continues to love.
Because really, can you imagine how awesome our lives must be if all the good things start to just blend in the background? Can you imagine how good we must have it if we can just forget how good it is? Can you imagine how much we’ve been blessed if those blessings could ever just go unnoticed?
I’m not saying that our bad times aren’t bad, no, far from it. Our bad times are definitely bad but in that we mustn’t forget that they too will cease. In the bad we mustn’t forget that we’ve had a lot of good as well. In the bad, we mustn’t forget that God is still a loving, gracious, and merciful God who continues to hold us and carry us regardless of what situation we find ourselves in. This is why we have been sharing those God moments at the beginning of our services. Because we do often forget the moments in which God reaches out to us and just says, “hey, I see you, I know you, and I love you.”
It is in that sharing, in that reliving and retelling of these moments, we are all reminded of out generous our God is, even when we don’t feel it or recognise it or notice it.
This is what brings us together as a community, that when we share our joys and blessings with each other, when we remember together that we are a people loved by an awesome God, when we together recognise what God is doing in our world, then I see that as the life that truly is life, one full of abundant grace, mercy, and love.
In this season after Pentecost, let’s be thankful for all the good things in our lives and constantly lift them up, that they may never go forgotten and unnoticed. Thanks be to God. Amen.